Recently-launched cryptocurrency Chia uses storage space, rather than processing power, to secure its network. The problem is most standard hard drives can't handle the wear and tear. Now, the first solid-state drives (SSDs) that are certified for "farming" Chia have been launched by U.S. computer hardware manufacturer PNY.
The PNY LX2030 and LX3030 M.2 NVMe SSDs are "ultra high endurance" models that offer endurance ratings of up to 54,000 terabytes written (TBW). That's important, because Chia plotting requires "a high amount of sustained bandwidth," according to Jonmichael Hands, Chia's VP of Storage Business Development; that, in turn, can wear out the drives used for plotting.
What is Chia farming?
Where Bitcoin's network is secured by proof of work, which relies on processing power, and other blockchains use a proof of stake consensus mechanism, Chia's blockchain is secured by computer storage. The blockchain's developers call this novel system "proof of space and time."
Chia farmers write 100GB plots on an SSD, populating it with hashes, which they then copy over to a hard disk drive. Each time a new block's added to the Chia blockchain, its hash is compared with those on farmers' drives; the one with the closest match receives the block reward.
However, since the SSD is constantly overwritten with new plots, write-intensive Chia farming can wear out SSDs; some reports suggest that a 512 GB SSD could be "ruined" in as little as 40 days of farming. Chia founder Bram Cohen has disputed the claim that Chia "burns out" hard drives—as long as farmers stick to HDDs or enterprise-class SSDs.
Chia has also caused shortages of computer storage in some regions, as farmers race to get their hands on the hardware they need. Chia Network president Gene Hoffman recently conceded that "we've kind of destroyed the short-term supply chain" for computer storage.
That's the issue that PNY's aiming to fix. Its SSDs are designed specifically for mining Chia, using a combination of "an advanced AI Engine, LDPC and Flash I/F to improve NAND endurance." That means, according to Chia, that the 1TB LX3030 model will be able to create 2 petabytes (PB) of plots before it wears out. The LX2030 is available in a 2TB model, while the LX3030 comes in 1TB and 2TB variants.
With the advent of high endurance SSDs designed specifically for mining Chia, the cryptocurrency's advocates will be hoping that the problems of excessive wear—and hardware shortages—are behind them.