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Terrence Thurber, OregonMines: Data Centers May Consume Lots of Energy, But Time Will Tell If It’s Worth It

Jul 5, 2018
by Josh Anderson

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Many in the data center industry still have a lot to learn about crypto-currency mining and its underlying technology of blockchain, especially since most of the emerging technology is controversial. In previous CapRE Insider Reports, we’ve delved into one such aspect of blockchain mining covered during a panel discussion at CapRE’s Second Annual Boston and New England Data Center Summit, moderated by Adam Waitkunas, President and Founder of Milldam Public Relations titled, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin: What are They and How Do They Impact Data Center Design & Construction?

data center summitWaitkunas asked panelist Jeffrey Moerdler, Partner at Mintz Levin, & Terrence Thurber, CEO of OregonMines to discuss a straightforward but complex question: “Can you talk about the effect blockchain will have on data centers from a legal perspective? How will SLAs be different when looking at blockchain?” After some initial back and forth, the discussion moved to the topic of trade offs in developing blockchain technology, specifically the massive amount of energy that would have to be consumed to revolutionize concepts such as currency, accounting, and security.

“I would say that getting to greater efficiencies is always going to be the goal,” began Thurber. “We have ASIC manufacturers working on chips, and people are constantly working on ideas. People are constantly looking at ways to improve this, and it’s pretty early on. It’s like going back and looking at a 386 processor and chastising it for not being a multi-core i7 today. It’s just not even in the same generation. In terms of the fact that we have so many people trying to do this, and keep in mind this is the early gold rush and over time it will probably temper. It’ll be like gold mining today – pretty predictable.”

“And I think that different ideas and algorithms are being put together to challenge proof of work — Proof of stake exists,” he continued. “They all have different issues and none of them have been proven. I’m personally into the proof of work now. But I think that over time of course people are going to find better ways to validate different blocks and maybe different specialty block use cases. I think that’s what you’re describing.”

“That’s why we have contract layers, that’s why we have different coins,” he stressed, preparing to wrap up a complex conversation. “If at any one point we can’t reach consensus and a network of people decide that they want to change those rules, not only can they just broadcast it they can just split off determined to start validating in their own direction. And with that you can look at the total mining pool as something more of a global resource than say something that’s a finite thing and pigeon-holed to just Bitcoin.”

“Maybe that’s what it is today, but the future could hold so many different allocations that I think it’s a little bit too early to say its too wasteful or even try to quantify it,” he surmised. “Who knows where these numbers are even coming from?”

This is the fourth in a series of stories covering this discussion. For more on the trade-offs between energy consumption and the potential for technological disruption thanks to blockchain, check out previous CapRE Insider Reports:

Banner Photo (L-R): Jeffrey Moerdler, Partner, Mintz Levin, & Terrence Thurber, CEO, OregonMines 

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