In brief: Intel believes it can help reduce the environmental impact of mining Bitcoin and other proof-of-work cryptocurrencies, so it's forging ahead with a second-generation blockchain accelerator chip. The company is also confident it can ship the new chip in volume without compromising the production of CPUs and GPUs.
Back in February, Intel revealed its first-generation "Bonanza Mine" blockchain acceleration solution during a presentation at the annual IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference. The company said it had been working on a second-generation solution that would offer better performance per watt, but didn't offer a clear timeline on when it would hit the market.
This week, Intel launched a new application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) called Blockscale which is supposedly capable of delivering up to 580 GH per second. The company says it will consume anywhere from 4.8 to 22.7 watts of power, which works out to a power efficiency of up to 26 J/TH.
Intel's first-generation Bonanza Mine chips were much less efficient at 90 J/TH. Blockscale chips can be integrated into chains of up to 256 ASICs, and such a system would supposedly deliver around 148 TH per second with a power consumption of around 3,850 watts. This approaches the efficiency of Bitmain's S19J XP mining system, which can achieve 140 TH per second with only 3,010 watts.
More importantly, Intel claims it can flood the market with Blockscale chips for Bitcoin mining without compromising the manufacturing capacity for CPUs and GPUs. In other words, the company is using a different, more mature process node, possibly from an external foundry.
The biggest customers for Intel's Bonanza Mine and Blockscale mining systems include Jack Dorsey's Block (formerly Square), GRIID Infrastructure, Hive Blockchain Technologies, and Argo Blockchain. According to GRIID, Intel's new mining systems cost $5,625 per unit, or about half the price of comparable solutions from the likes of Bitmain.
The cost should be low enough to entice some GPU miners to switch over, but whether or not they will largely depends on how quickly the Ethereum network can transition to a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. In the meantime, GPU pricing and availability seem to be improving with each passing month. Blockscale will start shipping in Q3 2022.