FPGA is the acronym for Field Programmable Gate Array, or in Spanish Field Programmable Gate Array. These are tiny semiconductor devices that have the ability to be programmed to perform very specific actions quickly and efficiently.

AAlthough they have existed for some time, they are not very common devices. However, FPGAs have a feature that makes them unique in different applications. FPGAs have the capacity that can be reprogrammed. This feature sets them apart from their main competition, devices ASIC. For ASICs are custom built and cannot be reprogrammed once they are designed, so that; They can only be used for very specific tasks.

Initially, FPGAs were characterized by being slow, consuming large amounts of energy and having little parallel computing capacity. However, this has changed thanks to improvements made to silicon technology and the development of programmable systems. This has resulted in a substantial improvement in terms of speed and parallel working capacity. Transforming FPGAs into perfect candidates for high demand computing power applications.

Intel, one of the world's largest chip and processor designers, it is one of the companies that has invested the most in the development of FPGAs. They, like Xilinx, invest a large amount of resources in improving this technology and bringing it to multiple uses in the industry. But for what reason? What advantages do FPGAs represent? y How can they impact blockchain technology? We will review each of these cases.

FPGA chipboard Spartan Xilinx

FPGA Features

There are different reasons and characteristics for which FPGAs are invested and developed, but among them the most relevant are:

Programmable architecture

FPGAs, unlike other architectures, are programmable. This gives them great flexibility of use, since their programming can be altered to improve them or solve failures. This would allow for example; optimize an FPGA to better manage complex processes after having performed an analysis and optimization of its initial programming. With this, the new version of the FPGA software would improve performance or solve security problems detected, an impossible situation using architectures such as ASIC.

FPGA programming is normally done in low-level programming languages ​​called Verilog o VHDL. Both serve to "describe" to the FPGA how it should handle its hardware. However, many companies offer higher-level programming systems that make this task even easier.

Below you have a hypothetical example, to check the advantage of this architecture in the world blockchain.

Example 1

Juan buys an FPGA mining equipment to Ethereum with a capacity of 1 TH / s. With this Juan makes good profits. However, the developer of the team has released a new software update for that FPGA team. It guarantees an optimization of 15% in mining speed, and a 4% decrease in electricity consumption. By applying the update, your rig is now able to mine at 1,15 TH / s and you have reduced your electrical costs for better profits.

Accelerated hardware development

Since FPGAs are logically simpler, companies are able to bring new products to market faster.  At the same time that FPGAs evolve and offer better features. This is something that ASICs cannot offer, because their development requires much longer manufacturing cycles.

For blockchain companies this is perfect. If for example, a company designs an FPGA hardware device to handle Lightning NetworkDeveloping and improving such a device will be easier than making another from scratch. With this, the overall cost per design and the time to market of new devices decreases. An advantageous situation for blockchain companies, especially in a technological world that is advancing by leaps and bounds.

Better level of hardware integration

Today's FPGAs include on-chip processors, data input and output systems, and much more. More functions within the FPGA mean fewer devices on the circuit board, which increases reliability by reducing the number of device failures. In addition to reliability, it also increases performance, as these systems are capable of being built more integrated into the die.

This is one of the most striking features of FPGAs versus ASICs. ASICs are generally a series of chips that work in parallel within a complicated circuit board. In this card there are teams from different manufacturers and with different quality orders. Failure of one of those circuits means failure of the entire ASIC. But in FPGA systems this is different. Because the manufacturing process is more integrated, the quality of the included circuits can be controlled much better. With this, the quality of the devices can be substantially improved and their useful life is lengthened.

Decrease in total operating costs

ASICs are usually cheaper than an FPGA solution. But maintaining an ASIC is much more expensive. In fact, due to the immobility of the ASIC hardware, these quickly become obsolete. However, FPGAs improve this situation in many ways.

In the following example, you can see the impact that technology can have.

Example 2

Suppose Daniel has a farm for mining is. with 1000 ASIC teams dedicated to mining Bitcoin. On the other hand, Monica has 1000 FPGA teams dedicated to mining Bitcoin as well. After a few months the farms of Daniel and Monica are not profitable due to the increase in Bitcoin mining difficulty and the arrival of a new halving. Daniel, for his part, had to dispose of his ASIC equipment by selling it as second-hand equipment. Quite an investment hundreds of thousands of dollars that you now have to replace if you want to continue mining.

But Monica, still using the same 1000 FPGA equipment to mine. She has upgraded them to mine Monero in order to continue making profits from her old equipment. This situation allows you to get more money to reinvest in new FPGA equipment to mine Bitcoin and at the same time have equipment to mine Monero. Thus diversifying its mining activity and taking better advantage of its investments.

In Daniel's case, his investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars has been largely forgotten. You have to sell the equipment, to be able to reinvest in new ones and continue mining. But Monica has the opportunity to continue mining, and taking advantage of those old equipment that I buy. With this, your investment in FPGA equipment has a better investment / profit ratio over time. And that is something very important when investing in a mining farm.

With all the features explained above, it is easy to see the great impact this technology has on the blockchain world. There is talk of retrofitting equipment with high computing power to perform other tasks that are also important. This diversifies development opportunities and opens doors to new and interesting blockchain projects. Because yes, blockchain is a sea of ​​possibilities and futures, and FPGA technology has a lot to offer in all of this.

How much do you know, cryptonuta?

Do FPGAs offer better development conditions than ASICs?

TRUE!

FPGAs are circuits that can be improved and adapted much more easily than ASIC circuits, making their development and subsequent evolution less expensive.

FPGA Recognized Miners

The most recognized mining FPGAs in the world of cryptocurrency mining are as follows:

Spartan - Xilinx

Spartan Bitcoin FPGA

The series Spartan from Xilinx, they are one of the FPGAs used for mining, most recognized for their versatility, power and reliability. They are one of the most widely used FPGAs for cryptocurrency mining, especially since there are very useful software developments to get the most out of them. Among the strengths of the latest Spartan models, is the ability to create multiple FPGA kit sets to do a parallel working miner (known as rig). Under this configuration, mining performance increases exponentially.

Stratix - Altera / Intel

Alternate FPGA / Intel Bitcoin

These are other widely used FPGAs in mining. Their main feature is that they are usually sold as development kits so you can do anything with them. Intel acquired the company Altera, but continued to develop and improve the Stratix models, and create models with lower consumption (but lower performance).

The latest Stratix model, is Stratix10. This model is capable of using the newest memory technologies, in order to obtain high levels of performance. Like the Spartans, these models can be used in parallel mining pools, giving them increased ultimate mining power.