Bitmain, the major Chinese ASIC producer, has launched a third mining pool: ConnectBTC opened to the public today. AntPool and BTC.com already belong to the Bitmain group of mining pools. This new pool is part of Bitmain’s Israeli research and development (R&D) center, Bitmaintech Israel, and as such, is the first mining pool based in the Middle-Eastern country.
“There is a very strong tech and cryptocurrency industry in Israel, and we’re proud to now open the first Israeli Bitcoin mining pool,” ConnectBTC manager Gadi Glikberg told Bitcoin Magazine.
Glikberg was previously the vice president of sales for Spondoolies Tech, the Israeli ASIC producer that shut down in mid-2016. Bitmain CEOs Jihan Wu and Micree Zhan decided to set up the R&D center in Tel Aviv shortly after, where Glikberg took on a managing role.
Glikberg believes the new pool’s main differentiator is that ConnectBTC provides detailed real-time information and analytics to connected miners (or “hashers”). This should give them a better understanding of their machine’s performance without having to develop custom internal monitoring tools themselves.
“Think of miners as servers that are working at 100 percent CPU 24/7,” Glikberg explained. “Modern data centers use expensive monitoring tools to monitor the status of the servers, so they can respond quickly when a server goes down or doesn't perform as expected. Most miners don't have such external tools and they rely either on the pool or on a proprietary tool such as a script that they build themselves.”
ConnectBTC will instead be providing this to miners as a standard service, Glikberg said:
“ConnectBTC provides a high detailed user interface, specifying real-time detailed information about the status of each miner, so miners can review and quickly identify any potential problem with their unit.”
ConnectBTC has been operating in closed beta since December and has amassed a small amount of hash power since. Glikberg expects that level to grow over the coming months.
Block Size and Scaling
Bitmain and its pools have been at the center of Bitcoin’s scaling debate lately. The company’s co-CEO Jihan Wu in particular is a vocal supporter of Bitcoin Unlimited, an alternative protocol implementation designed to let miners and users change their block size settings.
AntPool is currently the largest mining pool on the Bitcoin network, representing some 15 percent of all hash power, and started signalling support for Bitcoin Unlimited several weeks ago. BTC.com represents an additional three percent, but hasn’t signalled support for Bitcoin Unlimited as of yet. It’s been suggested that Bitmain effectively exerts influence over the hash power of other Bitcoin Unlimited signalling pools as well — though this is has so far been denied by Bitmain and the pools.
ConnectBTC was fully developed by Bitmaintech Israel, independently of any other pool. Glikberg expects the pool will operate fairly independently for now, similar to BTC.com. This also means the pool won’t signal support for Bitcoin Unlimited for the time being, nor for other scaling solutions such as Bitcoin Core’s proposed Segregated Witness soft fork.
“For a lot of us, it seems like the block size debate is the most important topic in the world, but for miners, the most important thing is to keep their machines running with minimal down time,” he said. “Miners have a vast interest in stability, just like most players in the industry. I think that's why we are seeing a lot of hashing power staying on the fence. At the moment, the pool is not voting either way. I think that large part of the miners are still undecided about the best way to go.”
Though, as for a potential future direction, Glikberg didn’t exclude the possibility that his pool may decide to support a block size limit increase later on.
“We are talking to many miners, and we hear more or less the same thing — miners want to see bigger blocks and at the same time don’t feel comfortable with any proposed solution. I'm sure that once miners feel comfortable enough with any proposed solution, they will signal for it.”