We're still cautiously optimistic that a new cryptocurrency called Chia (not to be confused with the pet plants) will not actually lead to a shortage of SSDs and HDDs, but seeing this monstrosity of a motherboard pop up could be cause for concern. It sports 32 SATA ports and is looking like the ideal candidate for a Chia mining farm.
You see, Chia differs from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum in that it is built around a cryptographic technique called proof of space and time, rather than leveraging a proof of work model. To mine it, miners tap into unused storage space, as opposed to employing GPUs or specialized ASIC hardware.
The worst case scenario for PC gamers is that Chia takes off in a big way and ravages the HDD and SSD market, creating yet another hardware category shortage and piling onto the already tragic state of PC building in 2021. But that's getting way ahead of ourselves. It's just as likely (and maybe even more so) that Chia sees an initial surge of popularity when it becomes available to trade next week, then settles into the background.
Seagate hinted at this possibility, saying it has seen an "uptick in demand" for its storage products because of cryptocurrency mining (and presumably Chia), but added "it's a little early in this to know how prolonged" it will be. And outside of China, where dealers are hoarding storage products in hopes of cashing in down the line, pricing and availability of HDDs and SSDs seem stable. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
If not, perhaps there will be more motherboards like the B365 D32-D4 Magic Edition by Onda, with a gaggle of SATA ports. To be clear, this is not necessarily intended specifically for Chia. Onda's been churning out unique motherboards with oodles of SATA connectivity for nearly a decade at least—the earliest example I can find is a Reddit thread from 2013 highlighting the B250 D32-D3, also with 32 SATA ports.
It's also worth noting that this newer variant is based on Intel's B365 chipset, which is over two years old at this point. Chia has been around since 2018 as well, but there is no evidence to suggest this motherboard exists specifically for cryptocurrency mining.
Still, it could end up being used for that, if Chia becomes popular. According to Chidaolian, which first discovered this motherboard, the 32 SATA ports support up to 448TB of storage space. There's also an M.2 slot.
The elongated shape means it requires a special case—it measures 530mm by 320mm (20.9 inches by 12.6 inches), making it quite a bit larger than even an extended ATX (E-ATX) motherboard.
Other features include dual LAN ports, HDMI and VGA outputs, various USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, PCI Express x16 and x1 slots (one each), and two DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of DDR4-2800 memory.
There's no mention of price, though according to WCCFTech, it's already found its way into the hands of Chia miners.