[Beowulf] commercial clusters

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Fri Sep 29 14:50:36 PDT 2006

At 02:36 PM 9/29/2006, Vincent Diepeveen wrote:

>In reality that isn't the case.
>People just want to see whose car is better, not whether they can 
>outrun the car.
>Additional they want to analyze their own running (most important 
>feature) in the most objective manner possible, or they want to 
>compete with it in a 300 KM/h contest.
>To look like a winner, people are prepared to pay any price.

The thing here is that "look like a winner"... the evaluation is NOT 
in the eye of the buyer of the thing (be it chess computer, fast car, 
or arm candy) it's in the eye of the viewer.

Having spent a fair amount of time working in a notoriously shallow 
industry where people are more than willing to spend much more than 
they have to "look like a winner", I'd be willing to bet a 
substantial sum of money that chess playing ability isn't even in the 
top 100 list of attributes, much less ownership of a machine with 
chess playing ability.

In many, many cases, ownership of these things is more a matter of 
"conspicuous consumption" and is driven more by the purchase price, 
rather than the actual performance. We could go into lots of details 
why people conspicuously consume (demonstrating desirability or 
suitability for mating/pairing seems to be one plausible scenario).

However, just as with perception of value of a fast chess computer, 
the number of people who would evaluate the owner of such a device, 
vis a vis, "partnering possibilities" is sufficiently small that it 
doesn't constitute a market big enough to justify the development. 
You do see fast cars in tabloid journals, but not many fast computers.

However, *marketing* is the whole art of making people desire 
something they don't really need, eh?  So there is hope.  If you're 
not interested in world domination, but just making money for 
yourself, then you can sell a very small number of very expensive 
widgets.  Who knows, maybe Warren Buffett, George Soros, Richard 
Branson, and Bill Gates will all get together over drinks on Paul 
Allen's yacht and talk trash: "my chess computer can whip the pants 
off your radio telescope or personal spaceship".  I just wouldn't 
start planning on taking out ads in Architectural Digest just yet.

By the way, my current job at JPL is hardly the notoriously shallow 
industry I refer to above.  If you're curious, you can google for the answers.

James Lux, P.E.
Spacecraft Radio Frequency Subsystems Group
Flight Communications Systems Section
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 161-213
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
tel: (818)354-2075
fax: (818)393-6875 

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