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IBM Supercomputing Hardware

NCSA and IBM Part Ways Over Blue Waters 76

Posted by timothy
from the back-to-the-amd-k6-2-for-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes "IBM has terminated its contract with NCSA for the petascale Blue Waters system that was expected to go online in the next year. The reason stated was that NCSA found IBM's technology 'was more complex and required significantly increased financial and technical support by IBM beyond its original expectations.' The IT community is now wondering if NCSA will be renting out space in the new data center that is being built to house Blue Waters or if they will go with another vendor."
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NCSA and IBM Part Ways Over Blue Waters

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  • by bridges (101722) on Monday August 08, 2011 @07:56PM (#37028406) Homepage

    Pretty surprising development, given the length of time that IBM and NCSA had been working on this. Dropping a contract like this essentially puts into question IBM's costing on future contract bids, so it's not something that they'd do lightly. It'll be interesting to see the scuttlebutt that comes out afterward to see how much of this was technical shortcomings and how much pure financial considerations from IBM. Maybe since IBM already got their big publicity for Power7 from Watson, they're being more profit-concious on future Power systems so they don't tie themselves to margins that are too low.

    From the NCSA side, there will certainly be a fallback of some sort - NSF and NCSA are already working out those details according to recent reports. I'd guess that they go with a large Cray XE6 system, given that a pretty sizeable version of that system is already being stood up and ironed out (the Sandia/Los Alamos Cielo system), and Cray has a lot of history successfully standing up big systems (e.g. ORNL Jaguar, Sandia Red Storm, etc.). SGI Altix is the other alternative, I guess, and there's a pretty big one up at NASA now, though that'd probably be a riskier proposition than Cray IMO, and I expect that NCSA and NSF are going to be pretty risk averse on following up on this.

  • by Zero1za (325740) on Monday August 08, 2011 @09:03PM (#37028760)

    'was more complex and required significantly increased financial and technical support by IBM beyond its original expectations.'

    Sounds about normal for an IBM gig then...

  • Typical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lucm (889690) on Monday August 08, 2011 @10:13PM (#37029096)

    My experience with IBM is that every new software or equipment setup is painful, complicated and goes over-budget, but once things are up and running, it is rock-solid, so in the long run it is still the vendor I would trust the most for enterprise projects. Knowing them, I always take into account the extra oil and time that will be needed to make things go smoothly at first.

    This is very different from a vendor like Dell, who takes good care of its new customers (especially the ones with deep pockets) and make sure that the delivery is on time and budget, but after a while problems start to appear (wrong firmware, obsolete drivers, etc) and pretty soon they tend to ignore you if they feel you won't bring new business in the next quarter.

    In this case with the NCSA thing, it's a typical situation where budgets have no room for the fudge factor because the organization has a price-driven selection process, which is wrong.

  • by 1729 (581437) <slashdot1729@g m a il.com> on Monday August 08, 2011 @10:15PM (#37029098)

    Blue Gene is absolutely awesome to work on (I use Intrepid).

    Seriously? That's the first time I've heard that. What do you like about it? The buggy toolchain and CNK? The joys of (sort-of) cross-compiling? The I/O bottlenecks? The blazing fast (for 1999) CPUs?

    The only way I can see BG/P being a useful machine is either:
    1) All you need to do is run LINPACK
    2) You're booting Linux on the compute nodes (in which case a commodity Linux cluster would probably be a lot cheaper)

We can predict everything, except the future.

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