With attention to cryptocurrency growth, the demand for mining equipment has increased as well. A few years ago everyone who had access to enough powerful computer could become a miner, while over the past year the situation has changed drastically and previous methods of mining have already become ineffective. We have predicted what mining trends would be the most popular in 2018.
Graphics cards for mining
Today quite expensive equipment is needed for mining, in particular, graphics cards. Last June Chinese online trading platform AliExpress reported that its users began to look more actively for specific models of graphics cards that were most suitable for creating mining farms. The most popular models among Russian miners are Nvidia graphics cards—GeForce GTX 1060 and GTX 1070, as well as Radeon RX480, manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
With these models being popular not only among Russian miners, past year marked the AMD's shares rising by 64%, while the value of Nvidia Corporation securities gained almost 88% since the beginning of 2017. Experts say that the growth is attributed to an increased number of miners of in the Ethereum network and other popular cryptocurrencies. Nvidia published data that illustrates 6.7% of revenue for the second quarter of 2017 was received from graphics cards sales, which were used for crypto mining. That is why these two companies and ASUS company have already begun to issue unique graphics cards designed for cryptocurrency mining. Also, last summer we knew that AMD was working on 7nm 48 core processor called Starship that would be released in 2018.
Experts, however, warn mining equipment manufacturers that demand for their products is going to shrink. According to Joseph Moore, an analyst at American bank holding company Morgan Stanley, mining may become an economically unprofitable activity in 2018.
"We believe that total graphics sales for ethereum mining in 2017 will be $800 million or so, and will decline by 50% in 2018."
In Moore's opinion, the first reason for this downturn is a planned decline in the overall block reward on the ethereum network from 5 ETH to 3 ETH. The second is the shift from Proof of Work (PoW) to Proof of Stake (PoS) when instead of mining power, the probability of creating a block and receiving the associated reward is proportional to a user’s ownership stake in the system. Vijay Rakesh, an analyst of the Japanese investment bank Mizuho, mentioned this tendency too. He is sure that in the first half of 2018, graphics cards will no longer be needed for cryptocurrency mining such as ether mining.
"We believe that ethereum looks to move to a different payment verification system in the next six months, from Proof-of-Work with the use of graphics cards to Proof-of-Stake where the graphics cards are no longer needed."
The project of modifying consensus protocol of Ethereum network is called Casper. It implies that specialized computer equipment is not needed anymore to create a new block; instead, users will be able to provide their own funds that would be frozen for a while, and in return, they will have the opportunity to participate in transactions confirmation. Thus, Casper will create a system that could resist mining centralization. Once the next fork Constantinople, which can occur at the beginning of 2018, takes place, the Ethereum network update will be activated.
Despite the potential change in consensus protocol of the Ethereum network, the head of Nvidia, Juan Zhjensjun, is sure that revenue made from GPU (graphics processing unit) sales for crypto mining would remain, asserting cryptocurrencies and blockchain are "here to stay."
"This is a market that is not likely to go away anytime soon, and the only thing that we can probably expect is that there will be more currencies to come. It will come in a whole lot of different nations. It will emerge from time to time, and the GPU is really quite great for it."
ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) that exists in the form of chips was created for effective mining as well. ASICs are used for a specific device and carry out strictly limited functions, which makes execution of these functions cheaper and faster. The chips are more powerful and consuming much less energy; they are many times more profitable than graphics cards. Moreover, mining farms require more time to spend on the assembly and completion, while with ASIC-miners you are all set.
This year it was revealed that companies, such as Samsung, Intel, TSMC, and Global Foundries, were developing 7nm chips for ASIC mining. Chips production is scheduled for the first quarter of 2018. They will have improved energy efficiency compared with the previous 14nm chips.
Japanese Internet giant GMO plans to launch a new ASIC-Miner that would be based on 7nm chips. Mass chips production with this technology is planned for May 2018. Next year GMO will launch ICO to sell next-generation mining boards. They will issue tokens as a method to buy next-generation mining boards. Besides, the company plans to build mining center in Northern Europe:
"We will operate a next-generation mining center utilizing renewable energy and cutting-edge semiconductor chips in Northern Europe. We will use cutting-edge 7nm process technology for chips to be used in the mining process, and jointly work on its research and development and manufacturing with our alliance partner having semiconductor design technology."
Last September, Russian Miner Coin (RMC) conducted ICO to support the production of a new miner Sunrise with Bitfury chips and develop another new miner Multiclet with the same chip. The ICO collected $43.2 million. RMC involves 15 businesspeople and cryptocurrency activists and unites four companies, including MultiClet, SMARTHEAT, GOODWIN, and RadiusGroup. The company has started Miner Sunrise production and, by the next summer, intends to develop a next-generation processor Multiclet, which will be 35 times more efficient for mining.
It is evident that powerful and expensive equipment, which is extremely energy consuming too, is needed for successful mining. That is why companies have developed an alternative type of mining, called cloud mining. Companies with powerful data centers provide equipment, and lease their resources to the final consumer. Once the contract is concluded and the services are paid, companies such as Hashflare, Genesis Mining, Bit Miner, and OxBtc provide access to mining of several cryptocurrencies.
These services are already trendy. There is no reason to believe that this trend will slow down in 2018, as the cloud mining is an affordable, reliable, and convenient way to get cryptocurrency, that does not require any expensive equipment. There are some possible drawbacks. The seller of cloud mining contracts can be unfair; a site that provides this type of service may be vulnerable to hacking attacks; users have no control over the commission fee they receive for mining; moreover, unplanned losses may force data center to pay back less to its users under the following contracts.
Currently, no laws are governing the mining activity in Russia and other countries either. The Russian President decree, however, says that the Government and the Central Bank will have to establish taxation and registration order for mining companies the next summer. This initiative will supposedly refer to both companies and private miners.
In December, the Commissioner under the President of the Russian Federation on protection of the rights of entrepreneurs, Boris Titov, proposed to introduce a tax on crypto mining at the rate of 14%.