Bitcoin miner runs the ultimate shoestring facility

Bitcoin miner runs the ultimate shoestring facility

Source: David Chernicoff

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Source: David Chernicoff

Long windows provide free cooling

Source: David Chernicoff

Staff work ter the cold aisle

Source: David Chernicoff

Source: David Chernicoff

On a “warm” (60F) day – the doors are opened

Source: David Chernicoff

Nearby, Advania’s Thor gegevens center is more traditional

A container at Advania Thor

Source: Advania / Thor

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Icelandic Bitcoin mining webpagina packs 1.2MW power te a barn

Some people refer to gegevens centers spil “bit barns” – but the facility wij visited te Iceland last month meets that description much closer than any other place wij have bot. A specialized Bitcoin mining facility, the webpagina makes extensive use of plywood and corrugated metal.

Extreme specialization

There is no question that the face of the gegevens center is switching. From the gigantic facilities being built by the likes of Facebook and Apple, to micro gegevens centers designed for edge use cases, what wij traditionally consider a gegevens center has become just a puny chunk of the gegevens center market.

But there are certain ”normal” features. Wij expect our gegevens centers to have power, cooling, connectivity, reliability, a secure facility and – depending upon size – physical security. Wij also expect a sort of antiseptic appearance, perhaps marred by occasional cables and open floor panels te the gegevens halls.

With that te mind, you can imagine how surprising it wasgoed to visit a purpose-built gegevens center te Reykjanes, Iceland that gezond almost none of thesis preconceptions. The facility, operated by the Icelandic gegevens center technicus Borealis, is a purpose-bult Bitcoin mining facility, made for a single customer which I cannot name. And its vormgeving has one overweening principle: cost effectiveness.

On arrival at the building, on property that wasgoed formerly part of the NATO airbase ter Keflavik, I wasgoed sure wij were te the wrong place. Te vooraanzicht of mij sat a building that would have bot at huis housing chicken production at a farm. It wasgoed the greatest day of the year ter Iceland, with temperatures reaching above 60°F (maybe 20°C), and a dual om at the end of the building wasgoed broad open, adding to the farm building pic.

The building, originally an automotive repair shop of some kleuter, had bot modified with the addition of fan cupolas on the roof. The long sides of the approximately 60 ft x 20 ft building had bot modified to have one long window almost the entire length of the side, framed te wood and covered with what appeared to be a cheesecloth type fabric.

Borealis Bitcoin facility te Iceland

Source: David Chernicoff

Where’s the security?

A number of familiar outer items were entirely missing: no security fencing, no access control beyond a normal onderbrak, no UPS generator systems or the waterreservoir farm necessary to feed them. Te fact, if not for the noisy noise coming from the open doors and the warmth pouring out of the building, it still looked like it belonged on a chicken farm.

The facility, however with its single purpose vormgeving, wasgoed ideally configured to support its only task. And the configuration wasgoed done to take best advantage of the location ter which it resides. With free cooling and cheap power, Iceland is the ideal location not only for more traditional gegevens centers, but for shoestring budget Bitcoin mining, where capex and opex need to be cautiously managed to make any money on the mining process.

With four nines of uptime on the power grid, and no need to spend the money necessary to keep systems up and running ter the event of a power failure, the needs for backup generators and UPS systems (and their costs) were liquidated. With average annual temperature ranging from a low of freezing to a high of under 60°F, cooling can literally just be an kwestie of opening the windows and letting natural or assisted convection liquidate the fever from the building. And with the cost of power on a contract voet potentially going below Four cents vanaf kWh, the opex for such a facility would be significantly lower than for a traditional gegevens center built ter Iceland or almost anywhere else te the world. The minimalist nature of the facility also means a capex that is unlikely to be possible elsewhere.


All this being said, there is no question that this odd little building is a gegevens center. It consumes 1.2MW of power (around 1kW vanaf square foot), which is more than the vast majority of traditional gegevens center facilities. It uses a fairly traditional center hot aisle, with the free air cooling coming through the side of the building into the rear of the non-standard mounting system for the custom-made servers. The air is drawn through and past the mounted servers and tired through the roof mounted ventilatoren, or additionally, spil on the day of our visit, through the open dual doors.

Looking at the racks themselves it would seem that there aren’t enough systems to consume 1.2MW of power. But each opbergruimte is custom-built designed using numerous ASICs built for Bitcoin mining. Thesis ASICS run utter out (tho’ they can monitor environmental conditions and adjust speeds accordingly) and draw far more power than traditional computing hardware. The firmer they work the more power they draw, and the more Bitcoins they mine, which is the single purpose of the facility.

There is also no redundancy built into the system. If a opbergruimte fails, it is substituted and the algorithm hashing restarted. Should the facility suffer a power failure, it is a elementary matter of restarting everything, ter this unlikely occurrence. All that would be lost would be the work that could have bot done while the systems were offline, and given the nature of how Bitcoin mining works (basically the more processing power you apply the more difficult the hashing becomes), the actual monetary loss from a geschreven period of downtime is negligible.

Advania’s Thor gegevens center

Other Bitcoin operations

While this is commercial scale Bitcoin mining on the cheap, little more than a stone’s throw away is the Keflavik campus of gegevens center colocation provider Advania. The three buildings of the campus have a more traditional pic, with careful construction, outer security and that no-nonsense gegevens center look. Within thesis buildings is housed one of the two gegevens centers of Bitcoin mining leader BitFury.

Bitfury takes a fully different treatment to the mining business. It develops and builds its own custom-made ASICS, PCBs, and servers, many of which are sold to other Bitcoin miners. It also runs total scale gegevens centers tooled with the latest te immersion cooling technology which it implemented after purchasing immersion cooling specialists Allied Control at the beginning of 2015.

While neither facility is running a traditional IT workload the comparison shows the broad range of technologies ter both IT and facilities that presently defines the term “data center.”

David Chernicoff’s excursion wasgoed paid for by Invest te Iceland.

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