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

Prentice Bisbal prentice at ias.edu
Wed Jun 30 08:45:17 EDT 2010

Even in publicly-owned computers, I'm sure the exact price of the
cluster is well hidden. As Greg said, the cost might be buried in
multi-year contract or as part of a larger contract.

These large supercomputers at national labs or large universities are
often provided by the vendor for little or no profit (maybe even a loss)
in exchange for prestige/advertising opportunities or R&D opportunities.
They make up this loss by selling to money-making corporations for a
much bigger margin.

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)

I used to work at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (www.pppl.gov), a
Dept of Energy National Lab, and I can tell you many of the the systems
sold to PPPL when I worked there was sold under a NDA, preventing anyone
from discussing the price. Yes, the budgets are public information, but
that tells you the computer hardware budget for a year, not how much was
spent on each computer.


Rahul Nabar wrote:
> The Top500 list has many useful metrics but I didn't see any $$ based
> metrics there. Are there any lists that document the $-per-teraflop
> (apologies to international members!) of any of the systems in the
> Supercomputer / Beowulf world? Googling "dollars per teraflop" didn't
> give me anything useful.
> I'm speculating, one reason could be that sites are loath to disclose
> their exact $ purchase prices etc. But on the other hand for most of
> the publicly owned  systems this should be accessible information
> anyways. I was just thinking that this might be an interesting
> parameter to track. I was also curious as to when systems become
> larger is there an economy of scale in the Beowulf world? i.e. for
> something like Jaguar or Kraken is the $/teraflop much lower than what
> it is for my tiny 100-node system. Another question could be: Is it
> cheaper to assemble 100 Teraflops of capacity in the US or WU or China
> etc.
> Of course, HPC is not really commoditized so a Teraflop based $ value
> may not be strictly an apples-to-apples comparison but still.....
> Just wondering what statistics are available out there......

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