CenturyLink, the third largest telecom in the U.S., announced in July that it has entered into a multi-megawatt data center deal with bitcoin mining firm CoinTerra. The company is using space in four of CenturyLink's data centers to host their fast-growing mining operations, which is where the majority of CoinTerra's revenue is created. As well as mining their own bitcoins, the company also designs and produces hardware and software that powers the blockchain ecosystem the currency runs in.
CoinTerra estimates that 15 percent of bitcoin's total network is operated using their hardware and at least $600 million is expected to be spent in the rest of 2014 on mining infrastructure for the currency. To handle the need, CoinTerra currently has eight data center locations, including the four now being leased from CenturyLink. The company is also outfitting a Canada data center that will be able to provide over 20 MW of power for mining.
"As the Bitcoin ecosystem continues to flourish, CoinTerra's continuously expanding mining operations require reliable power and extremely high levels of availability to ensure peak performance," said CoinTerra CEO Ravi Iyengar. "CenturyLink's expertise, operational efficiency and immense data center presence provide us with the ability to safely and securely operate truly powerful and reliable Bitcoin mining on an enterprise scale."
Bitcoin mining presents special needs
The mining of bitcoins requires a specialized type of high-performance hardware that can solve the computational algorithms that create the currency at a high speed while being accurate and efficient. Bitcoin mining is extremely computationally intensive, as the higher the operating speed of a machine, the more currency can be generated. Iyengar hasn't elaborated on exactly how much power use CoinTerra's contract with CenturyLink specifies, but has said that it is more than 10 MW and will probably exceed 20 MW "very soon."
Because of the computational power necessary for the mining, the need for electric and computing power increases over time, as does the requirement of sufficient cooling systems. Bitcoin operations require cooling similar to that of a supercomputer. CoinTerra utilizes a technique known as immersion cooling that uses tanks of a specialized liquid for high-density hardware. The immersion tanks can require an alternative data center layout, so CoinTerra plans on housing some of their tanks at CenturyLink's facilities to test what configuration works best for their needs.