Expert Review Series

One ASIC to rule them all

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Steve Barbour
CEO at Upstream Data

The Antminer S9 sparked the beginning of a paradigm shift in the bitcoin mining industry when it was released publicly by Bitmain in June 2016.

With industry leading chip efficiency almost 3x its predecessor, the Antminer S7, the S9 was able to maintain chip efficiency dominance for almost 2 years over all competitor hardware models. This was an unprecedented feat at the time - prior models would only lead for a few months at best with owners having to constantly upgrade their hardware to newer generations to keep up with competition.

The lengthy reign of the S9 represented a shift from a CAPEX dominated industry of constantly upgrading hardware, to an OPEX dominated industry where power cost and operational efficiency trumped all other considerations. In a sense, the S9 sparked the true beginning of the industrial era of bitcoin mining.

As someone who packs many ASICs into very dense mining enclosures that are highly exposed to extreme environments, I'd like to think I've seen the harshest of operating conditions. From the hot and humid Texas summer to the dry, frigid cold and windswept Saskatchewan prairie winters, the Antminer S9 has held up extremely well for all of our deployments.

And even when hardware failures occur they are relatively cheap, easy and quick to find replacement parts as the sheer mass of global deployments has made for a very robust second hand market.

Indeed even today, over four years since its release, we are still exclusively using S9s when much more efficient hardware is available on the market. The extremely low cost per TH and low cost per kW enables our business to meet the needs of our oilfield clients who need cost effective options to consume their wasted natural gas. Nothing else compares with S9s to achieve these goals.

I will go as far as to say the S9 will always hold a special place in my heart. I found my first block with the first S9 I ever owned (RIP CKpool.org), I had ordered it in November 2016 and operated in my garage for months as I was conducting research which I needed to start my business, Upstream Data Inc.

While the S9 still proves to be useful for many miners, it's days are certainly numbered. I'm not sure when we will begin upgrading to newer generations, but when we do I am hopeful the S9 will make one final comeback in the heat of the next bull run.

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