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

Prentice Bisbal prentice at ias.edu
Tue Jul 6 11:35:58 PDT 2010

>> Joe Landman wrote:
>>> Greg Rubino wrote:
>>>> I have to say I partially agree with Prentice.  I don't know if
>>>> prestige directly translates into revenue, but if your a huge company
>>> Thats the thesis that I am saying I do not believe to be the case, and
>>> Prentis is (as far as I understand it) indicating that he believes this
>>> to be the case.

I think my original point was misconstrued, and may have been completely
forgotten in the subsequent conversation. Here's another attempt at
conveying my original point:

Using the big systems at the top of the Top500 list to get $/FLOP
wouldn't be a useful exercise, because these systems are usually sold
under NDA's and (probably) at a loss to the vendor.

I posited that the vendors sell these systems Top500-winning systems at
a loss (Roadrunner and Jaguar, in particulat) in exchange for other

1. Gain knowledge through the R&D that goes into building these systems.

2. Collaborating with the computer science geniuses at the customer's
site (like the computer geniuses at LANL), which could lead to knowledge

3.Bragging rights (which I referred to as "prestige" in my original
post, which may have lead to confusion).

I further said that making it to the top of the list provides valuable
media coverage, which equates to advertising for the the system vendor.
This seems to be where the confusion/furor started.

Other have gone on to argue whether or not that leads to a tangible
return on investments or pleases shareholders, but that wasn't really my

My main point was that it would be difficult or impossible to get the
price of these systems. And since they account for so many of the FLOPS
in the Top500, they could skew the results of the average $/FLOP in the
Top500, or make such a number meaningless, since your average
institution can't by such a system under the same circumstance.

Now some more analogies that could be akin to adding fuel to the fire:

You could equate building such systems to making "the world's largest
pizza". I'm sure the small pizza place who makes it losses significant
money making it, but it will make the local papers, be in the Guinness
book of world's records forever (or until someone else makes a bigger
one) and probably be mentioned on his signs, business cards, and menus.
Clearly a publicity/advertising stunt. Can't think of any technology
transfer that would make a normal sized pizza any better in this case.

Car manufacturers often make exotic supercars for the same reason.
Remember the Ford GT, or the Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR? These exotics
don't always make money, but the get a lot of press for the
manufacturer, bring prestige to the brand, and if the car is
sufficiently advanced enough technologically, the respect of
competitors. Seldom do these cars turn a profit, but since Ford and
Mercedes are large companies, their profits elsewhere subsidize these
projects. And of course, the high technology in these cars usually
trickles down to more proletarian models over the years.

While we're on the topic of cars, here's a perfect analogy: How much $$$
Did Henry Ford II (aka "The Deuce") spend to develop the GT40s, which he
 built solely to beat Ferrari at Le Mans?


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