[Beowulf] 10GbE Adapter Market

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Mon Nov 18 15:28:13 PST 2013

Oh, it's been a term of art on US Government procurement for decades (at least back to the 80s, I think)

In theory, COTS means lower cost for government procurement.  You can buy a $5 COTS hammer, or write a specification for that same hammer, and it will cost $600, because of the added paperwork for the manufacturer to test and certify that the hammer meets the specifications, etc.

There's actually a law in the U.S. that says that you have to give the federal government your best price for a given widget (e.g. same part number).  More than one manufacturer has gotten caught when they sold a widget to the government at one price, and then, later, someone else comes along and negotiates a lower price.   You'll see this referred to as a Most Favored Customer (MFC) or Price Reduction Clause (PRC).

This is why you will often see a different part number on a basically identical device sold to government and commercial, or why you see part numbers that are "customer specific".  And realistically, this is a reasonable thing, since usual commercial procurement and government procurement contracts are different beasts, with very different terms and condition.  JPL buys things on purchase orders with a 20+ page list of terms and conditions, among  which *used to be* something along the lines of "if the satellite we built with your part fails, you might be liable for the entire cost of the mission", which made supplying mundane components like resistors a tad risky. (Mind you, this applied even if the original procurement wasn't identified as being for spaceflight, so if that $5 hammer looked attractive to an astronaut walking through the lab, and she carried up to the space station, and then the hammer was dropped during an EVA (it happens) and then bashes a hole in the window, causing ISS to lose air, astronauts to die, etc., the supplier of that hammer might be looking at a real ordeal.  This has been changed, fortunately.

On the other hand, if, at home,  I go buy a SOHO COTS network switch for $25 online from Joe's ACME Switch Supply, and it fails, Joe can tell me "didn't you see the fine print that says all sales final, as-is"

Jim Lux

-----Original Message-----
From: ehw111 at cse.psu.edu [mailto:ehw111 at cse.psu.edu] On Behalf Of Ellis H. Wilson III
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2013 2:38 PM
To: Lux, Jim (337C)
Cc: Peter St. John; Beowulf List
Subject: Re: [Beowulf] 10GbE Adapter Market

On 11/18/13 17:11, Lux, Jim (337C) wrote:
> COTS is an incredibly common word in the defense/aerospace world, as in "This M1A1 Abrams tank fire control system is running the VxWorks COTS operating system on a ruggedized COTS PowerPC processor. "  As opposed to, say, a AN/UYK-20 tactical data computer which was specifically designed and manufactured for the US Navy, and runs its proprietary software.

Good to know.  I was not aware it was so common outside of our circles.



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