Gerry Creager N5JXS n5jxs at
Thu Jul 25 05:50:19 PDT 2002

Robert G. Brown wrote:
> On Wed, 24 Jul 2002, Jim Fraser wrote:
>>With regard to scientific software pricing for clusters, what do you guys
>>consider reasonable model for pricing?  Lets say the basic price for some
>>given software is 50K for 1 CPU. What do you think is reasonable for
>>increasing numbers of CPUs.
>>NCPU's     COST $
>>1-4        50K
> Boy, a tough question to ask on a list devoted to COTS clusters loaded,
> for the most part, with open source software whose cost scaling is more
> like $50 (if that) for 1-256 CPUs.
> Especially tough given that your quoted single CPU price is $50K.  For
> $100K one can probably afford to hire an out of work programmer to write
> you your very own open source version of nearly anything, so it is
> probably a good idea to stay somewhere below that;-)
> I'm afraid I'm with Martin on this one, especially where scientific
> software is concerned.  I have no idea what you could be selling that is
> worth $50K for a single CPU license (making the software cost close to
> 100X the hardware cost) in the scientific arena -- nuclear bomb
> simulation programs?  Rational drug design software?  Something fancy
> involving genetics?  Nor do you indicate how the application scales in a
> "cluster" environment -- can it be run on 256 CPUs 255x as fast as on
> one?  Can it be run on TWO CPUs any FASTER than on one (quite possibly
> not if it is e.g. disk bound).

I usually don't feel a need to expand on these rather elegant 
explanations, but I'd like to point out that in _MY_ academic 
environment, I rarely see funding to allow a $50K piece of software 
associated with solid earth or satellite geodesy.  Between me and my 
grad students, we write our code, find code (open source or public 
domain) that we can adapt, or find collaborators in the fields to work 
with.  As Bob says, we're much more inclined to leverage a piece of 
software that costs $50 (or $179 for the Advanced Server when we're 
considering the front end robustness for display...) and scales 
throughout the whole lab.

I'll concede that there are probably programs out there that are worth 
an initial outlay of $50K for one CPU license, but for the life of me,I 
cannot anticipate getting funding that would allow me to even make the 
phone call (or e-mail) for information, much less consider writing the 
purchase order.

Gerry Creager
Texas A&M University

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