.21 The Bang, .58 The Buck (10/14/03)
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Okay, fine, we're game; if people are going to insist on pretending that AtAT is some sort of "news source" (oooh, we feel so dirty) and then get sooooooo picky about a piddly little thing like overreporting the cost of a supercomputer by a factor of twelve, we suppose we can do a followup scene. But don't say we never gave you anything, and be advised that this is your Christmas present this year, so we don't want to hear any whining about no Chicken Dance Elmo from us under the tree come December. Maybe we'll get you a pack of Juicy Fruit as a stocking stuffer or something, but don't count on it.

Here's the skinny: that $38 million that the University of Texas is spending on its new "Lonestar" Dell-based supercomputer cluster actually covers a little more than just the Dells... which, frankly, we suspected just a teensy bit, since we were pretty sure that Dell servers-- even the dual-processor ones-- don't cost over $600,000 apiece.

Now, to be fair, if you're going to nail anyone for the discrepancy, go after the Austin Business Journal, which we cited as the source for the plot of yesterday's scene. Presumably they claim to have actual journalistic credentials and skills, but if you scope out the article on Lonestar, you'll probably agree that the reported price tag is slightly misleading. In one sentence it describes "the new 'Lonestar' computing cluster" as having more than 3 teraflops of power, and in the next it states that "the cost of the five-year project is about $38 million," implying that "Lonestar" and the "five-year project" are one and the same.

Meanwhile, there's absolutely zero mention of the fact that the "five-year project" consists of just a wee bit more than the Lonestar cluster itself-- as in, the establishment of an entire academic institute; four endowed faculty chairs to run it; funds for research and visiting scholars endowments; the construction of the entire fourth floor of a freakin' building; and a whole second supercomputer, plus the various storage systems and networking components needed to cluster it properly. Oh, and "increases in operations funding," presumably to cover an electric bill with so many zeroes that it'd make your skin fall off.

The above list comes courtesy of a UT spokesperson via The Inquirer, which also reports that the Lonestar cluster itself only cost $3 million. Okay, well, now that we have a price tag from the University itself, how about we rework that comparison with Virginia Tech's Big Mac? Lonestar cost $3 million (possibly not counting its networking and storage, but we'll let that slide) and has a theoretical peak performance of 3.67 teraflops. Big Mac cost $5.2 million and has a theoretical peak performance of 17.6 teraflops. So the Dell-based Xeon cluster is not less than a quarter as fast for seven times the price; it is, in fact, 21% as fast for 58% of the price. In other words, theoretically the G5-based solution is only, dollar for dollar, about 2.8 times as fast as the Dell/Xeon one. Our bad. We're sure that Dell and UT will be trumpeting that fact in a press release any minute now.

Yup. Any minute.


 
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The above scene was taken from the 10/14/03 episode:

October 14, 2003: Some analysts think the iTunes Music Store for Windows will be too little, too late. Meanwhile, rumors swirl about an iPod dictation add-on targeted at students, and the Dell-based "Lonestar" supercomputer at the University of Texas is actually only about a third as fast per dollar as the G5-based cluster at Virginia Tech and not, as previously reported, a millionth...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4267: Late, Sure, But Moving Fast (10/14/03)   Ooooh, just two days to go! Can't you just smell the drama? (Try again. It smells a little like Lemon Pledge.) We speak, of course, of Apple's imminent music event thingy, and while we were oh-so-conspicuously not invited to the shindig itself, at least we have the option of cramming into a participating Apple retail store and catching it live via satellite like the rest of the untouchable non-media...

  • 4268: Another 'Pod In The Hall (10/14/03)   Meanwhile, bring on the "unconfirmed reports," baby! We're still all a-flutter with the whispers that Thursday's media brouhaha will feature far more music-related magic than a mere launch of the iTunes Music Store for Windows...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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