As of this writing the Chia Netspace is about to cross 12 EiB, and when you are reading this it likely already has. This is an incredible amount of data, and the rate of growth is absolutely monstrous and I don’t think anyone, including myself, is going to be able to predict what the growth curve will look like in the months to come. That’s not what this post is. But let’s discuss for a moment what it takes to maintain growth of that kind.
There are going to be 3 main farmer archetypes; the consumer, with a couple of external hard drives connected to a single machine; the prosumer with a small network of machines, possibly connected to some old enterprise storage gear; and the business with racks or datacenters full of storage – the factory farm. Most of us will fall into the first two categories. I am firmly in the first.
These three farming types will be contributing growth in wildly different patterns. The consumer will slowly plot out their hard drives, and farm them on a low power setup hopefully getting some coin. When pools come out this farmer will slowly replace their existing plots with portable plots and join a pool. They are contributing a large amount to the growth but their costs are low and mostly fixed, returns are high under any scenario and they do not have an incentive to continuously grow their farm at all cost. My prediction is that this component of the growth will soon slow down, or even has already started to. This set will make up most of the unique address space, but not winning a similar number of blocks.
The second class of farmer, the prosumer, has invested some serious money into their setup, relative to the first farmer. They have a Threadripper or high end server class system spitting out 10TB of plots a day with enough stockpiled storage to go for a few more weeks. When portable plots come these users may switch, but they will definitely keep their existing plots and simply begin pooling the new plots while solo farming the old ones. Their investment is much higher than the consumer farmer, but their return will likely stay consistent for much longer. Depending on how attractive the pool payouts are, these users may have the incentive and return to continue adding storage for quite some time. Possibly indefinitely, if the price holds, which would eventually turn them into the third farmer class. These users will be a relatively small class in terms of both total users and total won blocks, but will be disproportionately represented in online forums.
The dreaded datacenter farmer. The farmer who buys disks in crates, and is adding multiple PB a day of storage with multiple high end servers plotting at a rate we cannot fathom. Since this is a business, they have no incentive to share their financial details with the Chia community, but we can infer some of their overhead. Unlike the first two classes who would be operating out of a space they already have this farmer rents, or pays overhead on their space. They need to pay for power, and compute, and network, and racks, and air conditioning – or a rental fee that includes these things. They have a high investment in storage and plotting hardware. They have staff, who require payment. Their overhead is high. Their cost of adding storage is high per TB, even though they pay wholesale pricing on their disks. They also have a high incentive to continuously add storage. They likely have a large amount connected and unplotted or not yet connected. These users will drive the netspace growth after the consumers have largely stopped plotting but only as much as it is worth it. They need a consistent return to pay rent and salaries, and right now they are getting that. And as long as they do the netspace growth will only slow, but it won’t appreciably stop. The only thing that will stop them is when they run out space at their facilities. When that begins happening, the netspace will grow to a crawl as the next phase of investment becomes prohibitively high.
A week ago I predicted the growth would slow around 10EiB, and it did very briefly. But its clear I was incorrect about how much preplanned storage was allocated to Chia. The more it grows the better off things will be for those holding Chia, but the slower the return will be for all farmers- including the big outfits.