- Autotuning is the new AsicBoost
- What is autotuning?
- Why isn’t autotuning more popular?
- How to get autotuning?
- Extending the lifespan of Antminer S9
During bull markets, Bitcoin miners around the world happily watch their profit margins increasing faster than the difficulty can keep up. Of course, things aren’t always so nice. When difficulty increases and price doesn’t, the competition to stay profitable really heats up.
Prior to 2018, there were two ways to gain an edge in Bitcoin mining:
- Find cheap electricity
- Buy more efficient hardware
Then, with the introduction of overt AsicBoost made by the mining company Braiins in October 2018, there was a new variable in mining profitability. Now miners were able to cut their costs by about 13% just by tweaking the firmware running on their ASIC devices. AsicBoost was a game changer.
Autotuning is the new AsicBoost
As with any trend, the earliest adopters are the ones who benefit most. In the chart below, you can see the adoption of overt AsicBoost since 2018, with the fastest growth occurring in the months after Braiins made their announcement.
AsicBoost adoption. Source: asicboost.dance
Nowadays, approximately 70% of all Bitcoin blocks being mined have overt AsicBoost enabled. That means that AsicBoost is not so much an advantage these days as it is a way to keep up with the majority of the competition.
However, there’s a newer advancement in the mining software and firmware business called autotuning that is providing an advantage even larger than AsicBoost, and only a few miners have started using it.
What is autotuning in Bitcoin mining?
Hash rate graph of an autotuned Antminer S9.
ASIC mining machines are composed of many small silicon computing chips where the actual hashing is performed. What’s important to understand is that each silicon can vary slightly in its electrical properties, meaning that some chips are better at hashing than others.
Hardware manufacturers know the frequency that works best for the lower quality chips, and they use that frequency for all the chips so that they don’t sell an ASIC that doesn’t live up to the specifications. This puts an upper limit on the hash rate that a machine can have.
Autotuning is a process in which algorithms evaluate the optimal frequencies for hashing chip-by-chip, instead of treating the entire machine as one single unit. This means that a higher quality chip that can perform more hashes per second will get a higher frequency, and a lower quality chip will get a lower frequency.
Per-chip autotuning is essentially a way to optimize the performance of an ASIC through the software and firmware running on it. It uses the full capabilities of every mining chip in the devices instead of just settling for the uniform stock settings. The end result is higher hash rate per Watt of electricity, meaning larger profit margins for miners.
Why isn’t autotuning more popular?
You might be wondering why more miners aren’t already using autotuning.
The reality is that many miners still don’t know what autotuning is or how much it can improve their performance. It’s common to assume that manufacturers will automatically optimize their own products to be as competitive as possible, so the thought of significantly boosting performance through firmware upgrades doesn’t cross miner’s minds.
Another dilemma is that many hardware manufacturers don’t want their miners to use alternative firmware, so they discourage it by voiding the warranties on machines that no longer use the factory firmware.
Since miners have to look for 3rd parties to find autotuning, many simply don’t want to take the risk of working with somebody who’s not reputable. However, this is why the latest autotuning firmware to reach the market is such a big deal, as it comes from one of the most reputable brands in all of mining, Slush Pool.
How to get autotuning?
Braiins, the same company that first brought overt AsicBoost to the world, has just released an autotuning firmware called Braiins OS+. It currently supports Antminer S9, S9i, and S9j machines, and they are working to add support for S17s in July or August.
In addition to improving ASIC performance by 20-30%, a huge benefit of Braiins OS+ is that it comes with 50% lower fees when mining on Slush Pool, the pool run by Braiins. While there are other autotuning firmwares out there, this is the first to come from a major mining pool and to have such a significant pool fee reduction.
Extending the lifespan of Antminer S9s
Now that the halving is behind us, Antminer S9s are finally getting phased out of the market at a rapid pace. With stock settings, S9s are about 50% as efficient as newer generation miners like the Antminer S17 and the Whatsminer M20S. However, this reality has made S9s extremely cheap to buy up front, sometimes even going for less than $20 per machine.
With autotuning firmware such as Braiins OS+, it’s possible to use Low Power Mode settings to get maximum efficiency out of the devices that reduces power consumption well below the factory specifications. In fact, Braiins OS+ can bring the S9’s consumption down from 85 J/TH to as low as 70 J/TH, making them far more competitive with Bitcoin’s current difficulty.
For miners with particularly cheap electricity, autotuning presents a big opportunity to increase their operation’s hashrate with minimal upfront costs and remain competitive from an efficiency standpoint. And for those who already have some S9s, upgrading to autotuning is a no-brainer.
Visit braiins-os.com for more details or join the community discussion:
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