[Beowulf] dollars-per-teraflop : any lists like the Top500?

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Jul 1 09:31:51 PDT 2010

On 7/1/10 7:51 AM, "Joe Landman" <landman at scalableinformatics.com> wrote:

> Bogdan Costescu wrote:
>> On Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 5:11 AM, Joe Landman
>> <landman at scalableinformatics.com> wrote:
>>> At the end of the day, the fundamental question we are debating is, does
>>> the "prestige" of working with a top university/national lab have any
>>> real tangible value that you can ascribe to the bottom line, does it
>>> actually impact sales.
>>> I posit that the answer to this is a resounding "no".  You obviously
>>> disagree.
>> I also disagree, but I have another point of view: the fact of working
>> with a top university/national lab can be important for the
>> development of the product or line of products. A top
> This isn't the issue.  The issue is, will a discount which amounts to
> you as a vendor paying your customer to taking your product, in order to
> garner prestige ... will this prestige translate to the bottom line in
> the near term ... will it positively impact sales.

<and lots of other good discussion>

I think it depends on the organization deriving the putative benefit from
prestige.  For some organizations, there is none.. It doesn't directly
translate to increased profits in the near term.  For others, it might be
less tangible, but as real: attracting better job candidates increases the
value of "workforce capital".

As you've ably described, there's a huge tension at the top of most
corporations between things that can be accurately valued in cash terms and
those that are intangible.  And, while lots of companies may say "our most
valuable asset walks out the door each evening" they may not actually act
that way in real life, particularly if their board feels that they have to
responsible to "shareholder value" concerns.

It would be interesting to compare whether more technology companies have
gone broke because they over valued "prestige" or under valued  it.  As Joe
has pointed out, more than one company has gotten into trouble for the
"discounts for sexy customers" policy.  On the other hand, if all your
people walk out the door, permanently, because it's no fun working on the
latest mid range commodity server, you also die, just slower.  This is the
classic "let's do away with R&D, because they're just a cost center" problem
( Chainsaw Al and his M&A ilk).

This is much like when I worked in the entertainment industry. If you have
some unique skill or capability, everyone comes to you with offers to work
for free/minimal pay, "because it's a great opportunity, and you'll get to
work with X, and the next job will pay better", and because without you,
their grand idea will never work.  (They do this with people who have
commodity skills, too, but those have very depressed prices: e.g. Actors
basically work for free and hope to get lucky. )

You pretty quickly learn to be pretty hard nosed about this:  "Is this an
investment opportunity or a work opportunity, and if it's the former, what's
my fraction of the gross revenue"  (Everybody knows you never, never, never
take "net points")

Sometimes, though, the "you'll work with X" *is* worth taking the job,
either because it's something you'd literally pay for if offered the chance
(hey, people bid in charity auctions for a dinner with Y or Z, it's not that
different), or because the potential downstream reward has a high enough
expected value (Probability(event)*Revenue(event) > reduced income from this
one job).  It's when P(event) is down in the 0.01 range and the R(event) is
in the <1 years income category you say, "gosh that sounds nice, but I'm
sort of busy right now, and can I refer you to someone else)

The actor model is slightly different.. P(event) where event is "getting a
real paying gig" is very small, but the R(event) is fairly high (that gig
gets you into the union, for life, which helps improve the P(future event))
AND most important, the "foregone revenue" is basically zero.  Actors KNOW
that very few make any money, so they get jobs to feed and house themselves
that are flexibly scheduled  (wait staff, casual day labor, construction) so
they don't lose revenue by taking the opportunity presented.

I can't see anybody in the HPC business taking the 'actor' approach as a
business plan, though. 

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