Andrew's Corner: What to do in case of vendor collapase?

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Our friend Andrew Jones has published his latest HPC-centric piece for ZDnet/UK.  This month’s feature: what to do in case your supercomputer supplier collapses.  I’ve seen my fair share of contracting officers sweating the clock ticks during acceptance periods; hoping and praying for imminent miracles from their vendor organization.  However, since the economy has decided to leave without paying the check, the idea of vendor longevity has really come to a head.

Customers naturally worry whether a prospective supplier will stay in business for the duration of a contract. That worry often translates into an overemphasis in the procurement process on the long-term financial position of suppliers, rather than the overall business relationship and the technology. Bidders are often made to jump through financial hoops far more than in other areas.


Even in cases where most of the hardware and integration work will come from a single risky supplier, the main question is usually: “Will they survive long enough to complete my installation and establish a stable service?”, rather than: “Will they survive the whole service lifetime?”.

Without stealing too much of Andrew’s thunder, one key point to remember is simple risk management.  Given that the vast majority of HPC procurements are fairly vanilla, do your homework.  If a vendor decides to fly the way of the dodos, could you find a sufficient secondary supplier of fresh parts and/or service?  The latter being highly important.

As always, Andrew’s column is a great read.  Head over to ZDnet/UK and read it here.


  1. After dealing, and still dealing, with the failure of Linux Networx, LNXI, the management staff here at my place of work has expressed the desire to make everything possible COTS components. That way if a vendor expires, we still have a hope of moving forward.

    The one saving grace with the Linux Networx failure was that under the covers almost all of the components were actually Dell, Cisco, etc. We basically survived the LNXI collapse, not through planning, but through luck of the draw. (-:

    Risk management would have been great. We relied on luck instead. Welcome to the world of the lowest bidder and $ per Flop mentality.