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

Douglas Eadline deadline at eadline.org
Tue Jul 6 12:49:54 PDT 2010

I have been predisposed so I missed the beginning of this
thread (seems like a good thing)

In any case, years ago there was some people suggesting that
both cost and power be added to the Top500 results.

The cost issue was just as contentious as it is now.
As I recall, the discussion always came down
to determining the true cost to purchase/install a production
cluster vs the cost to run HPL.

Things like actual hardware cost, staging cost (HW and SW),
optimization cost, power/cooling are too variable to really
track without a lot of effort (i.e. how do you account for
a turn-key cluster vs. student built) The composite and
piecemeal nature of clusters makes these types of
numbers difficult to determine.

As an aside, the Top500 is a great thing and I believe it
is used for things for which it was never intended.
It is after all one performance data point which has little
relevance to the codes most people run or the number of cores
most people use.


>>> 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
> "intangibles":
> 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
> transfer.
> 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
> point.
> 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?
> --
> Prentice
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