SGI and PSC: The Eadline Perspective

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Doug Eadline at Linux Magazine posted a note following our rumor story that SGI walked away from a petaflop supercomputing deal at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.  In his article, Doug does some interesting math.  Given a rumored 1PF target peak performance for the machine and the rumored $30 million price tag, SGI would deliver this machine at roughly $33/GFLOP.  Why so cheap?

One also must ask, why sell so cheap? The answer takes a little explaining, but basically, there is a lot of “buying business” at the high end of the HPC market. I like to call it “buying a press release”, but the idea is the same. In addition, there is what I call a tradition of “give us a gift” mentality at many educational and government institutions.

Is your science any more important or prestigious than that of other research and educational institutions?  Does it warrant losing money on a procurement that threatens to suck down resources for months to come?  Thats really up to the respective vendor management teams [in this case Mark Barrenechea].  Doug goes on to lay out a carefully crafted message to user organizations.  The paragraph in its entirety is as follows:

For those institutions that still want to play “squeeze the vendor for a gift”, I have this to say. Be careful. You are playing a rather poor end game. Going back to our gas station analogy, if everyone goes for the $1/gallon station, then very soon the other gas stations go out of business, then when the “gas gift” comes to an end because no one can loose money forever, leaving you with no gas. I have offered a similar invitation last year when I went on a rant about cluster vendors. There are vendors who really help move the market and community forward and then there are those who want to sell you cheap hardware. The vendors you choose will have a big impact on the future of this market. And, for those who want to spout off “let the market decide” tripe, remember HPC is specialized niche. If you squash all the good companies who provide good products and services, which usually cost more, in favor of cheap hardware, you may find yourself wanting in few years.

Take a read of Doug’s full writeup.  Its a good one.  You can check it out here.


  1. thanks for this story. This is interesting, thought provoking, and a good reality check.