A joint data-center venture between ConsenSys and chip maker AMD has so far raised over $20 million to triple its GPU capacity, but won’t say exactly what they’re for.
In crypto, the term “data center” is usually just another way of saying mining facility. But that’s not just what it means to W3BCLOUD, the ConsenSys and AMD-backed venture. Trouble is, that’s as much as we could squeeze out of them on the subject.
Speaking to CoinDesk, W3BCLOUD co-founders Wael Aburida and Sami Issa, who is also CEO, said they were using $20.5 million raised in the initial part of a seed round to ramp up the GPU capacity at a data center in Washington State.
W3BCLOUD currently operates 6,000 GPUs, but the $20.5 million investment will enable it to more than triple that number to 20,000 units, with plans for even more in the future. “We’re using over 90% of our capital to deploy computer resources,” Aburida said. “It’s going to make sure that we have the horsepower from a computer perspective to serve the needs of our customers.”
W3BCLOUD, which was established in early 2019 is based in Ireland and has a sub-entity in London. Companies House, the U.K. company registry, lists ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin and his chief of staff, Jeremy Millar, as directors.
Usually associated in the blockchain space with mining cryptocurrencies, GPUs are versatile and can perform a range of other functions, such as processing blockchain traffic, increasing network storage and improving latency. They could also be put to work in the emerging Web3 and decentralized finance (DeFi) spaces.
Broadly, the GPUs will form the backbone for a new decentralized computing infrastructure, Aburida said, and they’ll be deployed initially onto Ethereum. But both co-founders refused to be drawn on the specifics, and wouldn’t say what initiatives, if any, were in the pipeline.
“In a future discussion we’ll say more,” said Issa. He was quick to emphasize the data centers could also be used to facilitate a much broader range of previously unheard of decentralized functions, such as decentralized artificial intelligence and decentralized virtual reality.
“We see ourselves as a decentralized computer infrastructure [with] blockchain being one of the use cases,” Issa said. “We have access to the best computers and the best blockchain minds, we are going to build the computer infrastructure needed for the attractive use cases for the community.”
W3BCLOUD is still in the middle of its seed round and those involved hope to reach its funding target of $30 million. So far, the company has attracted investment from its main backers, ConsenSys and AMD, as well as a handful of family offices in the United Arab Emirates.
“The point of this call, really, is we’re very excited about hitting the important milestone. We’ve gotten [so far] to $20.5 million as part of this first round,” Aburida said.
Some of the funding will also go towards a new data center somewhere in the European Union. “We have a European customer, for example, who we can’t name, that wants us to be in Europe,” Issa said.
They are also receiving interest from a few sovereign wealth funds, according to Aburida. An institutional round is planned for sometime in 2021, although a fundraising target “has not yet been defined.”
“There are a bunch of things that we can’t talk about at this stage, but I think you can see the opportunity as we see it,” Issa said.
W3BCLOUD is also interested, initially, in working on other proof-of-work blockchains.
Many blockchains struggle, at the initial stage, to get much traction, Aburida said, and the firm’s data centers could maybe act as a “white knight,” providing early-stage computing power to give projects a crucial leg up and shield them from so-called 51% attacks. These occur when a bad actor can take over more than half of a network’s computing power and can then rewrite transactions on the blockchain.
While the plans still haven’t been fully fleshed out yet, “the important point is we’re going to be a significant player in terms of numbers for GPUs,” Aburida said.
CORRECTION (June 25, 12:45 UTC): A previous version of this article stated that W3BCLOUD was based in London. This has since been corrected.