Bitcoin and cryptocurrency began stamping its hypothetical feet and making noise in mainstream media over the last decade, with individuals taking a keen interest in blockchain and its link to banking and investment. Since then blockchain, the technology that runs Bitcoin, has developed into one of the biggest revolutionary technologies with the potential to impact every industry from data centres to the financial sector. Abigail Opiah reports.
Blockchain first arrived on the scene back in 2008 when a person (or group of people) using the name Satoshi Nakamoto released a whitepaper that explored the concept of a peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. With the launch of Bitcoin in January 2009, blockchain had its first real-world application.
Blockchains multiple strands created conversations that go far beyond its original purpose of a growing list of records that are linked using cryptocurrency. According to Vincent Barro, Vice-President Datacentre & Business Development at Schneider Electric, before peeling away at blockchains surface level to unlock its full potential, conversations around tokenization need to be had.
When we talk about crypto, we need to talk about blockchain and tokenization, which are the main two technologies behind cryptocurrency. Crypto is huge in terms of banking, and you can see companies like Swisscom invest a lot in crypto which means that they want to take the lead globally on it, he says.
To be efficient with your customer, you need to have infrastructure and a presence in the cloud. This is extremely critical for blockchain because you are going to need the edge. The blockchain business has been predicted to jump from 2.5bn to 20bn by 2025, thus the data centre needs to adapt to this new business strategy. With that being said, there are some challenges that relate to energy including modularity.
I have a lot of demand from customers for modular solutions, which can be containerised solutions or something more local. On the other side, youve got this link with the cloud providers and major colocation data centres, which conjures the need for super-efficient solutions that leads to liquid cooling which is a big topic at the moment.
Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data. In one breath, the conversation led to all the tree-branches that stem from blockchain which puts conjures up the question of what is next for blockchain, will all the big technology players jump on board, and which regions will see the adoption of blockchain completely flourish first.
What has been happening over the last two years is a lot of acceleration within Microsoft and Google to come to Switzerland. The usual situation in Switzerland was more about medium-sized colocators that do colocation business but there are a lot of
Google and Microsoft decided to enter the Swiss market through colocation, with Google communicating that it will enter the market via Green Datacenter AG. Green Datacenter was a small colocation provider, which became a major player in the last two years thanks to Google.
The reason why these companys feel it is important to be in Switzerland is because they want to be under the Swiss data protection legislation and banking applications. That is mandatory to attack the wall of finance and insurance.
One point which is important but has not been finalised is that Amazon may move to Switzerland as well in the very near future. In terms of finance, this is important because of low latency. With this new ecosystem of data centres, these companies will have about ten milliseconds of improvement in latency which is huge when we talk about finance, and as the country is not very big, it has two interconnected points within an hour and a half between Zurich and Geneva.
This is because Switzerland has no specific hindrances that affect cryptocurrencies. Switzerlands Federal Council, the nations collective head of state and government, has announced it will commit to improving the legal framework for blockchain and distributed ledger technology companies.
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As the conversation steered towards tech giants, one instant ping in the brain was Facebooks announcement of its very own cryptocurrency, Libra.
The cryptocurrency is a permissioned blockchain digital currency that does not yet exist, with only rudimentary experimental code being released so far, but it has been projected to be launched in 2020.
At the moment, there are around 240 cryptocurrencies in the world, thus we see consolidation in this environment, which is set to grow more, adds Barro.
240 cryptocurrencies are a lot of cryptocurrencies. The blockchain sector has witnessed the birth of new alliances, Bitcoin and Ethereum survived the bear market, new cryptocurrency trading products and a plethora of blockchain protocols matured and expanded in growth.
Compute Norths President Marshall Johnson predicts that migration from China will continue in regards to blockchain and hash rate will continue to jump. His other predictions for blockchain is that there will be a continued evolution of the technology, and as a result, there will be further enterprise adoption, especially in financial services, supply chain and banking.
Lastly, he predicts that low costs will still win, previous generation machines will be dead this year unless there is serious price movement, and halvening will make some miners go out of business that have not upgraded their equipment.
In a halvening also referred to as halving Bitcoin rewards that go to the so-called miners that support the coins network drop in half in order to prevent inflation from eroding the purchasing power of the coins.
Since bitcoin has halved twice in the past, we can say that it has shown to be a major catalyst in setting off a new bull market era for bitcoin. As bitcoin halves and fewer are being generated, the increased scarcity leads to an increase in value, says Johnson.
The increased scarcity of bitcoin means only the most high-performing and high-efficiency mining operations will stand to see steady or increased profits following the halving. This makes outdated miners like the Antminer S9 nearly irrelevant without some sort of optimisation strategy to extend their productive life.
This will drive many to upgrade to a more efficient miner like the Antminer S17, especially for large-scale operations. Utilisation of cheap energy and mining colocation should also be leaned on more significantly leading up to and in the wake of the halving in order to maximise profit in an increasingly competitive market.
Like Barro, Johnson too identifies the link with blockchain and data centres, highlighting that there will continue to be high demand low-cost computing and storage, which will put pressure on the data centre sector to evolve and adapt.
Worldwide data and computing requirements continue to grow rapidly. Blockchain and many applications are not mission-critical, require vast amounts of power and resources, and there is a trend to outsourcing these types of applications (IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Image Rendering, and Blockchain), says Johnson.
This opens the door for innovative solutions, like the Tier 0 data centre infrastructure that Compute North is developing and building. North America offers a unique blend of power resources, geopolitical stability, and reliable infrastructure that is appealing to mining operations.
Although China recently reversed a two-year ban on cryptocurrencies, volatility and uncertain still exists in the region as government oversight of the sector appears to be in a regular state of flux. By moving some of their mining operations to the U.S., miners benefit from a more stable economic environment, the availability and mix of cleaner energy, stronger infrastructure and the advantages of an industry that is held to a higher standard. Diversifying operations is recommended to mitigate risk.
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