For a fistfull of Ethers – Setting-up a Mining Rig

The full power of the Ethereum public network comes from the high number of nodes running the blockchain and the hashing power securing it. Ethereum allows users to write and execute codes on the blockchain that are commonly called smart-contracts. The resilience and immutability of the smart-contracts come at the price of “real” ethers to pay the network for their deployment, computation and security.

the good the bad and the ugly

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Directed by Sergio Leone (1966): “Those with loaded guns and those who dig”.
In the blockchain world those who dig are also those with loaded guns.

There are two ways to acquire ethers: to buy them on the market place or to mine them by contributing to the hashing power of the network. At the EY Experience Lab Paris we have chosen the latter, which requires building a dedicated mining desktop. Blockchain protocols are hard to grasp and we think that a good comprehension can only come through a holistic approach. The ROI in terms of ethers is arguably not that interesting at this stage of the competition between miners, but having a mining-rig to show is a very valuable asset when discussing blockchain with colleagues from other lines of business.

The mining rig we have built is powerful enough to provide ethers for all the smart-contracts ready for production that we have developed. The GPUs will also be relevant for other everyday calculation needs we have, like Deep Learning as AMD announced new Deep Learning libraries for 2017 with the Radeon Instinct initiative.

Picking the right hardware: hash but hush.

Ethereum uses a GPU-friendly algorithm for mining (see Dagger-Hashimoto). Thus if you try to mine with a CPU, say an  Intel Core i7 5820, your mining power (number of hashing operations per second, aka hashrate) would be close to 0.95 MHash per second. For the same price, you could buy two GPU cards, say two Radeon RX 470, and have a total hashrate of 48 MHash per second. GPU is clearly the weapon of choice to mine Ethereum. However when running at full capacity GPUs can blare and a mining configuration is therefore usually more suitable for the garage or the basement than for the office.

The EY Experience Lab is a large open space where we want to avoid disturbing our engineers and data scientists with high fan noises. This consideration leads us to pick two Radeon R9 Fury X with built-in watercooling. In the end, we achieve 54 MHash per second (ie. 0.25 Ether a day) without any noise at all. Of course it was terribly fun to assemble, here is our  shopping list and some pictures:

the hardware

  • Gigabyte GA-990FX Motherboaard AMD ATX Socket AM3
  • AMD Black Edition FX 4300
  • upHere CPU Cooler 4 heatpipes
  • 2x XFX R9-FURY-4WFA AMD Radeon R9 FURY 1000MHz 4GB HBM
  • EasyDiy PCI Express 16x flexibles
  • SSD PLUS SanDisk SATA III 2,5″ 480 Go
  • HyperX Fury HX318C10FRK2/16 Mémoire RAM 16Go 1866MHz DDR3 CL10 DIMM Kit (2x8Go)
  • Corsair CP-9020094-EU RMX Series RM1000X ATX/EPS

We build a custom aluminium case for that rig:


We installed a Ubuntu 16 and all the ethminer dependancy, meanwhile Julien Marchand  in the background was busy winning a challenge :


Finally the case was covered with a thick black adhesive tape for the roughness and sharp edges:


We now have the ability to deploy and interact with smartcontracts on the Ethereum main network. Stay tuned for our Proof-of-Concepts and Products!

Xavier de Boissieu