[Beowulf] Re: What vendors would you be sure to check out?

David Kewley kewley at gps.caltech.edu
Mon Jan 2 21:30:41 PST 2006

On Monday 02 January 2006 21:17, Gerry Creager N5JXS wrote:
> 2 years ago whe I spec'd our Appro cluster we actually went out for
> bids.  Dell responded.  Among other things, they decided we needed
> their managed 100Mb/s switches for interconnect (GBE was in the RFQ),
> and they told me we had to get WinXP for our HPC work.  They assured
> me there was a good fortran compiler and that MPI ran on XP...  Their
> quote was a factor of 2x higher than the next highest quote.
> I spent time on the phone with our University rep and her SE and was
> subjected to the kind of treatment I'd received from IBM in the '70s
> when I wanted a real-time system for medical research... THEY knew
> what I needed and I should just listen.
> If they're now easier to deal with, we'll know.  I've gotta go out
> for bids again in a couple of months for 64 nodes of multiproc dual
> core. They'll be on the list but...

The way those Dell salespeople treated you is horrible.  I had a much, 
much better experience.

> >>1) I have never had a problem getting the MS license dropped from
> >> the order.  In fact, on their web-based server configuration page
> >> they specifically have a "No installed OS" selection available.
> >>
> >>2) I have always received the systems that I have ordered w/o
> >>substitution.  Any errors in the orders were handled quickly by the
> >>Dell sales people.
> >
> > I agree with Bill.  I think whoever suggested that these issues are
> > problems is referring more to consumer-oriented sales than to
> > rackmount cluster sales.
> >
> > You should have none of these types of problems if you buy
> > cluster-oriented rackmount stuff.  Just ask Dell hard questions up
> > front, make certain that the order specifies exactly what you want,
> > and if Dell screws up, point it out to them.  I predict that
> > they'll fix it no problem; that's certainly been my experience.
> Well, our University has exactly one sales droid for all Dell sales.
> I'm not sure she can differentiate between rack-mount/cluster
> hardware and desktops, although her SE can apparently tell the
> difference.  I've not had trouble getting servers with no s/w before,
> but when I was recently offered the opportunity to look at their
> blades, I was told they came with the new Windows HPC s/w.  No
> thanks.

Again, you clearly had a horrible experience.

I'm gonna email one of the upper Dell HPC guys and ask him who you and 
others on this can contact about your bad Dell HPC sales experience.  I 
know Dell is pushing hard into HPC and they want very much to do an 
good and ever-improving job at it.

I hope I don't sound like a Dell sales flunky -- I'm not one.  But I've 
had hundreds of hours of direct interaction with Dell people over the 
past year, and I think I have a good idea where they're coming from.  
I'm pretty impressed with them, against my expectations going in.  They 
do screw up, but they almost always correct things quite satisfactorily 
(for me at least), and they're very interested in improving their 

> They've forayed into AMD and back out several times.  I don't think
> they're selling anything right now that way.

Just curious: have they ever actually *sold* AMD?  About what year?  I 
know they've threatened a number of times, but they always go back to 


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