According to a report by Linux hardware community site Phoronix, updates to the AMDGPU kernel driver indicate that semiconductor company AMD (Advance Micro Devices, Inc.) may be on the road to developing a new crypto-specific GPUs (graphics processing units).
The fix is part of a set of updates leading to Linux 5.12, and indicates that a headless SKU (stock keeping unit) is under development. Notably, the new product does not support a VCN (Video Core Next), which is AMD’s proprietary hardware acceleration design for its video encoding and encoding hardware core. This means that it will be “headless” or won’t support any type of display and/or connect to a video output device such as a monitor. The product under development will be released in line with AMD’s new Navi 12 line.
The move by AMD to create crypto-specific GPUs can be read as an answer to NVIDIA’s latest announcement regarding their CMP HX (Cryptocurrency Mining Processors). This series from NVIDIA resolves concerns from the gaming community that supplies for gaming-specific cards like the GeForce RTX 3000 series are going thin as demand for crypto-mining hardware has risen relative to the market-wide bull run.
Notably, both NVIDIA and AMD are likely set to use older graphics processing architectures for these new crypto-mining hardware products. NVIDIA’s CMP HX series of mining-specific hardware is reportedly based on the previous-generation Turing architecture. In relation, AMD will possibly make use of its previous-generation architecture, RDNA (Radeon DNA). The flagship-level device in NVIDIA’s CMP HX series, 90HX, is reportedly using their current generation architecture, Ampere, producing an Ethereum hash rate of 86 MH/s. To compare, AMD’s RX 6800 XT built on RDNA2 has an effective Ethereum hash rate of 59 MH/s rated at 147 watts. This means that if AMD were to release mining-specific hardware, it may be able to catch up with NVIDIA’s current offerings for the crypto-hardware market.
Despite the existence of ASICs (application-specific integrated circuit) and FPGAs (field-programmable gate array) primarily used for cryptocurrency mining, some still use gaming GPUs despite the lesser output in terms of hashrate. According to NVIDIA, with the release of their CMPs, they will be updating firmware for their RTX and GTX gaming GPUs by effectively halving hash rates of all devices under the series to put out less for the Ethereum cryptocurrency mining algorithm.