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Author Topic: 1GH/s, 20w, $500 — Butterflylabs, is it a scam?  (Read 116546 times)
DeathAndTaxes
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Gerald Davis


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November 17, 2011, 04:29:46 PM
 #641

Scalability.  My "end game" would be putting 4GH/s in a 4U chassis and dropping it in a datacenter.

Am I crazy?  Would it be too much cost/complexity for little gain.

Before you splash that kind of money on expensive and (relatively) power hungry FPGAs, do consider that if bitcoin is here to stay, sooner or later someone will do a quickpath/harcopy port, or even a  full custom asic. If its not BFL, someone else will, and it will make your off the shelve fpga's look almost as silly as  someone who bought racks full of xeons for bitcoin mining a year ago.

To get a feel for what full custom asics could achieve, have a look here:
http://rijndael.ece.vt.edu/sha3/chip/sha3-asic-datasheet.pdf

If my math isnt off, that test chip gets either 150 or 300 MH/W on an old 130nm process.

Hardcopy electrical efficiency wouldn't be that high & full ASIC are not happening any time in the near future (if ever).  The greater threat comes from non-viability of Bitcoin (which would affect all custom solutions equally) and the relentless drive of Moore's law.  Still the comparison to rack full of Xeons isn't realistic.  The 7800 series cards will likely have 2x the electrical efficiency of 5000 and 6000 series cards.  The day 7800s launch does that suddenly turn all current rigs into obsolete unprofitable junk?  Hardly.  Sure a rack full of 7870s would be nicer than 5970s but the mining maket isn't that efficient to instantly make older tech obsolete.

Greater electrical efficiency starts becoming a game of diminishing returns.
My rigs get about 2.6MH/W and that is something I am pretty proud of.
Current real FPGA solutions are roughly 22MH/W.
Structured Asic is ~ double efficiency per watt say 40MH/W.
Lets split the difference on that chip and say 230MH/W.

1 Bitcoin electrical cost (above performance per watt & 1.2M difficulty)
GPU  - $0.88
FPGA - $0.10
SASIC - $0.06
Custom ASIC - $0.01

Sure SASICS and ASICS are more efficient however look at current prices they trade at roughly 3x my electrical cost and almost 25x FPGA costs.  Some day when a Bitcoin is priced at 3x SASIC electrical cost an FPGA is still profitable.   Eventually the combination of Moore's law and SASIC (or just more efficient FPGA) will drive the revenue below cost of production on a "current gen" FPGA cluster but that day is likely at least a decade away.  Remember even when the tech exists it will take time before the market adopts it.

TLDR version:
Scale doesn't negatively affect ROI%.
If a $20K FPGA cluster is going to lose money over its lifetime then ... a $500 FPGA board will also lose money over its lifetime.  So if you believe SASICS or Custom ASICS make building a cluster a bad investment why would you want to buy an $500 FPGA board?
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November 17, 2011, 04:40:56 PM
 #642

Hardcopy electrical efficiency wouldn't be that high & full ASIC are not happening any time in the near future (if ever).  

Wouldnt bet on it. Its expensive, but probably not out of reach to do small runs through MOSIS or CMP sharing masksets particularly using older processes like 90 or 130nm.

Quote
Structured Asic is ~ double efficiency per watt say 40MH/W.

Have a look, from Altera's website:



Considering for bitcoin you barely need any IO or RAM, the efficiency increase would likely be much more than double. Looks more like ~5x to me. Depending on leakage perhaps more.

Quote
Lets split the difference on that chip and say 230MH/W.

At 130nm....
If bitcoin becomes an actual currency, you could spend a fair amount developing a money printing machine.

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November 17, 2011, 04:45:16 PM
 #643

Wouldnt bet on it. Its expensive, but probably not out of reach to do small runs through MOSIS or CMP sharing masksets particularly using older processes like 90 or 130nm.

Sure at astronomical risk.  Still for the sake of argument I will say yes ASIC will 100% definetly happen and render everything else obsolete. 

Given that why are you mining today?
Why did you even buy your first GPU?  You had to know that someday it would be obsolete.
Why are you interested in BF $500 board? (lets pretend it is real)

Both your GPU and BF board will be eventually rendered completely obsolete by future technology.
So why no sell everything and just wait for Custom ASIC to arrive?


Quote
At 130nm.... If bitcoin becomes an actual currency, you could spend a fair amount developing a money printing machine.

Someday. However there is time to make money everyday between now and someday.  I mean you must already know this otherwise:
a) you wouldn't have bought GPUs.
b) you wouldn't be interested in FPGAs.
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November 17, 2011, 04:59:54 PM
 #644

I dont expect to make money on my gpu mining. If I do, it will only be because of appreciation of bitcoin. Thats why Im not interested in expanding, what I do is mostly for fun and some speculation.

As for why buy FPGA's? I certainly wouldnt. Or maybe one for fun. But I dont believe they would pay for themselves before sasics arrive, since I suspect that might be really soon. What I can tell its really not extremely expensive, NRE is on the orders of 10s of $1000s. Like I said, if its not BFL, someone else will.

Would I jump on that? No, because I dont have enough faith in bitcoin's longterm sustainability. If I had, yes, I would buy that, and take the risk I get crushed by asics one day and pray I will have paid off those s-asics by then.

BTW, I wouldnt worry too much about moore's law. State of the art processes are prohibitively expensive, and increasingly so. If you havent earned back your money before the next process or two becomes affordable, you probably never will make money on it anyway.

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November 17, 2011, 06:08:10 PM
 #645

BTW, this company (if it even is one) claims to be working on an asic for bitcoin:
http://bitcoin.stackexchange.com/users/275/ken-simpson

Granted, I wouldnt hold my breath as any 15 year old could have made a more convincing website, but at least they arent taking preorders, so who knows Wink. The CEO seems to be this guy:
http://ca.linkedin.com/in/ksimpson

Also founder and CEO of this company:
http://www.mailchannels.com/company/index.html

It may not be wallmart, but doesnt strike me as something run by a 15 year old punk or a nigerian scammer either.

We will have to see if anything pans out of it, but, like I said, Id think twice before plunging a boatload of money on FPGAs.

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November 17, 2011, 06:39:38 PM
 #646

not personal assault, but please, please, join this project, write some code, synthesis and run the full fpga design flow, and then review what you type above. maybe you will discover the gap between digital design curriculum and real engineering.
Thank you again for your valuable input. It seems to me that I have inadvertently touched some nerve of yours. I apologize for that. I'll definitely follow your advice, but not this year.

Our whole conversation here reminded me of the important lesson about the difficulty of the trans-continental personal relations. What is acceptable between acquaintances over a beer in a Western world is not acceptable even in an informal conversation in the Eastern world, especially over the long-distance communication links.

What this world needs more urgently than bitcoin is a bitbeer: a way to instantaneously transfer a small token peace offering over the trans-oceanic distances.

Please comment, critique, criticize or ridicule BIP 2112: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=54382.0
Long-term mining prognosis: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=91101.0
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November 17, 2011, 06:41:31 PM
 #647

What this world needs more urgently than bitcoin is a bitbeer: a way to instantaneously transfer a small token peace offering over the trans-oceanic distances.

A Bitcoin olive branch?

Mining Rig Extraordinaire - the Trenton BPX6806 18-slot PCIe backplane [PICS] Dead project is dead, all hail the coming of the mighty ASIC!
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November 17, 2011, 09:15:58 PM
 #648

A Bitcoin olive branch?
No, too Mediterranean and Westernized. Not the Bitcoin peace pipe either. I think nowadays offering of a bottle of beer is a thing that crosses all cultures.

For those who may be interested how people from different cultures react to the perceived slight on an interned board: have a look at the OK-Pay thread:

https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=51403.msg621678#msg621678

and see how the response of a Russian (Eastern European) is so different from an response expected from a Westerner or Far Easterner.

Please comment, critique, criticize or ridicule BIP 2112: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=54382.0
Long-term mining prognosis: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=91101.0
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November 18, 2011, 01:07:10 AM
 #649

No news from BFL yet again. 25 Nov I await anxiously Shocked !

It must be the second coming of Jesus but only a month earlier than usual Tongue.

God help us !
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November 18, 2011, 01:13:09 AM
 #650

No news from BFL yet again. 25 Nov I await anxiously Shocked !

It must be the second coming of Jesus but only a month earlier than usual Tongue.

God help us !
I don't care about daily updates.  I care that they are working on their products.  They said the pre-order money would not be held in escrow but be used to develop the product.  I don't want daily updates, I want a product. Keep working BFL!  Smiley
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November 18, 2011, 03:48:21 AM
 #651

If it's too good to be true... :rolleyes:

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November 18, 2011, 05:35:33 AM
 #652

OK, I'm officially registering a second bet with myself.

The BF Labs device uses a full-custom ASIC chip originally designed as a IPSec VPN accelerator.

The intellectual property of BFL consists of finding how to internally modify the behavior of the chip
to change the IP protocol 51 (AH - Authentication Header) HMAC-SHA-256 to a simple two nested SHA-256 hashes.

Somebody please quote my message.

Thanks,

Please comment, critique, criticize or ridicule BIP 2112: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=54382.0
Long-term mining prognosis: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=91101.0
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1ngldh


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November 18, 2011, 05:45:17 AM
 #653

OK, I'm officially registering a second bet with myself.

The BF Labs device uses a full-custom ASIC chip originally designed as a IPSec VPN accelerator.

The intellectual property of BFL consists of finding how to internally modify the behavior of the chip
to change the IP protocol 51 (AH - Authentication Header) HMAC-SHA-256 to a simple two nested SHA-256 hashes.

Somebody please quote my message.

Thanks,
If it were that specific, do you think that would be possible?

Mining Rig Extraordinaire - the Trenton BPX6806 18-slot PCIe backplane [PICS] Dead project is dead, all hail the coming of the mighty ASIC!
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November 18, 2011, 08:09:15 AM
 #654

I'll take that bet.   Grin

BFL has already said it's an FPGA, haven't they? Sure, they said something about an ASIC/FPGA combo, but I'm 90% sure the ASIC is the communication IC, not the hasher.

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November 18, 2011, 08:39:13 AM
 #655

OK, I'm officially registering a second bet with myself.

The BF Labs device uses a full-custom ASIC chip originally designed as a IPSec VPN accelerator.

The intellectual property of BFL consists of finding how to internally modify the behavior of the chip
to change the IP protocol 51 (AH - Authentication Header) HMAC-SHA-256 to a simple two nested SHA-256 hashes.

Somebody please quote my message.

Thanks,

Im also inclined to take that bet, but it is an interesting idea. Would VPN accelerators be designed for that kind of throughput? Got a link to a  datasheeet for a similar chip like that?

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November 18, 2011, 08:44:24 AM
 #656

Would VPN accelerators be designed for that kind of throughput? Got a link to a  datasheeet for a similar chip like that?

No, people have pointed this out _many times before_, including in this thread, I'm sure.

1MH/s ~= 1 GBit/sec of SHA256 hashing.  There is no commercial application for a mining-speed SHA256 engine.

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November 18, 2011, 01:03:34 PM
 #657

Would VPN accelerators be designed for that kind of throughput? Got a link to a  datasheeet for a similar chip like that?
IPSec VPN accelerators are designed with 3 5 objectives:
1) max PPS - packets per second, each packet requiring HMAC-hash which computes 2*hash for short byte-strings.
2) max flows - each packet flow uses different keys, chip minimizes required key reloading
3) max BPS - bytes per second, this is the least important objective, total throughput is the easiest to achieve and normally least important because it very rarely becomes a true limit of the whole design. This is where VPN accelerators differ from other designs: unlike pretty much everything else they do a lot of short-string hashes not a few long-string hashes.
4) min latency - do not require batching of packets for efficient work and no additional waits after each packet
5) testability - being able to do self-test while still operating, not only upon reboot.

I'm not aware of anyone selling individual VPN acceleration chips. Those things are usually sold as systems, and will typically require an NDA to get internal details. But the overall feel of those designs is that they provide lots of leeway to the driver-writers and digital designers: most of the combinations of control signals and registers are "reserved; do no use", "for internal test only" and so forth.

I'm actually not at all in the business, I got interested because of an effort to understand some historical project that went bankrupt.

Please comment, critique, criticize or ridicule BIP 2112: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=54382.0
Long-term mining prognosis: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=91101.0
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November 18, 2011, 02:50:36 PM
 #658

OK, I'm officially registering a second bet with myself.

The BF Labs device uses a full-custom ASIC chip originally designed as a IPSec VPN accelerator.

The intellectual property of BFL consists of finding how to internally modify the behavior of the chip
to change the IP protocol 51 (AH - Authentication Header) HMAC-SHA-256 to a simple two nested SHA-256 hashes.

Somebody please quote my message.

Thanks,
That's an interesting idea.  Now if that's not what they're doing, you've just given away a good idea.

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Gerald Davis


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November 18, 2011, 02:54:46 PM
 #659

OK, I'm officially registering a second bet with myself.

The BF Labs device uses a full-custom ASIC chip originally designed as a IPSec VPN accelerator.

The intellectual property of BFL consists of finding how to internally modify the behavior of the chip
to change the IP protocol 51 (AH - Authentication Header) HMAC-SHA-256 to a simple two nested SHA-256 hashes.

Somebody please quote my message.

Thanks,
That's an interesting idea.  Now if that's not what they're doing, you've just given away a good idea.

I don't think any VPN accelerator has sufficient throughput to achieve the kind performance necessary given their cost.  It is an interesting re-use method of looking for more efficient hashing though.  I did some quick research and VPN accelerators tend to have high cost relative to their performance.  Certainly nothing that would be inline with the MH/$ claims made by the scammers.
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November 18, 2011, 04:25:46 PM
 #660

I did some quick research and VPN accelerators tend to have high cost relative to their performance.  Certainly nothing that would be inline with the MH/$ claims made by the scammers.
I'm fully with you that when sold on the open market they command premium prices.

But BFL seems to be a loft operation (and I don't know how loft in Kansas City compares to a garage in Silicon Valley, I presume they are about the same.) They may have gotten some engineering samples, some partially defective chips. They may have bought out from the bankruptcy assets of some networking equipment vendor who just lost their contract with the government of Egypt or Libya. Who knows? Speculation in this thread is a free fun.

Please comment, critique, criticize or ridicule BIP 2112: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=54382.0
Long-term mining prognosis: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=91101.0
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