Bitmain’s new Ether ASIC mining rig may not fix GPU shortage after all

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Cryptocurrency mining rig manufacturer Bitmain announced the pending release of a new Ether (ETH) miner on Friday. The Antminer E9 model is an application-specific integrated circuit chip that will run on the Ethereum blockchain’s Ethash algorithm.

No official release date has been announced for the E9 yet, however, the machine’s arrival may not be as impactful as first suspected. The rig faces competition in the form of Nvidia’s CMP (Cryptocurrency Mining Processor) range of GPUs designed specifically for crypto mining. Meanwhile, Ethereum’s scheduled move away from proof-of-work to a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism could mean the E9’s utility will be short-lived.

Nvidia recently announced that its CMP range was expected to rake in $150 million in profits in the first quarter of the year — three times more than the firm had originally anticipated.

Despite the apparent booming popularity of its crypto-specific graphics cards, Nvidia chief financial officer Colette Kress said on an investors call this week that the company expected its GPU shortage to continue for the rest of the year despite increasing supply.

“We expect demand to continue to exceed supply for much of this year […] We will see supply continue to increase throughout this quarter as well as throughout the year,” Kress said, as reported by The Verge.

Nvidia has struggled to meet the demand for GPUs from its core gaming customer base for some time, as would-be miners gobbled up cards to mine Ether and other cryptocurrencies. The phenomenon of Nvidia’s supply shortage first emerged in late 2017 as the bull run of that year attracted more people to crypto mining. After cooling off somewhat in the following years, the GPU shortage emerged once again in 2020 and has shown no signs of abating.

Nvidia also announced on Thursday the launch of a new anti-crypto mining version of the RTX 3060. Earlier this year, the firm launched the RTX 3060 graphics card with a built-in limiter, which made it less than half as effective when mining cryptocurrency, as part of its efforts to separate gaming and mining demand.

Within days, hackers had been rumored to have bypassed the mining limiter, and just a few days later still, Nvidia shot itself in the foot by releasing an official driver update that unintentionally removed the limiter by itself.

The new version of the RTX 3060 will reportedly retain the same name and branding but will see the faulty driver replaced completely, reports TechRadar.

While Bitmain’s release of the E9 may seem a little late, given Ethereum’s eventual move to proof-of-stake in the next year or so, the limited time left to mine ETH could also result in a sharp demand spike as miners seek to accumulate as much ETH as possible before the changeover.

We asked Nvidia if it expected the release of the E9 to help ease its GPU shortage by diverting demand, or, whether the company viewed the rig as competition for its CMP range. This article will be updated should Nvidia reply.