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

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Wed Jun 30 09:10:17 PDT 2010

Prentice Bisbal wrote:

>> 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?

"extraordinarily rare"

> 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

Again, academic/national labs gain prestige points by doing this. 
Prestige rarely, if ever, turns into revenue, and even less frequently, 
into profit.

> media coverage is a lot better advertising than any single paid
> advertisement.

Hmm .... see above.  Did this media coverage inspire you to purchase a 
Blue Gene?  Or an XT6?

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

Thank you ... I agree, I implied the "extraordinarily rare" aspect of 

Basically prestige plus $4 + change will get you a Grande sized mocha 
triple shot from Starbucks.  Not much more than that.  This isn't a 
jaundiced view (ok, I hope not!) of the situation ... for-profit 
companies can't afford to be paid in "prestige".

Put it another way.  Supposed the IAS's granting agencies decided that 
they would provide grants that didn't cover complete costs, but provided 
"prestige" for getting the grant in the first place.  Even though IAS 
isn't a for-profit institution per se, it still has bills to pay, and 
people to employ.  This sort of scenario is the case in for-profit HPC 
in academia.  The prestige earned doesn't pay the bills.  You can't take 
the prestige to the bank and earn interest on it.  Its an intangible ... 
good will ... is how I think it is accounted for.

But is it valuable?  Ask IBM how many more BG's the've sold as a result 
of that "marketing campaign".  As I said, I think there is a fundamental 
disconnect between what people would like to believe, and the (rather 
harsh) realities of the market.  This is not a bash.  This is an 

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

Bentley had been up for sale, RR is now owned by Tata, as is Jaguar.

Prestige does not pay the bills.  And if I am wrong on this, please, 
educate me ... I'd like to figure out how to do this.

> Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti are all examples of prestige translating into
> huge profits. Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti autos aren't radically

Er ... no.  They are all examples of really good marketing, and not 
trying to compete on price.

> different from the Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans they are based on, but
> the cost more, mostly because of the prestige of the upmarket name.

Thats marketing, not prestige.  When you introduce a new brand, it 
doesn't have a history, and hence, no prestige.

Marketing is what enables you to attract customers.  Some customers will 
be put off by price.  You either lower your pricing to keep them, or you 
ignore them as a market.  The folks you indicated, all ignore the price 
sensitive elements of the market.  Which makes them vulnerable to attack 
by the Hyundai's and others of the world.

>>> 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.

So is a $1 USD profit on a $1M USD sale a reasonable profit?  And if the 
loss is $100 USD on the $1M USD sale, is the $1 >> $100 ?


>>> 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.

Ahh .... ok.  IBM has some really good folks at their research locations.

>> 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.

... which, as you note, translated to no profit.  The press however, 
provided them effectively free marketing.  Publish this story, and we 
don't have to pay for it.

... which is worth ... what?

How many BG's did IBM sell as a result of the chess match?  How many 
people made a decision, influenced in part, by that PR and free marketing?

Thats the point.  Like it or not, prestige doesn't placate shareholders, 
board members, or wall street.  They want to see profits, pure and simple.


Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics Inc.
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423 x121
fax  : +1 866 888 3112
cell : +1 734 612 4615

More information about the Beowulf mailing list