[Beowulf] Rackable / SGI

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Thu Apr 2 05:48:25 PDT 2009

Jan Heichler wrote:

> And if a small company does something new you won't sell a huge 
> quantity. So the components get (usually) more expensive. The 
> engineering isn't quite as advanced (because it is expensive) and many 
> errors just show when you have a larger install-base. 

Most large (and small) companies are buying product from essentially the 
same group of (ODM) manufacturers.  More in a minute.

> KC> Anyway, I was thinking about companies like Penguin or Scalable, 
> designing
> KC> their own hardware products, like Relions or JackRabbits, and not just
> KC> reselling Supermicro boxes. Unless I'm mistaken on the fact that 
> those systems
> KC> are somewhat different from off-the-shelf boxes. 
> Mhh... a Relion server does not look very different from Intel-Servers 
> (i mean the intel-oem products). A Jackrabbit seems to be a standard 
> Chenbro/ICP/Whatever chassis with commodity Boards/Controllers/Disks. 
> The real trick is probably the software. 

Software, hardware selection, firmware, build, and burning/testing.  Its 
amazing how often systems fail if not built correctly/consistently :(

> So don't get me wrong: don't want to mock their products. And it seems 
> that some customers really like the idea of companies having "own 
> products". I worked for a company with a own product line before - but 
> behind that there was Supermicro/Intel/MSI... you name it. Customer 
> didn't had real advantage... was just a marketing thing. 

Most of the TLA and similar companies, the tier 1's, buy their 
motherboards and chassis from the ODMs.  I showed one of our customers 
some of the ODM hardware in the past and it was amazing to here them 
gasp and say "but that looks just like our XYZ PDQ machine."  Yup, and 
there is a reason for that too.

> KC> I don't know about Streamline, but AFAIK, Clustervision "just" 
> resells big
> KC> names hardware, they don't make their own. 
> That is true (for ClusterVision). We (i'm with ClusterVision) are 
> investing in our Software - because there we see a lot of potential to 
> do better than what you see on the market. Hardware is not that 
> different - except for the brand-name.

See above.  Brand name hardware is sourced from ODMs.  Scratch off the 
right label on those HP or IBM motherboards, and you could get a 
surprise (at least in the past, now it is likely that the "surprise" has 
been paid to be removed).


> Even a company like SGI doesn't seem big enough to really have own 
> hardware (and live with what you earn for it on the market). And even if 
> ICE is a nice system - it is not that much different from what other 
> BladeSystems are doing. So why should a customer bother?

Why build it from scratch when you can assemble it for less, or even pay 
someone to pre-assemble/test it for even less.   This is what the big 
boys and girls do.

What differentiates one from the other?  Apart from the (often 
expensive) brand name sticker/label/..., it would be software.

> KC> So, to get back to the original discussion, SGI disappearing from the 
> KC> landscape means one less option to choose from. Considering the fact 
> that
> KC> those options are already kind of fewer than in the US, the relative 
> loss is
> KC> more perceptible.
> Maybe i'm too young to really see SGI going down as a big loss - in my 
> time they were just another Intel-Selling company with a strange 
> attitude and really expensive products. But i never understood the 
> excitement about Sun either ;-)

Heh ...

Way back in the day youngster ... they had these big refrigerator sized 
behemoths with hardware accelerated graphics, up to 16 processor cores, 
and a whopping 16 GB ram.  Ran a unix-alike, and cost $1M USD ...  you 
just cant get these now ...

[muffled sounds of frantic whispering and wild gesturing]

... oh you can?  In a 4U box?  With more memory and graphics fire power 
... better IO ... for a lot less than $1M ???

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423 x121
fax  : +1 866 888 3112
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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