Butterfly Labs Delays Continue, 28nm Monarch Delivery Pushed Back to April

Pete Rizzo
Mar 7, 2014 at 18:27 UTC
Updated Jun 4, 2014 at 16:08 UTC

Kansas-based bitcoin mining supply firm Butterfly Labs has announced that deployment of its 28nm Monarch mining ASIC will be delayed roughly four weeks.

The most recent setback means those who ordered units, some more than six months ago, will need to wait until April to receive their products.

Butterfly Labs informed the community of the news in a statement on 4th March, which explained that the delay is the result of an issue with the top metal layer of its chips.

Jeff Ownby, the company’s VP of marketing and corporate communications, elaborated on the problem in an interview, suggesting that this will be the last roadblock to delivery.

Said Ownby:

“The metal [layer] as designed for [our] 65nm [unit] doesn’t necessarily copyover to [the] 28nm [unit]. […] Everything else that’s depending on us putting together a final product is in stock and ready to go, it’s just a matter of getting the chips back and putting them on the boards.”

Josh Zerlan, the company’s VP of product development, also moved to calm frustrated buyers, revealing they would ultimately receive a unit that boasts power consumption numbers that are “better than anticipated”, and that some customers would be eligible for full refunds and delay compensation.

Announced in August, the 28nm Monarch unit has been delayed since September when optimism was high that production issues would soon be ironed out. At the time, the company was already developing a reputation for delays and delivery issues, but said it expected the first run of shipments to begin in January or February.

The latest announcement will likely do little to quell concerns about further setbacks.

Performance upgrades

Though he acknowledged some consumers will be disappointed about the delay, Ownby moved to put the focus on the improved product Butterfly Labs’ buyers will receive.

Ownby said Butterfly Labs expects the Monarch unit to consume 0.45W/GH, down from the 0.6W/GH originally announced. According to Ownby, this means the end result will be a chip that is less power hungry and more economical than those offered by competitors.

Explaining the significance of the change, Zerlan said:

“To put this in perspective, this makes the Monarch chip nearly twice as power efficient as compared to our 28nm competition whose products operate between 0.9W/GH and 1.0W/GH at the wall.”

Delay compensation

In an attempt to assuage customers, buyers who ordered 600 GH Monarchs prior to a reduction in price on 28th November will be given the Imperial Monarch, a high-performance version of the card. The original asking price for the 600 GH Monarch was $4,680, but this retail cost has since been reduced to $2,196.

Individuals who have been waiting for less than six months for their order, but paid the full original amount will receive an Imperial Monarch, as well as a 50% off voucher for an additional standard Monarch unit to be delivered at the end of the current queue.

Those who have been waiting for their order for more than six months can elect to receive a full refund in US dollars or double the amount of hardware they ordered.

The post details:

“This latter option will come in the form of (a) first shipping you the new Imperial Monarch, giving you an expected 160-175% of your ordered hashrate, and then (b) an additional Standard 600 GH Monarch at the end of the queue, giving you another 100% hashrate boost, totaling an expected 250+% of your ordered hashrate once all products have shipped.”

Customers who ordered the 300 GH Monarch at full price are now eligible for additional offers, though the full details of available compensation plans are not yet available.

Changing industry to blame

The news of yet another delay angered some customers, though others were less surprised by the announcement given the company’s history of shipment setbacks.

However, Ownby suggested that these buyers should have patience with the company as it works through new issues. In his statements, Ownby evoked comparisons to Butterfly Labs’ performance, which he suggested is on par with its competitors.

“The only thing that you can do when you’re talking about chip development in an industry that’s unknown, is you give it the best case that you possibly can from experience. […] I don’t think it works out for anybody. Everybody who’s tried to develop a chip has missed their target by some degree. You know it’s just the nature of the way things are.”

Ownby said that his company has been under the microscope, but that this is due in part to the “exaggerated timelines” it works under.

When asked whether delays will become less regular soon, Ownby once again indicated that this would need to be the result of an industry-wide change.

“The one thing that could come out of this at some point is if someone developed a chip and sold it off the shelf, but I don’t see it happening.”

Image credit: Butterfly Labs