[Beowulf] 10GbE Adapter Market

Bob Drzyzgula bob at drzyzgula.org
Mon Nov 18 16:35:05 PST 2013

FWIW, a couple of refinements to what's been discussed. COTS actually
stands for "Commercially available Off The Shelf", often shortened to
simply "Commercial Off The Shelf", and it is a legal term defined in the
Federal Acquisition Regulations, or FAR. See




SOHO, I am quite certain, is *not* defined in the FAR, and really has its
origins, at least as far as I can recall, as a bit of jargon used in trade
and consumer magazines of the early personal computer era. See


A Netgear 16-port gigabit switch that sells for $200 is both SOHO and COTS.
A Cisco Nexus 7718 18-slot chassis switch is still COTS but in no way,
shape, manner or form SOHO.

Also, Jim's point about U.S. law giving the government the best price on
all products is missing one essential point: The requirement only extends
to products sold under a specific set of terms and conditions. Thus, it is
quite legal -- and common -- for an entity to sell the government a COTS
item, say a hammer, at one price, and yet sell it at a lower price in an
online storefront. This is allowed because when the government buys it,
they as a buyer insist on a whole raft of rights that are not offered with
that online sale to a consumer. Moreover, if something is offered by
resellers, there no rule requiring them all to sell at the same, "lowest"
price; you can see this, for example, by browsing the pricing on GSA's own
online shopping site -- https://www.gsaadvantage.gov/ -- where for any
random item you can often find several vendors with GSA contracts for the
same item at different prices. And those of you who routinely buy gear will
probably look through there and scream "I get better prices than that".
Yes, and actually the Government often does as well, by doing a competitive
solicitation with a modified terms and conditions.

[BTW, that site is also a great place to find ballpark prices for items for
which prices aren't typically advertised and you typically have to waste
your time talking to a salesman. Not everything is in there, but if you
want to get a quick idea of how much, say, a 3par storage array will cost,
you can probably find someone listing it there]


On Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 6:28 PM, Lux, Jim (337C)
<james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov>wrote:

> Oh, it's been a term of art on US Government procurement for decades (at
> least back to the 80s, I think)
> In theory, COTS means lower cost for government procurement.  You can buy
> a $5 COTS hammer, or write a specification for that same hammer, and it
> will cost $600, because of the added paperwork for the manufacturer to test
> and certify that the hammer meets the specifications, etc.
> There's actually a law in the U.S. that says that you have to give the
> federal government your best price for a given widget (e.g. same part
> number).  More than one manufacturer has gotten caught when they sold a
> widget to the government at one price, and then, later, someone else comes
> along and negotiates a lower price.   You'll see this referred to as a Most
> Favored Customer (MFC) or Price Reduction Clause (PRC).
> This is why you will often see a different part number on a basically
> identical device sold to government and commercial, or why you see part
> numbers that are "customer specific".  And realistically, this is a
> reasonable thing, since usual commercial procurement and government
> procurement contracts are different beasts, with very different terms and
> condition.  JPL buys things on purchase orders with a 20+ page list of
> terms and conditions, among  which *used to be* something along the lines
> of "if the satellite we built with your part fails, you might be liable for
> the entire cost of the mission", which made supplying mundane components
> like resistors a tad risky. (Mind you, this applied even if the original
> procurement wasn't identified as being for spaceflight, so if that $5
> hammer looked attractive to an astronaut walking through the lab, and she
> carried up to the space station, and then the hammer was dropped during an
> EVA (it happens) and then bashes a hole in the windo
>  w, causing ISS to lose air, astronauts to die, etc., the supplier of that
> hammer might be looking at a real ordeal.  This has been changed,
> fortunately.
> On the other hand, if, at home,  I go buy a SOHO COTS network switch for
> $25 online from Joe's ACME Switch Supply, and it fails, Joe can tell me
> "didn't you see the fine print that says all sales final, as-is"
> Jim Lux
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ehw111 at cse.psu.edu [mailto:ehw111 at cse.psu.edu] On Behalf Of Ellis
> H. Wilson III
> Sent: Monday, November 18, 2013 2:38 PM
> To: Lux, Jim (337C)
> Cc: Peter St. John; Beowulf List
> Subject: Re: [Beowulf] 10GbE Adapter Market
> On 11/18/13 17:11, Lux, Jim (337C) wrote:
> > COTS is an incredibly common word in the defense/aerospace world, as in
> "This M1A1 Abrams tank fire control system is running the VxWorks COTS
> operating system on a ruggedized COTS PowerPC processor. "  As opposed to,
> say, a AN/UYK-20 tactical data computer which was specifically designed and
> manufactured for the US Navy, and runs its proprietary software.
> Good to know.  I was not aware it was so common outside of our circles.
> Best,
> ellis
> _______________________________________________
> Beowulf mailing list, Beowulf at beowulf.org sponsored by Penguin Computing
> To change your subscription (digest mode or unsubscribe) visit
> http://www.beowulf.org/mailman/listinfo/beowulf
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://www.beowulf.org/pipermail/beowulf/attachments/20131118/45040dd1/attachment.html>

More information about the Beowulf mailing list