Motherboard manufacturers in China are getting in on the cryptomining craze surrounding Chia, a new cryptocurrency available to mine in May. We’ve talked about Chia several times now, including rumors that hard drive demand has spiked artificially because buyers in certain areas are hoarding drives, hoping to drive up prices.
Drive hoarding may be partially responsible for high prices, but clearly, motherboard manufacturers expect storage mining to catch on. A new platform from motherboard manufacturer Onda, the Chia D32H-D4, offers no fewer than 32 SATA ports.
These aren’t standard SATA ports; they’re SATA backplane connectors (thanks to Demon for the heads up). I thought they were mSATA ports for power delivery initially, but they’re backplane SATA connectors of the sort you’d find in a chassis. This confused me at first, because you wouldn’t normally slap SATA directly on a motherboard this way. At a guess, however, these plugs are designed for cables (as opposed to mounting nearly three dozen hard drives in a vertical configuration). The motherboard uses SATA backplanes to provide power and electricity simultaneously. The manufacturer behind this motherboard, Onda, is reportedly offering it with a custom chassis and an 800W power supply. The board is based on a B365 chipset and offers two six-pin connectors to provide additional power. While I initially thought this meant the board couldn’t support both 6th/7th Gen CPUs and 8th/9th, apparently this is common in Asia, despite not being an Intel-approved configuration. ET regrets the errors.
Be advised that this motherboard is not ATX. Standard ATX boards are 305mm x 244mm. This board is 530mm by 310mm. While the motherboard does offer an x16 PCIe slot, the chassis Onda is selling doesn’t support an external graphics card.
This motherboard won’t fit in any standard chassis. EATX is capable of meeting the width requirement but isn’t tall enough to fit the board. The dimensions are larger than even the theoretical WTX standard at 356mm x 425mm.
Bullshit Is Coming
If you had a vague plan to buy storage in the next few months, we recommend buying it now. It’s possible that all of the hype around Chia is smoke and mirrors intended to scare up rumors of shortages to promote the cryptocurrency itself. Even writing disparagingly about the cryptocurrency arguably feeds the hype cycle by improving Chia’s brand awareness.
The problem is, ongoing cryptocurrency shortages continue to break things. GPU prices and availability may not come down until the end of the year, though we’re hoping that new mining limits on future Nvidia cards will help improve availability for gamers, reducing the impact of ongoing shortages. Storage is another problem altogether. It may be possible to stop a GPU from mining, but good luck preventing a hard drive from storing data.
That’s where Chia is such a potential issue. Other cryptocurrencies based on storage solutions use a solution called proof of capacity. Proof of capacity allows a user to re-use the same hard drive space. Chia uses proof of spacetime, which requires that an end-user maintain or add capacity over time in order to increase payout rates. Your payout is calculated based on the percentage of the total storage pool that belongs to you. Should Chia take off, it could drive shortages in storage the way Ethereum mining has caused shortages in GPUs.
It’s possible that all of this will still come to nothing. Problem is, if it doesn’t, storage could be pricey for months, even a year or more. We’re one month short of Pascal’s 5th anniversary. GPU prices have been elevated, to one degree or another, for 28 of the past 59 months. If this same pattern hits storage, the window for buying components may be much smaller than in the past, and much harder to predict.
OEMs should remain insulated from this problem for now, since they buy on contract. Should Chia prove successful, the PC retail channel will be further harmed as another critical system component becomes impossible for most to afford. If you have storage upgrades you want to make, and you can afford to make them now, we recommend you do so, as a precautionary measure against future near-term price increases that could stick around for 6-12 months, depending on how everything shakes out.