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Author Topic: FPGA - 1st Quarter 2012 Summary (BFL vs. Icarus ?)  (Read 5239 times)
bulanula
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February 24, 2012, 11:29:00 PM
 #21

ztek board is interesting but 200MH/s is just too low in face of 800 MH/s from BFL.  There is something to be said about the simplicity of a single large hashing engine.  But don't count ztek out (OP I think your BFL vs Icarus comparison is too narrow). 


ztek has:
highest MH/W
highest MH out of a Spartan-6 LX150 (most efficient bitstream).  
the company has also been around a long time and provides non Bitcoin products (some permanence is Bitcoin market dries up).
EU regulations require them to offer a 2 year warranty.
Regular firmware and software updates boosting miner performance.
overheat detection, and floating mhz adjustment in realtime based on error rate.

The problem is 200 MH/s is just too small.  It makes it very difficult to get costs down.  Likely nobody is beating BFL on cost but they need to get close.

I think a 4x LX150 board would be interesting.  It would have higher unit cost but power consumption should be ~35W
850 MH/s for 35W would be very impressive.  Now the LX150 costs ~$150 ea in bulk so that puts $600+ just for FPGAs.  In large volume the boards cost $100 over FPGA cost.  A 4 FPGA unit should have some reduction in parts (i.e. 1 USB controller vs 4, 1 40W DC PSU vs 4x 10W.  It may be possible to put a single large heatsink with 120mm (or 1400mm fan) across all 4 FPGAs ? reducing heatsink and fan costs.

Although it wouldn't be as cheap as BFL single, a 850 MH/s @ 35W board made by ztek for $800 would be a solid competitor.  Even $900 would be viable if BFL raises their price to $700 after pre-orders.


Yeah. This is music to my ears. A EU based BFL competitor is desperately needed.

4 chips on one big FPGA board = hardcore mining !
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February 25, 2012, 03:13:17 AM
 #22

So BFL has delivered 2 whole units and now X6500 and ztex are obsolete?

That's comedy.

Unlike BFL, both Ztex and the X6500 crew are contributors to this board (especially the X6500 crew) and have been totally upfront and honest since Day 1.

We'll see who's still around a year from now.
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February 25, 2012, 09:24:31 AM
 #23

Comedy indeed.

I seem to recall placing an order for a Butterfly single miner in a fit of enthusiasm many moons (months even) ago.

I now have a Ztex 1.15d board on my desk, it's proper high quality engineering and the only skills required (other than providing an appropriate voltage DC supply) that will hold some back are software related.

Nothing wrong with Stefan's code. However if you're not on exactly the right platform, you may need to hack around to get the *free* SDK built and operational. I'm on Mac OS X so completely off-piste as far as Ztex are concerned, and only have one remaining module to compile that's causing problems.

The 'bleeding edge' early-adopter time has long gone - I missed it sadly - but we're still at a point where none of these things appear to be properly plug-and-play for the average enthusiast. By 'enthusiast' I mean 'not necessarily a hacker' - both software and hardware. My steep learning curve was with the hardware, as I'm no EE. But I can deal with the code. Others may easily rig up big racks of boards but then run into problems with code.

For now, there's still opportunity to get ahead of the curve purely because getting FPGA miners up and running still isn't easy. The plug-and-play BFL solution appears to have thermal issues and therefore will need hardware hacking to keep cool. The cool-running and well-engineered Ztex board needs a specific software configuration, or you're compiling their SDK yourself.

As to the other two options - I'm in the UK and have limited funds. Ztex are in Germany and Stefan's customer support is superb. No-brainer really, especially since his development boards are *not* bitcoin-only solutions - the ones I'm using have useful features that not only give the boards resale value if BTC dies, but also provide other potential applications...


Too many people focus on the top-end hashing speed. Yes, BFL have a nice big number, but 80W power is getting on for GPU levels. Those of us paying for our electricity - especially in Europe - certainly won't be putting the BFL on the top of the list. With the BFL, the electricity cost actually features in the profitability calculation... with the more efficient units, you can more or less ignore it. My planned 5-board modular rig design had to be downsized to a 4-board rig, because the fucking *fans* had the same power budget as one board, requiring a more expensive and less convenient PSU... when your miners are competing with *fans* for power consumption, that's good news with £1500 quarterly electricity bills (as I said, 9 GHash with GPUs and a very hot house)...

...so I give in to the rhythm, the click click clack
I'm too wasted to fight back...


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February 26, 2012, 09:21:32 AM
 #24

Theres another important factor: resale value. BFL have almost zero resale value. It can only mine, so only miners will be interested in buying it. Icarus is a development board, cheapest on the market (with 2 LX150). Not only miners may want to buy it. And I think that 200MH/s from LX150 its not maks. BFL proved that for their product it is.

This isn't true butterfly labs also offers drivers for other purposes

Quote
Drivers available:

    Computational research
    Medical imaging
    Packet integrity verification
    Generic fingerprinting engine
    Block mining (2 step SHA256)

 

http://www.butterflylabs.com/drivers/

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February 26, 2012, 09:50:39 AM
 #25

Would be interesting to see how the competition pans out.  
I debated between the various boards when Icarus was ready for its first batch, X6500 was already on the market, and no one was sure if BFL was a scam.  Glad I went with ztex, now hashing happily at 4GH/S.  The product is solid and he is a pro.
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February 26, 2012, 11:57:28 AM
 #26

Theres another important factor: resale value. BFL have almost zero resale value. It can only mine, so only miners will be interested in buying it. Icarus is a development board, cheapest on the market (with 2 LX150). Not only miners may want to buy it. And I think that 200MH/s from LX150 its not maks. BFL proved that for their product it is.

This isn't true butterfly labs also offers drivers for other purposes

Quote
Drivers available:

    Computational research
    Medical imaging
    Packet integrity verification
    Generic fingerprinting engine
    Block mining (2 step SHA256)

 

http://www.butterflylabs.com/drivers/

But if don't know what chips are on board then you will not implement your design.
And what that drivers does? How do you connect equipment for medical imaging since theres only simple USB connection to PC? Or fingerprint sensor? In FPGA you can implement many, many useful designs, but board have to be equiped at least with bunch of I/Os. Do you see any on that board?

Under development Modular UPGRADEABLE Miner (MUM). Looking for investors.
Changing one PCB with screwdriver and you have brand new miner in hand... Plug&Play, scalable from one module to thousands.
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February 26, 2012, 08:23:43 PM
 #27

Does anybody know for sure what chip is used in the BFL single?  The 400 or so MH/s and the >40Watt power per chip doesn't quite make sense.  There is some mention that it is an Altera chip but anybody know what chip exactly?  Is it a FPGA or an ASCI?  It is like buying a computer and not knowing who made the CPU.
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February 26, 2012, 08:29:41 PM
 #28

Does anybody know for sure what chip is used in the BFL single?  The 400 or so MH/s and the >40Watt power per chip doesn't quite make sense.  There is some mention that it is an Altera chip but anybody know what chip exactly?  Is it a FPGA or an ASCI?  It is like buying a computer and not knowing who made the CPU.

There's already 2 topics with same question. For 90% it's an older gen FPGA with 200k+ LUTs. Exact model is unknown. As D&A mention BFL propably get those chips in some insane discount. Maybe from former employee?

Under development Modular UPGRADEABLE Miner (MUM). Looking for investors.
Changing one PCB with screwdriver and you have brand new miner in hand... Plug&Play, scalable from one module to thousands.
DeathAndTaxes
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February 26, 2012, 08:35:13 PM
 #29

Is it a FPGA or an ASCI?  

Hint: An sASIC would use less power than an FPGA.  A custom ASIC would use even less power than that.

Spartan-6 LX150 is a 45nm FPGA.  It gets ~20MH/W (and is very consistent among 3 different board designs).  BFL chip gets 10MH/W.  

Thus BFL chip is likely?
a) 45nm Custom ASIC (should have 4x to 5x the performance per watt)
b) 45nm sASIC (should have 2x to 3x the performance per watt)
c) nextgen 28nm FPGA (should have ~2x the performance per watt)
d) 45nm FPGA (should have similar performance per watt)
e) 65nm FPGA (should have half the performance per watt)

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February 27, 2012, 02:52:34 AM
 #30

Thanks, that makes sense.  Maybe an older gen FPGA with lots of LUTs.  Or maybe an even older gen ASIC.  The older gen FPGA makes the most sense.  I wonder how many chips are there wherever they came from.  I have to imagine they can secure more than the tray they took a picture of to go into business, but who knows.  

I apologize not reading up on all the BFL threads.  It is too tedious to read.  I read it when I want entertainment.  I think they are getting better now that there are 2 units in the wild (1 delivered?), but they use to be so emotionally charged it's like watching a soap opera.

EDIT:  So nobody knows exactly and BFL isn't telling is the answer to my question.
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