High Density, Low Budget: Massive Bitcoin Mines Spring Up in Warehouses

minersbitcoinwharehouse10 July 2014 / Data Center Knowledge – The Bitcoin mining craze is driving the creation of a new breed of computing facilities featuring high-density hardware, low-reliability electrical infrastructure and off-the-shelf enclosures. These “hashing centers” often are built in old warehouses and house servers on shelving from hardware stores like the Home Depot.

It’s a low-tech solution, yet these facilities are supporting compute density equivalent to that seen in the largest Facebook or Google server farms. Some Bitcoin mines cool their servers with liquid instead of air.

The sudden emergence of hashing centers reflects the rapid growth of the Bitcoin network, along with the intense focus on building high-powered infrastructure at the cheapest price point possible. As industrial mining operations scale up, they are improvising a new type of infrastructure, customized for rapid changes in hardware and economics.

“It’s all about finding the right cost of power and finding enough shelving,” said Bryan Ballard, CTO for Netsolus, which has built several dedicated Bitcoin facilities for customers. “In traditional data centers, you’re trying to find the right confluence of fiber, power and bandwidth. Our bandwidth is negligible. We’re looking at old steel mills and other sturdy facilities with good power.”

Ballard, whose company hosts more than 3 megawatts of Bitcoin customers and expects to build an additional 20 megawatts of capacity, said miners are building a different breed of facility than the traditional mission-critical enterprise data center.

“Sometimes you hesitate to call these buildings data centers,” said Patrick McGinn, a product manager with CoolIT Systems. “They’re really powered shells.”

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