Not surprised … IBM pulls plug on Blue Waters

I say I am not surprised for their reasoning … not that I had an inkling that they would do this before hand.

Basically they pulled the plug because the costs were growing far faster than they planned, and they couldn’t afford to deliver the machine at the requested price. Which makes perfect sense to a business that has to consider profit and loss, but maybe not so much sense to research groups that want things.

I’ve said many, many times … that really bad deals can kill good companies. Not that IBM would be brought down by one bad deal, but fundamentally, IBM has to tell its owners (stock holders) what it did in its business and explain to them their results, every quarter.

Imagine, having to explain a deal that cost you $300M and you only received $30M for it. Or even $60M.

Yeah, someone high up would get fired for that. No, lots of people would get fired for that.

IBM made the right business decision. They are, after all, a business.

And again, I’ve argued this many … many times … name cachet means effectively squat in most cases in the market. It adds no value to your bottom line. It doesn’t really help you win more business. No one really makes a purchase decision for a new supercomputer based upon what UIUC bought. No one would give this any more credit than it deserves … which is fairly little.

Clusters of APUs (accelerator processor units) will likely be the delivery mechanism for Blue Waters … if its not canceled outright. I hope not.

Like other projects, conceived during a different era, funds may not be available to fully fund this effort now. I’d argue that HPC is a critical strategic asset and should not be cut deeply. But we do need to make sure we are getting good value for our money. Being able to learn how to build and program such machines is IMO, critical for business as well as for academia.

But we also now live in a world where we can no longer afford everything, we have to pick and choose more carefully. We have to use our more limited resources more effectively. Which is in part why I think IBM had to pull out, they realized that the the cost benefit equation had drastically changed … in part due to technological considerations, but in larger part due to business considerations. They just couldn’t afford this, and they faced up to it.

This is why they’ve been in business 100+ years, and why they will likely remain so far longer than this.

We as a country need to prioritize our spending, and our cutting. Drastic and draconian cuts are on the horizon. I’d hate to see Blue Waters cut. But it is possible. The benefits need to be clearly delineated so as to outweigh the costs. Moreover, the costs will need to be reduced somewhat to deal with the smaller amount we will likely be able to spend.

Its not pretty, but if we handle this right, it shouldn’t be terrible either.

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