White Paper: Writing an RFP for HPC Equipment Purchases

Posted on March 20, 2018

Advanced Clustering’s new white paper is based on 17+ years of experience with RFPs for high performance computing hardware and includes interviews with researchers who have successfully completed the RFP process.

Advanced Clustering Technologies has just published a free white paper called “Best Practices for  Writing an RFP for the Acquisition of High Performance Computing Equipment” that provides comprehensive guidance for successfully writing a Request for Proposal (RFP). The white paper is available at advancedclustering.com.

Writing a request for proposal (RFP) for the purchase of high performance computing equipment is a challenging task for researchers at universities and organizations. It’s a process with a lot of moving parts, and often there are few resources to help. Templates, if they do exist, are meant for simple equipment purchases rather than multi-component supercomputers.

Advanced Clustering Technologies has seen a lot of RFPs in its 17 years of operation. When written well, RFPs result in strong vendor responses and a smooth purchasing process. When written poorly, RFPs can result in delays, missed opportunities and, worst of all, the pain of a rebid process to address RFP shortcomings and get the desired responses.

“We understand the RFP writing process is complicated for HPC customers, and we hope this white paper will offer guidance and support,” said Jim Paugh, Director of Sales for Advanced Clustering. “Our customers were eager to contribute lessons they learned the hard way. It’s our mutual hope that future RFP writers will benefit from the do’s and don’ts we are sharing with this white paper.”

The company interviewed customers who have experience as RFP writers to develop a list of best practices. The 10-page white paper offers guidance for every step of the process including:

  • information gathering from all involved parties (the purchasing department, datacenter personnel, outside vendors, industry peers and other grant primary and co-primary investigators). This section includes lists of questions to be asked and answered
  • planning the question and answer period in such a way that all vendor questions are resolved (and the RFP gains the benefit of any missing information)
  • setting a timeline that is realistic and that meets any/all grant-required deadlines
  • writing the technical requirements; this section offers a long list of questions to help you fine-tune this most critical part of your RFP
  • how to score responses in order to select a winner; a sample scoring sheet is included
  • things to consider during the post-award phase of the process

Writing an RFP for HPC equipment will be the topic of a panel discussion at Coalition for Advancing Digital Research and Education (CADRE) 2018 April 17-18 at Oklahoma State University. The panel will include representatives from Advanced Clustering Technologies and other HPC vendors as well as university researchers who participated in the development of the RFP writing white paper.

The RFP white paper is the second in a series of white papers Advanced Clustering has published to support customers as they plan their HPC purchases. The first white paper, “Best Practices for Writing a Successful NSF MRI Grant Proposal,” was first published in 2016 and is also for download on the company’s website.

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