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

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Wed Jun 30 19:41:01 PDT 2010

Richard Chang wrote:

> You are right when you said that these big companies sell their stuff at 
> a huge discount, atleast initially,is what I know.
> Here in India, where I live and work, IBM had, 3-4 yrs back, sold a BG/L 
> for way less than anything, virtually at the price of a normal cluster. 
> This was done to cut out the competition and to boast about their system 
> being sold i.e, the first ever BG/L being sold in India. The 
> competition, as expected, was very livid that could IBM give it off at 
> such throw away prices.

... we (in the business) call that "buying the business".  You literally 
pay your customer to take your system.  It doesn't take many of these to 
get senior execs asking where the profit is.  That is, if you look at 
this as an investment, what is the return on this investment?

My argument is that the return is nearly to identically zero.  My 
rationale for this argument comes from the fact that once a customer 
learns that someone else got a great deal, they also demand a similar 
deal.  This is the segue to the NDA bit earlier.  So, unless you hide 
the details of your sale, your margins will be impacted on nearly every 

Does prestige translate into increased revenue?  Lets ask on this list 
(self selecting, probably not statistically valid, but may give a rough 

Question for the list members whom have bought (large-ish) clusters/HPC 
systems:  Was your selection influenced by the heroic class systems 
sales?  Did you purposefully buy from the same vendor because of this, 
or was this a significant contributing factor in your decision process?

Feel free to answer offline and anonymously if you'd like (I'll post the 
question on http://scalability.org as well ... not a commercial site, no 
adverts there, and we already have quite a bit of daily traffic ... no 
astroturfing going on here).

> Did IBM make a profit, I doubt it. Its another matter that this prestige 
> didn't give them enough mileage. It didn't start selling BG/L s like hot 
> cakes. It certainly gave them a boasting ground.

Thats my point.  Prestige doesn't normally translate into sales. 
Prestige gives you something to talk about, over that $4 USD cup of 
coffee from Starbucks.

Put another way, who won the various races over the wilderness isn't 
likely to influence many SUV buyers as to whether they should pick a 
particular brand.  Prestige is a talking point ... something like "hey, 
did you know ..."

> The subsequent quotes were very high that they couldn't win the 
> contracts. I was once told by a reseller that IBM's higher-ups decided 
> against further discounts(they will need to start making money). :-)

Yeah ... this happens.  If you start buying the business (won't mention 
any vendor names here), pretty soon you reach a point where a senior VP 
or the CEO looks at the profit and loss for each division/group, and 
notices one little one ... these HPC folks ... are bleeding capital. 
Unless that bleeding (also called 'investment' above in a somewhat 
semi-euphemistic manner) can be turned around (also called 'return on 
investment' above in a somewhat semi-euphemistic manner), and they can 
start showing a profit, that exec is going to think twice about 
continuing that line of business.

> So, the point here is that though prestige is ! = profit, it surely 
> helps their reputation.


If Prentis and his team at IAS bought a huge storage cluster at a very 
low margin from us, it wouldn't likely translate to a sale somewhere 
else, even if we could use IAS's name (we couldn't).  The prestige is a 
badge of honor, not a sales tool.

> Richard.


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

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