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Nutanix delivers a GPU platform that pays for itself – in Bitcoins

For those unaware, Nutanix recently launched the NX-7000 series platform that incorporates one or multiple Nvidia Grid K1 or K2 cards into a Nutanix node.  This combination of the shared or dedicated horsepower of a purpose-built GPU card along with the benefits of the Nutanix virtual computing platform, allow for scale-on-success GPU-enabled virtual desktop solutions.

Some Nutanix customers certainly support mission-critical applications 24/7/365, but a sizable percentage of GPU-enabled VDI organizations support users only during normal business hours. This leaves around 6,700 hours a year where a Nutanix GPU node is likely sitting relatively idle. Even with technologies like VMware’s Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), the Nutanix NX-7110s will be underutilized.

UNTIL NOW.

Since the Nutanix NX-7000 series has multiple PCI slots it is possible to use the available slot(s) for mining a cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin or Litecoin.

What the hell does that even mean?

Bitcoins are an electronic currency; each bitcoin is currently worth nearly as much as an ounce of gold. Bitcoins are mined by running a special application to solve complex math problems. In exchange for completed the math computations bitcoins are issued. These bitcoins can then be sold or used to purchase goods at a growing number of online and retail stores.

Bitcoin mining has evolved from using GPU cards in a typical home gaming rig to now customized cards with mining-centric ASICs. Newer cards, such as the Butterfly Labs Monarch, continue to emerge that require less power and that are even faster at generating bitcoins.

Assume your organization has a Nutanix cluster supporting your GPU needs for VDI, Matlab, or published applications, but the Nutanix GPU nodes are only in use for 2000 hours a year. Now it’s possible to use intelligence and a card like the Monarch to more than pay for the cost of the Nutanix GPU nodes themselves in a year (obviously Bitcoin is a volatile currency so this payback period may be longer or shorter).

The Logic. 

The first step is to establish the normal working hours of the GPU users. For this example, let’s assume 9 am to 5 pm. At 5 pm, a customer script checks the workload of the Nutanix GPU nodes to verify that they are going idle. 

The Bitcoin/Litecoin Mining virtual appliance (Linux OS + something like BFGMiner) starts up – using the installed mining card along with the PCI passthrough feature of VMware vSphere to deliver the capability to the mining virtual machine.

The Mining virtual appliance runs for approximately 16 hours and then powers off before workers come back into the office. Tying into the Nutanix Prism API makes it possible to build a, “While you were away” dashboard that shows how many bitcoins were generated, the current trading value (from other APIs), and the generated total YTD. The possibilities with the Nutanix platform are endless.

Using this Bitcoin profitability calculator and an exchange rate at 500USD per Bitcoin (which is less than half of the current trading value), the Nutanix NX-7000 series node would generate ~$45K in a year, per node. If the price stayed above $1000 per Bitcoin for the year, then a single Nutanix NX-7000 node with a mining card could generate over $100,000. Talk about giving back!

Bitcoin mining may not be for everyone, but for the adventurous, it could be a great way to quickly pay for your beloved Nutanix GPU nodes.