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

Prentice Bisbal prentice at ias.edu
Wed Jun 30 08:37:30 PDT 2010

Joe Landman wrote:
> Prentice Bisbal wrote:
>> These large supercomputers at national labs or large universities are
>> often provided by the vendor for little or no profit (maybe even a loss)
> s/maybe/usually/
>> in exchange for prestige/advertising opportunities or R&D opportunities.
> Hah.  Allow me to restate this.
> Hah.
> It is extraordinarily rare that an entity will give you permission to
> use their name in any advertising.  The most you can hope for is,
> generally, a press release.

And what would you call all the press that IBM got for Roadrunner and
Cray got for Jaguar when those systems were at the top of the Top500?
Also, at SC09, the ORNL booth was showing off that they now had the top
system, and weren't hiding the fact that it was built by Cray. I would
call that a lot more than just a "press release". All that industry
media coverage is a lot better advertising than any single paid

> Prestige does not translate into (profitable) revenue.

I think you meant to say "Prestige does not always translate into
profitable revenue.

Rolls Royce, Bentley, and Lamborghini are just a few examples of
prestige not translating into profits.

Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti are all examples of prestige translating into
huge profits. Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti autos aren't radically
different from the Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans they are based on, but
the cost more, mostly because of the prestige of the upmarket name.

>> They make up this loss by selling to money-making corporations for a
>> much bigger margin.
> Hmmm ....
> I think there may be a fundamental disconnect between the assumptions of
> folks in academia and the reality of this particular market.  I am not
> bashing on Prentis.  I would like to point out that the "much larger
> margins" in a cutthroat business such as clusters are ... er ... not
> much larger.
> I could bore people with anecdotes, but the fundamental take home
> message is, if you believe this (much larger margins bit), you are
> mistaken.

Any profit is "much larger" than a loss.

>> For example, I would not be surprised if IBM practically gave away
>> RoadRunner to Los Alamos in exchange for the computing expertise at Los
>> Alamos to help develop such an architecture and then be able to say that
>> IBM builds the world's fastest computers (and that your company can have
>> one just like it, for a price). Oh, and the users at Los Alamos probably
>> provide lots of feedback to IBM which helps them build better systems in
>> the future. (Don't shoot me if I'm wrong. I'm just theorizing here)
> Don't sell the folks at TJ Watson/IBM Research short.  They are a very
> bright group.  The co-R&D elements are a way IBM can dominate the HPC
> bits at the high end, and provide something that looks like an in-kind
> contribution type of model so that LANL and others can go to their
> granting agencies and get either more money, or fulfill specific
> contract points.

I wasn't selling the brains IBM short. We all know that two heads are
better then one when tackling a problem. I was saying that if IBM
geniuses = good, and LANL geniuses = good, then IBM geniuses + LANL
geniuses = better.

> IBM is a business, and in most cases, won't generally have a particular
> business unit make a loss for "prestige" points.  That doesn't make the
> board/shareholders happy.

How much profit did IBM make off of Deep Blue when it beat Gary
Kasparov? None that I know of. However, it did provide IBM R&D
opportunities and when it finally beat Gary Kasparov, plenty of free
advertising for IBM through news coverage, and ...prestige.


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