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

Bill Rankin Bill.Rankin at sas.com
Fri Jul 2 08:06:38 PDT 2010

> > Another reason why some vendors are willing to
> > sell stuff at reduced prices to universities is
> > for visibility. The thinking is that when grad
> > students (finally) graduate and go off into
> > industry, they'll want to buy the same stuff
> > they used when they were students. I'm not
> > sure how valid this approach is, but I don't
> > argue with it.
> >
> Giving it away for free to educational institutions worked for Unix,
> eh? (at least in the long run)

Well, SW != HW.  Giving away the former is a matter of opportunity cost, whereas you have capital tied up in the latter.

But there are also (as I understand it) significant tax write-offs in the discounts given to universities.  Sun used to have heavy subsidies for their hardware sold to educational institutions, as did Dell and IBM.  I suspect that additional money on the balance sheet made the "visibility" argument a lot more palatable.

Microsoft once made a huge software "donation" to Duke Univ.  Many copies of Windows, Office, Visio, et al., values at millions of $.  But instead of shipping a few copies of the distribution media and a big list of individual software keys (which would have made storage and installation easier), they received pallets upon pallets containing individual boxed sets of all the software.  I expect that this was required in order for them to write-off the donation in their accounting books.

> And IBM used to give very attractive lease rates to universities (in
> the good old days, you couldn't BUY an IBM mainframe, only lease them)

Yup.  They used to do the same thing on their SP-X systems (do they still do this with the BlueGene's?)  I remember when the North Carolina Supercomputing Center defaulted after the third year of their five year SP3 lease due to state budget cuts.  True to form, IBM sent the trucks in and repossessed a 3-year old "supercomputer".

I think that could have made for great Reality TV. ;-)

> An interesting question is whether this strategy would be viable today,
> given the more short term return orientation of the capital markets.

As well as the fact that (at least for the HPC arena) the useful lifespan of a system is a lot less than that most mainframes.  The technology front is just moving too fast.


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