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Author Topic: Nanominer Announcement  (Read 11039 times)
wondermine
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March 12, 2012, 06:53:26 AM
 #1


Nanominer BitCoin Mining FPGA Platform – Coming Summer 2012



Specifications (Updated)
FPGA Mining Core: Xilinx Spartan-6 XC6SLX150 (N3FGG484C Package)
Controller Device (MCU): Microchip PIC32 (MX795F512L) [Motherboard Only]
Hashrate: 200 MH/s (per mining core)
Cores per Board: 1
Control Interface: Ethernet, USB
User Interface: PC/Linux/OSX GUI
Power Consumption (estimated): <10W
Expansion Method: Mezzanine Header Expansion Port

*Exact hardware subject to change without notice; performance will not be less than the above stated.

Design Philosophy

Open source technology:
Nanominer's schematics, parts lists, FPGA bitstreams, and source code, as well as the controller software will be freely available to all.  Want to improve it and build your own?  We encourage it!

High-tech power, low-tech simplicity:
Nanominer will ship ready to use.  Simply plug in the power supply, attach Nanominer via USB to your PC/Linux/Macintosh computer, or via Ethernet to your router/switch, start your software, and enter your details in the easy-to-use GUI.
Nanominer also ships ready to customize, with open sources and configuration via Ethernet or USB, you can tweak any aspect of the device's functionality to your heart's content.

Incremental Improvement:
A system can consist of a single board, or many, depending on what you would like to spend.  If you decide to add performance later, you can.  This also means that down the road, when new FPGA devices are released, and you want to upgrade, you can keep using the old with the new.  Nanominer version 1 will be able to have later versions plugged into it, so if you buy a main board now, that means you can keep reaping those savings far down the road.

Expansion without redundancy:
Nanominer uses a single controller and power supply for the main board, then can have additional mining cores stacked via mezzanine headers to add hashing power to your mining system.  Boards can also be daisy-chained, meaning you buy one controller board, and from then on it's just mining boards. Those savings in controller and power devices are passed on to you.

Mining should not cost the miner:
Nanominer's low wattage FPGA mining cores, extensible architecture, and small form factor mean you can mine without consuming undue space and power.  This makes mining simpler, and more profitable.

Decisions, decisions...

Nanominer is currently in the component identification stage, and some questions need to be answered.

Questions you can help us with are:
-Do you prefer Ethernet or USB as the control interface? Or are there other suggestions?
-Would you like an optional WiFi interface?
-We would like to provide a warranty on Nanominer devices; what would you as a customer like to see that warranty protect you against, and for how long?
-Is there anything else you'd like to see, functionality-wise, on this device?

Questions we're answering right now:
Q: What is the best FPGA we can put on this board?  
A: Altera's new Cyclone V device is releasing soon, and new technology means potential price drops.  This means that Nanominer may perform at more than 200 MH/s, or we may simply use an older chip at less of a cost.  Either way, time will tell.
Q: How much exactly will this cost?
A: If we were to build it now with a Spartan device, the price would be $275-300 USD for the main board, slightly less for an expansion (both 200 MH/s).  Depending on the features we do or do not include, and depending on how chip costs change with new technology being released, this figure may be less.  If we include a warranty, this figure may be more.

Finally, questions you might like to know the answer to yourself:
Q: You say 200 MH/s is the hashrate, how sure are you of this?
A: We have a number of candidate FPGAs in mind, and we're quoting 200 MH/s because we've proven that with a cost effective device, we can achieve that rate. Nanominer will not perform at less than 200 MH/s per board.  There is a possibility that it will perform better, however.

Q: Summer 2012? That's a long time to wait... why the late release?
A: Part of the reason is we're waiting for new technology to be released and prices to settle, so you get the most bang for your buck.  Once that happens, developing these things takes a lot of time and effort.  Also, I'm a university student, and my time will be much freer in the summer.

Q: You say boards can be stacked or daisy-chained? How many mining chips can I connect to one main board?
A: As far as stacking the boards, we'll recommend you don't stack more than sets of four; however it's technically up to you.  Daisy-chains require a cable that will be included.  The total number of miner cores per main board is limited only by bus performance.

Q: How accurate is that $275-$300 figure?
A: That is based on a parts order for the printing and assembly of 25 boards.  So it's very accurate for the time being.  If there's more interest, we'll make more boards, and because of bulk discounts, that price will go down.  If advances in technology this spring work to our advantage, again, that price will be reduced.  If a feature like WiFi or a warranty is added (these will be optional), that price would increase some, with obvious benefits.

Q: You mention “main boards” and “expansions”, what does this mean, exactly?
A: A Nanominer system consists of one controller board ($275-$300), and as many expansion boards (~$250) as you'd like, performing at 200 MH/s each.

Q: Does that price include cables, power supply, etc?
A: It does, and that accounts for the range.  There are a few parts we have candidates for but have not fixedly decided on.

Q: This is a pretty good price, what's the catch?
A: No catch.  Designing the system to run on a single power supply and single controller saves money.  Producing many similar boards means part discounts, and adding only my design time to the price tag means I'm only making enough profit for it all to be worthwhile.  Also, this won't be a fancy board; it'll be professional, but not flashy.  That also brings down the price some.

Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you'd like to see in this design.
As always I'm open to comments and suggestions, email, PM, or post.
Cheers!

Nanominer <=  www.nonverba.org/nanominer
Bitcoin Address: 1BuQwoDmt6DzwNTPcpxego1CzDBmivX3hY
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March 12, 2012, 08:29:26 AM
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Hope you can deliver. The price is definitely competitive.


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March 12, 2012, 09:29:17 AM
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First, I like your motivation to improve FGPA mining and don't want to frustrate you.

Just let me give you my feedback.

I'm quite sure that the Cyclone V will not be available for your project in the middle of the year.
Indeed the new 28nm FPGA's are quit interesting for mining, but it's expected that Xilinx will first get out with their Artix-7 before Altera can do with their Cyclone V.
They start the whole 28nm process-change far before Altera, and they have the very first 28nm FPGAs (e.g. Kintex-7 and Zynq) in small amounts 'available'.

And eveything looks like the new Xilinx chips (Artix-7) will not be available before at least 6-8 month, so I would not count on available Cyclone V chips before end of this year.

Current: Altera Cyclone IV vs. Xilinx Spartan-6
New: Altera Cyclone V vs. Xilinx Artix-7

Even if both new comparable FPGA series are available, we know from the current designs that the Xilinx FPGA's are more interesting for mining. Everything looks like this will also be the case with the new series.
You made very interesting announcements, that you think you will be able to squeeze out more MH/s on Cyclone IV chips (+75MH/s on a DE0 nano). How close did you already reach your expectations and who much hope did you still have to squeeze out more?  

I would wait until it is more likely that the new interesting 28nm Chips will be available soon and then think again if it still makes sense to start a project with them.

If you still have good ideas how to optimize the existing FPGA logic for mining, you can do it right away. With every new FPGA-miner the market for optimization growth.
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March 12, 2012, 10:03:09 AM
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You know (and granted I'm no expert) I've always wondered why don't fpga mining board designers just find the cheapest FPGA chip and slap a whole bunch of them on a PCB and cluster them. For example put 8 Cyclone IV chips on one board and get 600 Mh/s Smiley

But the problem may be getting them cheap enough without the need to buy them in massive bulk quantities...to quote a website: "The EP4CE6 and EP4CGX15: Starts at $3 and $6 for 250K pieces"

Anyone got $750,000 lying around?




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March 12, 2012, 11:29:06 AM
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You know (and granted I'm no expert) I've always wondered why don't fpga mining board designers just find the cheapest FPGA chip and slap a whole bunch of them on a PCB and cluster them. For example put 8 Cyclone IV chips on one board and get 600 Mh/s Smiley

But the problem may be getting them cheap enough without the need to buy them in massive bulk quantities...to quote a website: "The EP4CE6 and EP4CGX15: Starts at $3 and $6 for 250K pieces"

Anyone got $750,000 lying around?


The cheapest FPGA chip (best MHs/$ ratio) is the Spartan-6 LX-150 at the moment. Forget the EP4CGX15 or even the EP4CE6, first one I've used in another project. As long no one like wonderminder has any magical trick to squeeze much more out of this architecture then currently  possible, it desn't make sense. I don't know where you get the EP4CGX15 for only 6$, even in high volumes (normal price ~20$ for about ~100pcs), but if you need higher volumes of the Spartan-6 LX-150 you will also get a much better price then in low volumes.
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March 12, 2012, 12:55:12 PM
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I'm quite sure that the Cyclone V will not be available for your project in the middle of the year.

I spoke with a distributor Friday, they're expecting late April, early May release of the Cyclone V.  However, these things change, or I may have been misinformed.  All that said, the philosophy stays the same: when the new set of chips come out, there will be either a performance bump or a price drop for us.  If the project is ready before the new chips come out, we'll start using one of the currently available candidate FPGAs and switch over later.  As stated in the initial post, this architecture supports upgraded chips via simple firmware updates.

You know (and granted I'm no expert) I've always wondered why don't fpga mining board designers just find the cheapest FPGA chip and slap a whole bunch of them on a PCB and cluster them. For example put 8 Cyclone IV chips on one board and get 600 Mh/s Smiley

Two important things there:
1) Making a PCB for 8 FPGAs forces people to buy in multiples of 8.  That's an expensive board.  Wouldn't you rather have the option of buying those 8 chips one at a time?
2) If you want to do the mass thing, you go ASIC, you don't buy 250K FPGAs.  When you pay for an FPGA you pay for a)performance and b)reprogrammabililty.  If you want a lot of them, and you don't need part b, you're going to save by making your own ASIC.  But that day has not come for bitcoin, not by a long shot.

Hope you can deliver. The price is definitely competitive.
It's my mission over the next while to prove we can.  I have the prototyping hardware at my disposal, so stay tuned.

Nanominer <=  www.nonverba.org/nanominer
Bitcoin Address: 1BuQwoDmt6DzwNTPcpxego1CzDBmivX3hY
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March 12, 2012, 01:07:20 PM
 #7

I'd also just like to make clear that an FPGA has not been chosen for this board in hopes that by the time things are ready, a chip other than the Spartan 6 might be cheaper or perform better. There are, however, candidates.

I am not planning on using a 28nm chip, either, unless something really, really unforseen happens.

In fact, so that there are no miscommunications, the current candidate FPGA device for Nanominer is an XC6SLX150.  That is subject to change.

Nanominer <=  www.nonverba.org/nanominer
Bitcoin Address: 1BuQwoDmt6DzwNTPcpxego1CzDBmivX3hY
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March 12, 2012, 01:42:12 PM
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What is the cheapest FPGA that will work for mining, and that has a metal heat spreader? Heat is always a problem with mining, and a more efficient way to dissipate it may be worth some extra cost.

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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March 12, 2012, 06:26:33 PM
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Where are you based ?

..this becomes extremeley relevant when getting hardware shipped in to Eu, Finland to be more exact, automaticly adds a price of +23% for the hardwareand shipping/handling.

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March 12, 2012, 07:47:50 PM
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I'm based in Canada, however I know that the demand for these boards will be international. 
My goal is to mitigate some of the shipping cost by decreasing the profit margin, like I say my goal is only to make enough to be worthwhile and pass on the rest of the savings.
As well, small form factor and an off-board power supply will also help with this, though I know this holds for most FPGA mining technologies.

Nanominer <=  www.nonverba.org/nanominer
Bitcoin Address: 1BuQwoDmt6DzwNTPcpxego1CzDBmivX3hY
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March 12, 2012, 08:38:13 PM
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I have read that the smaller-size/lower-power curve of FPGA ends with 28nm. So it seems that the 28nm designs are going to take more work than in previous generations. Is the sha-256 code required simple enough that the 28nm design won't provide new stumbling blocks and/or increase time-to-product?

wonderminer,
Were you able to get 75MH/s on a de0-nano or is that just a theoretical number? Is there a git repo somewhere?

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March 12, 2012, 09:59:07 PM
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Very early days yet, but I'll most likely be making the front end for this. My basic ideas for that so far are...

A python library, to enable easy communication with the miner in your own code should you want to
Command line and GUI tools (which use the library).
For the GUI I'm still not settled on a GUI framework. What ever I choose I intend for all of it to be cross platform of course. I may also make a web front end?

comments on this also welcome Cheesy
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March 12, 2012, 10:09:14 PM
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Quote from: Azelphur
For the GUI I'm still not settled on a GUI framework. What ever I choose I intend for all of it to be cross platform of course. I may also make a web front end?

Make the browser the GUI.  Doing a GUI any other way is not so portable plus they always require all the extra gui packages, etc.
Everyone/everything has a browser already. And keep it simple so command line tools can use it too.

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March 12, 2012, 11:06:28 PM
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Very early days yet, but I'll most likely be making the front end for this. My basic ideas for that so far are...

A python library, to enable easy communication with the miner in your own code should you want to
Command line and GUI tools (which use the library).
For the GUI I'm still not settled on a GUI framework. What ever I choose I intend for all of it to be cross platform of course. I may also make a web front end?

comments on this also welcome Cheesy

Integration with cgminer would be really great, since it already supports the BFL Single and the Icarus, and it also supports RPC for frontend/easy remote management, if required. Smiley

No need to reinvent the wheel, I'd say! Grin
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March 12, 2012, 11:57:07 PM
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Integration with cgminer would be really great, since it already supports the BFL Single and the Icarus, and it also supports RPC for frontend/easy remote management, if required. Smiley

No need to reinvent the wheel, I'd say! Grin

Compatibility and integration with existing systems are a great idea, we want this to be as versatile and easy to use as possible. There will need to be a dedicated GUI/toolkit for Nanominer, if only for configuration and use of features unique to this system. As he's mentioned, Azelphur is my man handling the software side.  He does good work and I'm lucky to be working with him.  He's the one to talk to with ideas on how to make the user experience better Smiley.

As far as 28nm technology goes, Nanominer's first iteration will not be on a 28nm chip, it wouldn't be economically feasible.  However, to answer your question, in the future when it's within a reasonable price range, we'll be more than capable of delivering miners on whatever technology is available, 28nm or otherwise.  That is, unless my research, work experience, ECE degree (in progress), and hobbies all go to waste, which I doubt they will Smiley.

And no, as to the Nano running at 75 MH/s that figure was a well meant but frankly uneducated estimate on my part.  Maybe I should say here that I'd like to apologize for promising the moon in the earlier stages of this project.  I know that people offering more than they can deliver is not something you all want to hear.  That's why, with this project, I'm offering nothing more than what I know is possible.  If you'd like to know how I came to a decision about a feature, or have a question about how I intend to achieve what I promise, please do ask.  It's all being planned out with the help of others with various areas of expertise, and always conservative estimates.  I'll be happy to release something that outperforms what I promise, but in engineering there are always unforeseen hurdles, so I'm trying to be realistic, and even a little pessimistic.

More to come...


Nanominer <=  www.nonverba.org/nanominer
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March 13, 2012, 12:19:51 AM
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Since you are initially targeting the well-known Spartan6-150, maybe you can focus your youthful energy and enthusiasm on fitting three SHA-256 instances into the FPGA, and then fine-tuning these instances to about 100 MH/s each (300 MHs/s total), and then releasing the binary, unencrypted bitstream into the public domain.

That would make you a hero and a living legend on this forum.

While I admire Eldentyrell's technical expertise, I admit that I do have issues with his idea of getting "fully compensated" for his near genius-level optimization. Fully compensated at what hourly rate? A technical consultant (hardware, software) in Silicon Valley will typically bill at an hourly rate of $100 & up. A Silicon Valley lawyer bills at $300 & up. A psychiatrist bills at $400 & up. An anesthesiologist bills at an hourly rate of $700 & up. So, if he has invested 500 hours into this, does he expect $50,000? $100,000? $200,000? I seriously doubt that he will be able to raise amounts of this magnitude on Kickstarter, which leaves the FPGA mining community stuck at 210 MH/s (ZTEX bitstream).

Please consider it.
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March 13, 2012, 03:15:03 AM
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Since you are initially targeting the well-known Spartan6-150, maybe you can focus your youthful energy and enthusiasm on fitting three SHA-256 instances into the FPGA, and then fine-tuning these instances to about 100 MH/s each (300 MHs/s total), and then releasing the binary, unencrypted bitstream into the public domain.

That would make you a hero and a living legend on this forum.

While I admire Eldentyrell's technical expertise, I admit that I do have issues with his idea of getting "fully compensated" for his near genius-level optimization. Fully compensated at what hourly rate? A technical consultant (hardware, software) in Silicon Valley will typically bill at an hourly rate of $100 & up. A Silicon Valley lawyer bills at $300 & up. A psychiatrist bills at $400 & up. An anesthesiologist bills at an hourly rate of $700 & up. So, if he has invested 500 hours into this, does he expect $50,000? $100,000? $200,000? I seriously doubt that he will be able to raise amounts of this magnitude on Kickstarter, which leaves the FPGA mining community stuck at 210 MH/s (ZTEX bitstream).

Please consider it.

Although I'm unsure of what Silicon Valley professional rates have to do with anything here, I appreciate the suggestion regarding improving the bitstream.  I did already say that the quoted 200 MH/s was a verified, proven, base rate, and if you read reasonably you'll find most of the numbers I have right now are preliminary numbers, numbers that are a worst-case scenario, numbers that I will try to improve, but that are not inflated because I do not want to promise what I cannot deliver.




Nanominer <=  www.nonverba.org/nanominer
Bitcoin Address: 1BuQwoDmt6DzwNTPcpxego1CzDBmivX3hY
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March 13, 2012, 09:24:29 AM
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... I do not want to promise what I cannot deliver.

You've done that before when you asked for donations. I've counted alot on that 75MH/s from 22k altera cyclone and I donated. They are in easy to assembly TQFP package and costs 36$.

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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March 13, 2012, 07:55:15 PM
 #19

I'm based in Canada, however I know that the demand for these boards will be international. 
My goal is to mitigate some of the shipping cost by decreasing the profit margin, like I say my goal is only to make enough to be worthwhile and pass on the rest of the savings.
As well, small form factor and an off-board power supply will also help with this, though I know this holds for most FPGA mining technologies.

Shipping is a minor cost, the real problem is the 23% in taxes (thats 23% of the order price including shilling) when ordering electronics from outside the Eu.

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March 13, 2012, 08:35:05 PM
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I'm based in Canada, however I know that the demand for these boards will be international. 
My goal is to mitigate some of the shipping cost by decreasing the profit margin, like I say my goal is only to make enough to be worthwhile and pass on the rest of the savings.
As well, small form factor and an off-board power supply will also help with this, though I know this holds for most FPGA mining technologies.

Shipping is a minor cost, the real problem is the 23% in taxes (thats 23% of the order price including shilling) when ordering electronics from outside the Eu.

Being a registered company helps in that part ^_^
You might be interested as a fellow finn what i'm thinking about doing: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=68634.0

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