The challenges of large-scale crypto mining
It’s the question every business asks at some point: How do I scale?
But crypto mining isn’t just any other business and comes with its own set of scaling issues to consider. You can try scaling alone, but you’ll be spending more time tinkering with cooling systems and software than productively mining. Wasted time like that could put you behind in the fast industry of crypto.
At Genesis Mining, we’ve figured it out. We’ve been mining at an industrial scale since 2013, and have tried all different hardware from all kinds of manufacturers, along with many different software and firmware options, and have found the best solutions. We’ve experienced extreme climates — -40°C winters, 40°C summers, and incredible Icelandic wind speeds! — and adjusted our cooling systems to keep our miners protected.
Today, we have 12 data centers across 6 countries, and while we made mistakes along the way, we figured out how to successfully mine at a large scale through testing, experimentation, and trial and error.
Based on what we’ve experienced, here’s what you need to know about your sites, your software, and your people so you can scale efficiently, affordably, and securely — whether you want to grow bigger or add new centers around the world.
Data Center Design and Construction
When you started off your mining operations, you probably moved into an existing building and had to do a fair amount of electrical installation and retrofitting. Still, you probably needed to continuously manually adjust your cooling systems to make everything work. The building wasn’t made for your mining operations, but you figured it out.
As you look at scaling, the first thing you need to think about is data center customization. You’re not going to find a pre-existing building that’s going to fit your needs for ventilation, circulation, cooling, and space, so why not build your own?
Constructing your own data center gives you the benefit of tailoring the site to exactly what you want. But with construction costs, planning, finding the right land, and finding the right contractor, you might want to consider taking a different approach to solving your data center problem.
Think about using a modularized solution for constructing your new data center. Instead of building to suit, or starting from scratch at each site, construct a modular container that can be easily and cheaply manufactured and reproduced. They can be shipped to your new site, and can be up and running quickly, with minimal on-site effort.
Modularized solutions are also location agnostic, and can solve a number of geographic issues. As you scale, your mining operations will be further away from populated areas — because that’s where power is cheapest — so you won’t have easy access to companies and contractors to help you. Modularization then becomes even more important to getting centers up and running in the middle of nowhere.
This is the solution we’ve created at Genesis Mining: an air-cooled forty-foot shipping container that houses more than a megawatt of miners that we’re able to get produced affordably. Our container solves the issue of intake air that may be too cold by recirculating hot air from the miners back into the intake. We don’t want -40°C winter wind damaging our miners!
It’s easy to monitor your mining operations when you’re small. But as you start to scale and bring new sites online, you’ll need to think about your software needs for your data centers. Don’t look to just monitor your farm operations, but manage them.
While there are software solutions on the market already, there are a few reasons why they won’t be the right choice for your operations management.
Software on the market right now tends to be vendor locked. This means that the vendor for a firmware would only produce software that works their firmware. You can’t use this kind of piecemeal solution for your entire farm.
As you begin to scale, you’re going to find that your farm is no longer homogenous across sites — you may have different device types running, client requirements, or special cooling conditions. An out-of-the-box solution that only manages one part of your operations isn’t going to be enough.
Unfortunately, many of the software management solutions today are created by start-ups, not by experienced crypto miners who have seen in real-time the various and nuanced data center needs.
Additionally, as you scale and open up new sites — sometimes in different countries — you need to think about software solutions that provide remote access. Actually being on-site to manage operations is no longer going to be feasible.
We saw the need for this kind of software and knew we could create one from our years of experience in crypto mining. Hexa is our enterprise-grade mining management solution that is able to manage different mining configurations, and that automates much of the manual work.
Hexa isn’t a monitoring solution, which only displays data, but a management solution, which allows you to configure your entire data center according to the needs of your farms. We kept large-scale operations in mind, which is why it’s an enterprise-grade solution.
Additionally, Hexa has advanced data reporting and can track transactions, performance, costs, and more. Investors, partners, and auditors are going to ask about your data, so having a robust reporting and retention system in place is going to be key.
Even though software will play a vital role in our operations, no software can replace expertise. As you scale, you’ll need to think about your teams and how they will be distributed throughout your sites. You can no longer have everyone in one place, so do you divide your team up? Or do you hire a whole new team for the new site, which is going to incur a lot of new overhead costs and considerations around knowledge transfer? How do you allocate which engineers go where, and which experts go where?
The answer is yes, you should split your teams. Make sure to have on-site teams that specialize in maintenance and who can care for your rigs, replace the fans, and make sure everything runs. Keep your core team of software and network specialists, electricians, and engineers — your think tank — together, making trips to the mining farms only when needed. This is the approach we’ve taken at Genesis Mining, and find it’s the best solution for our industrial-scale operations.
In crypto mining, timing is everything, and by having a thoughtful, streamlined process for scaling, you’ll not only be better positioned for future success, but you won’t lose any time getting there in the present. It also helps to learn from those who have gone before you.