Feb 2, 2021

Bitcoin: Ukraine's nuclear option

Data Centres
Harry Menear
3 min
The Ukrainian government is planning to build a massive data centre cluster next to a nuclear power plant in order to store state secrets and mine Bitcoin
The Ukrainian government is planning to build a massive data centre cluster next to a nuclear power plant in order to store state secrets and mine Bitco...

The value of a single Bitcoin has skyrocketed over the past year, with some experts believing that the world’s first cryptocurrency will hit $59,000 in 2021.

Your average amateur miner doesn’t have the necessary computing power at their disposal these days to get any kind of reasonable return on the Bitcoin that’s still out there. There are only 21mn Bitcoins that can ever be mined, and it’s currently estimated that around 18.5mn have already entered the market. 

However, at today’s price of $33,685.30, the remaining 2.5mn Bitcoins left unclaimed represent a prize in excess of $84.2bn. That’s more than enough incentive for those with the necessary resources to go after them. 

To mine Bitcoin and turn a profit, you need an insane amount of computing power, and therefore a whole load of electricity. 

One such entity might well be the government of Ukraine. 

Nuclear-powered Bitcoin mining

Over the weekend, Ukraine’s state-owned electric utility, Eneroatom, announced plans to build a cluster of exa-scale data centres immediately bordering some of the country’s nuclear power plants. In addition to potentially mining $84bn worth of Bitcoin, the data centres would also supposedly be used to store sensitive data for the state.  

Official tenders submitted in December call for the construction of one of these facilities near Rivne Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Varash. Ukranian construction company Ukrenergobudproek was reportedly the only bidder, and undergo the project for around $317,000. The building is expected to be completed around August of 2022. 

Sources in the government have suggested the facilities will have a power draw of somewhere between 250MW and 500MW, which would make this one of the largest single data centre construction projects in history, and easily the biggest state-owned crypto-mining operation ever. In total, Eneroatom has stated that total energy consumption across all its planned mining facilities could be as high as 2-3GW. 

For context, the entire Amsterdam data centre market has an estimated capacity of just over 1.6GW, and the bolt of lightning that sent Marty McFly back to the future coughed up a measly 1.21GW. 

In the summer of 2020, Eneroatom announced that it had signed an MoU with a Ukrianian company called H2 LLC, about which very little information is available. However, details have emerged that H2 has been engaged to build a $700mn data centre in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest facility of its kind. 

Ukraine has four nuclear power plants in total. In October of last year, Eneroatom reportedly also signed another MoU with Dutch crypto mining company Bitfury, to operate data centres near each of them. 

This is the beginning of a large and complex work, which will allow solving some strategic tasks both for Energoatom and for Ukraine as a state," said a spokesperson at the time. 

Regardless of whether the Ukranian government manages to pull off what could be the biggest state-sponsored digital infrastructure project in history, or whether it can get the facilities up and running in time to actually mine the world’s remaining supply of Bitcoin down to the bedrock, adding up to 3GW of data centre capacity to the country can only bode well in the long term for Ukraine’s status as a digital hub in Eastern Europe. 

That is, provided all goes smoothly, given the fact the country’s civil war is still raging just a few short kilometres from the construction site in Rivne. 

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Jun 6, 2021

Unlocking the next chapter of the digital revolution

Tim Loake
5 min
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies highlights the importance of often-overlooked digital infrastructure

As the world retreated to a hybrid world in 2020, our reliance on technology took the spotlight. But it was the jazzy new social and video calling platforms that took the encore. Behind the scenes, our servers worked overtime, keeping us connected and maintaining the drumbeat of always-on newly digital services.  Let’s take a moment to pay our respect to the unsung technology heroes of the pandemic – the often-forgotten IT infrastructure keeping us connected come what may. After all, as we look ahead to more resilient futures, they will be playing a central role.

Servers could be likened to our plumbing – vital to well-functioning homes but rarely top of mind so long as it is functioning. Never seen, rarely heard – our servers do all the graft with little praise. But it is essential to reflect on the incremental advances in GPU and CPU power, which have paved the way for new workloads that previously were not possible. Chatbots and native language processing that provide essential customer touchpoints for businesses across the retail and banking sectors rely on powerful servers. They also keep businesses competitive and customers happy in an always-on world. 

Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies

Serving workplace transformation

But, as businesses grappled with pandemic disruptions, the focus was largely on adopting connected devices – and awe at the rapid increase in the datasphere.  As they reined in their budgets and attempted to do more with less, one aspect was perhaps overlooked—those hard working servers.

When it came to building resilience into a newly remote workforce, the initial concern was focused on the device endpoints – keeping employees productive.  Many companies did not initially consider whether they had the server infrastructure to enable the entire workforce to log in remotely at the same time. As a result, many experienced a plethora of teething problems: virtual office crashes, long waits to get on servers, and sluggish internet connectivity and application performance, often rendering the shiny new PC frustrating and useless.

Most businesses only had a few outward-facing servers that could authenticate remote workers – a vital gateway as the vector for cyber hacks and attacks increased exponentially. That’s not to mention the fact that many business applications simply weren’t designed to work with the latency required for people working from home. What businesses discovered at that moment was that their plumbing was out of date.  

Business and IT leaders quickly realised that to stay ahead of the curve in the hybrid working world, a renewed focus on building agile, adaptable, and flexible IT infrastructures was critical. More importantly, it accelerated the inevitable digital transformation that would keep them competitive in a data-driven economy. It is now abundantly clear to businesses that they need IT infrastructure to meet the demands of diverse workloads – derive intelligent insights from data, deploy applications effectively, and enhance data management and security.  

Ripe for a digital revolution

Unsurprisingly, IDC noted that there was an increase in purchases of server infrastructure to support changing workloads. However, it also forecasts this uptick will be sustainable and last beyond the pandemic. As the economy begins to reopen, business leaders are looking ahead. IT will continue to play a crucial role in 2021 and beyond – and we have already set the foundations for the digital revolution with next-generation servers. 

As we enter the zettabyte era, new innovative technologies are coming on stream, with 5G turbocharging IoT and putting edge computing to work.  Exciting new services improved day-to-day efficiencies, and the transformation of our digital society will be underpinned by resilient IT infrastructures.  By embracing the technological innovations of our next-generation servers, businesses keep pace with the coming data deluge.

The next generation of server architecture promises more power with less heat, thanks to improved, directed airflow, and direct liquid cooling, resulting in reduced operational costs and environmental impact. As we rebuild post-pandemic, manufacturers and customers alike strive to achieve ever more challenging sustainability goals. With this in mind, a focus on environmentally responsible design is imperative for the servers of tomorrow -  uniquely designed chassis for adaptive cooling and more efficient power consumption will be critical, improving energy efficiency generation over generation.

The most notable evolution is the configuration of these next-gen servers around more specific organisational needs. Unlike clunky and often unstable legacy infrastructure, the infrastructure of tomorrow will be sturdier and more modular. The next iteration is streamlined, and in this modular form, can be more easily tailored to business needs. This equates to essential cost savings as businesses only pay for what they use.  

Resolving the problem of the future, today

Tomorrow's IT challenges will focus on response times and latency as Edge and 5G technologies go mainstream. As businesses develop new and innovative services that utilise supercharged connectivity and real-time analytics, staying on top of these challenges will give them a competitive edge. For example, in the world of retail, automation will power new virtual security guards and even the slightest delay in the data relay could result in financial loss. 

Similarly, in the smart cities of tomorrow, the network must be responsive. With city-centre traffic lights controlled by an AI-powered camera that monitors pedestrians, delays in data transfers could cost the life of an elderly pedestrian who has fallen in the road. The stakes are far higher in a 5G-enabled world. As our reliance on technology deepens, the margins for error narrow, placing greater emphasis on the efficiency of those critical underpinning technologies.

Fully enabling the hybrid work model today is just a stepping-stone towards more fluid, tech-enabled lives. A work Zoom call from an automated vehicle on-route to an intelligent transport hub is a highly probable vision of our future. But it requires incredible amounts of compute and seamless data transfers to make it possible. These glossy snapshots need super servers to come to life, making that IT plumbing glisten with next-gen innovation essential. Without exemplary server architecture, we risk future tech advances and the human progression that it enables. 

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