The first Ethereum ASIC miners are about to hit the market, ushering in a new — and potentially disruptive — era for the second-largest cryptocurrency.
Chinese mining hardware manufacturer Bitmain announced on Tuesday that it was accepting preorders for the Antminer E3, which is believed to be the first ASIC miner compatible with the Ethash Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm.
These are the first Ethash miners capable of using Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) chips, which are dramatically more efficient than the general purpose GPU chips currently used to mine Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, and other Ethash-based cryptocurrencies.
But though Ethash was formerly ASIC-resistant, the announcement did not come as a surprise. As CCN.com reported, Wall Street research firm Susquehanna revealed in a recent note to clients that it had confirmed Bitmain’s development of the Antminer E3 during a recent trip to Asia. Smaller manufacturers are also reportedly developing Ethash ASICs, though it is not clear when these will see a production release.
Bitmain advertises that the Antminer E3 will generate at least 180 MH/s. Though the miners have not yet reached the market, it is likely that Bitmain has already been using them privately, which — along with last year’s price uptrend — helps explain Ethereum’s dramatic hash rate increase in recent months.
Though some people view ASIC development as a net positive for the industry, others argue that ASICs centralize hashpower into the hands of a few corporations — specifically Bitmain, whose dominance is currently unrivaled.
The Antminer E3’s release will likely intensify calls for Ethereum to execute a hard fork to restore ASIC resistance, as Monero recently did in response to Bitmain’s release of a Cryptonight ASIC miner.
An Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) drafted by developer Piper Merriam and published last week asked users to vote on whether they would support a fork to restore ASIC resistance. At the time of writing, the post had 934 upvotes and 37 downvotes — that’s 96 percent in favor and just four percent opposed.
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