Bitmain has unveiled a new cryptocurrency mining hardware product dedicated to the Equihash algorithm, which is used by the privacy-oriented cryptocurrency zcash.
The Equihash application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) was announced Thursday, with shipments expected to begin in June, according to Bitmain's website. The Antminer Z9 mini's release comes exactly a month after the formal debut of Bitmain's ethereum-focused ASIC.
Bitmain tweeted its announcement shortly after 6:30 a.m. EDT:
"Pleased to announce the Antminer Z9 mini, an ASIC miner to mine #Equihash-based cryptocurrencies. To prevent hoarding and to let more individuals worldwide get one, we've set a limit of one miner per user. Order here (https://goo.gl/fqzDLV ) now while stock lasts!
ASICs have been introduced for other hash algorithms in the past, leading to sea-changes in the mining industries of bitcoin, litecoin and, most recently, ether. When ASICs become available for a cryptocurrency, GPUs (graphical processing units) or especially CPUs (central processing units) become less attractive options for would-be miners.
This fact has made ASICs controversial since their introduction tends to centralize mining into a few large operations. Opponents of ASIC mining argue that this trend is antithetical to the decentralized intent of cryptocurrencies, and some projects' developers have promised to change their networks' underlying functions to thwart manufacturers like Bitmain.
Zooko Wilcox, zcash's founder, commented on the prospect of ASIC miners being developed for zcash Wednesday.
"I'm really chagrined that I let it sound like we were committing to a social contract of ongoing ASIC-resistance," he wrote, adding:
"That is absolutely never what I had intended to commit to, because (a) I always thought that it would probably become impossible long-term, and (b) I always believed that there was a fundamental trade-off between widespread distribution of the coins on one hand, and miners having a large sunk-cost investment into the coin on the other hand, and that the latter might eventually prove to be valuable for attack-resistance and network stability."
And as one moderator on the official zcash forum put it: "The current state of the ASIC resistance conversation is: still being debated."
ASIC image via Shutterstock.