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

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Jul 1 11:46:01 EDT 2010




On 7/1/10 7:14 AM, "Bogdan Costescu" <bcostescu at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 5:11 AM, Joe Landman
> <landman at scalableinformatics.com> wrote:
>> At the end of the day, the fundamental question we are debating is, does
>> the "prestige" of working with a top university/national lab have any
>> real tangible value that you can ascribe to the bottom line, does it
>> actually impact sales.
>> 
>> I posit that the answer to this is a resounding "no".  You obviously
>> disagree.
> 
> I also disagree, but I have another point of view: the fact of working
> with a top university/national lab can be important for the
> development of the product or line of products.

This manifests itself in other ways, too.

For instance, during the .com bubble, there were joking comments about being
paid in "space dollars", typically in reference to the disparity between
wages paid to develop research satellite equipment and in the wireless
industry. 

There are people at JPL who maintain that we shouldn't be worrying about
paying competitive salaries, because if you don't want to work on "space
stuff" as a personal goal, regardless of compensation, you shouldn't be
working there. I view this as unrealistic and comparable memes like the
"starving in a garrett leading to true art"  or the "if you truly cared,
you'd do it for free and live in tent with the other homeless people along
the arroyo".  While the latter might have been acceptable to me in my 20s,
now that I've passed the half century mark, I'm a bit more inured to
creature comforts and, more to the point, so are my wife and children.

I have talked with senior managers at technology companies about why they
would contemplate being a vendor for JPL vs the commercial world (JPL tends
to be in the category of a "high maintenance" customer who asks a lot of
questions, wants to peer into every aspect of your processes, and asks a lot
of their vendors, and because we're the government, you're not going to make
huge profits).. Their response is often that it allows them to attract top
talent, who can then benefit the company in other ways.  In the case of NASA
work, too, it's public, unlike other high tech work for the defense type
markets, which is often classified.  If you're recruiting smart people out
of school, telling them that they can work on a radio for a Mars probe is
much sexier than telling them that they will be the third assistant door
latch controller developer on the automotive products team.

So, given that someone wants to hire top people, and there are lots of
potential employers for top people, you need something to distinguish
yourself beyond the hygiene issue of salary. (A hygiene issue is one that
has a sort of threshold effect.. Nobody cares much about the details of
having it, but not having it is a big negative.  )

Working on "the worlds fastest computer" is one of those things that gets
you in the door.  And, as a "top person" you might find that, though
skilled, that's not your thing, and that you really have a talent for
something else that IBM does, so IBM benefits, in many ways.



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