It’s been a year, so I feel I can talk a little bit about this. I won’t name names or provide details. More than a year ago, we had a PINO. I didn’t detect it early enough, but have learned since what the signs are.
A PINO is a “Partner In Name Only”. A PINO is a “partner” (notice the scare quotes).
This “partner” wanted to work with us to help grow their cluster business. We discussed mutually beneficial models, and agreed in principle on one. It took some time and work, but we had a model.

We worked on many things in parallel, we were helping them, adding value on support, services. We helped them solve many problems. We helped them on RFPs, even though the definition of how we would get paid if they won was not as well determined. We thought (note that this is naive on our part) that our “partner” would act in their best interests, and in an honorable manner.
Did I mention this was naive?
A PINO will fundamentally do their best to optimize their own revenue and market advantage at the expense of the partner. Instead of understanding that a shared risk and shared reward creates a built in incentive to bring additional revenue going forward, a PINO will seek to gorge itself and effectively devalue the partner.
Our formal negotiations took a turn for the worse after OLF07. Our “partner” wanted to have us hand them the keys to the kingdom … our IP in JackRabbit. Of course, we couldn’t even consider this, and indicated we wouldn’t talk about such things at that point. If they bought us, it would be a different matter, and we were open to that as a possibility. But hand it over? No.
Negotiations broke down after we sent them an agreement, which called for a non-competition. That is, they would not compete with us but work with us.
This was my second clue that something wasn’t quite right.
The discussion that followed was, oddly, acrimonious. And I didn’t understand why.
Later I learned that they wanted to offer our IP and basically not pay us for doing so. They wanted to be able to compete directly with us, using our property our knowledge our skills.
Neat, huh?
I tried again to make it work. Adjusted the language to enable competition, but remove IP sharing/development. Worked the issue.
All it resulted in was more acrimonious discussions. Finally, I realized that it wasn’t going to work, and decided to stop trying.
I later saw these people at SC07. It was a shame, we could have worked well together, but someone got greedy, and they got stupid.
They wanted all the success, and their ego got in the way of doing the right thing. So instead of working with a knowledgeable HPC shop, they went their own way. It is telling that they weren’t at OLF08. No representation whatsoever. I am sure they might be SC08, we will see.
But as a result of this, I have learned to detect PINOs. You have a PINO when you hear flowery talk of shared reward for shared risk, and then their actions don’t follow the words they say or write. PINOs are similar to colleagues who will claim credit for your work (yeah had that happen to me), while hanging around you waiting for you to create things. Or will continuously try to pump you for help, and disappear when they don’t need you anymore.
PINOs are a part of life. A part of business.
Understanding who they are, and their real intentions is a good thing. Recognizing this early is helpful.
We won’t try to convert PINOs to useful partners. This would be wasted effort and naive. We will work to detect them early though. See how well actions align with words. Yeah, its cynical. But wasting months trying to work with someone who has no intention of sharing reward with you, while happily sharing risk … well … that needs to be curtailed.