[Beowulf] Re: MS Cray

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Wed Sep 17 12:08:16 PDT 2008

On Wed, 17 Sep 2008, David Mathog wrote:

> Let "a few hundred" = $200, and of course there are 36 months in 3
> years, so JPL pays the vendor $7200 for each machine, plus "support" for
> this term.  At the end of the lease the vendor gets the computer back,
> and they probably sell it for a few hundred dollars, just to sweeten the
> already cushy deal.  The office staff may need support once and a while,
> but one can assume that the average JPL engineer or scientist can more
> than handle all their own PC software issues, and at worst would just
> need to swap a machine if there was a major hardware issue.  In other
> words, the average support cost to the vendor for the technical staff is
> but a tiny fraction of what JPL pays them.
> Who's the vendor, Halliburton?

Brilliantly put.  And yet people buy in!  Why?

In a typical small business, they may well have no real systems
administrators.  "Administration" may be done by an office manager, a
secretary, a staff person with a bit of computing in their blood or
better than average common sense.  In such an environment, the (say)
$4200 surplus times 30 or 50 machines may end up being cheaper than
hiring a full time real sysadmin, although this is an extreme example
where one is right on the margin with these particular numbers even for
that on the 50 end of things.  Add to that, though, that Windows admin
isn't terrribly scalable and things break a lot, so one admin cannot
handle linux-like numbers of boxes, so it is still not quite crazy.

The real question is why an admin-rich environment with lots of full
time admins would ever buy into such a deal.  If you've got a full time
admin ANYWAY, paying $150/month for support on top of this (beyond the
cost of the hardware is just insane.


> Regards
> David Mathog
> mathog at caltech.edu
> Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech
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Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
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