No connections at UCSD anymore, sorry.
I will not comment on the originally submitted system (IBM) vs what was installed and the reasons behind that. However...
As a former employee of NCSA, I think I can shed a little light on this, at least from the employment side. To my knowledge, they never fired an admin, at least not recently (largely because firing people at the University of Illinois is extremely difficult, even when it's totally justified in some cases). Certain admins left for better opportunities, but I can hardly blame them.
You mention both Cray and NCSA having issues finding new folks. That's two-fold in my opinion. Very few people _want_ to move to Champaign, IL. You have to be the kind of person that wants to live in a college town that's a good 2 hours from a big city, surrounded by corn fields, and has shitty winters (oddly I'm that person). In addition to that, partly because of the horrible State of Illinois budget issues and the fact that NCSA is a department of the UofI, they don't pay market rate for qualified individuals. They used to justify this by really good benefits, but those have all been eroded.
In a market where the best of the best (often working remotely from wherever they want) are making more than NCSA managers, it's no wonder they can't find anyone to fill technical positions. I'm not sure if other NSF funded institutions are in any better shape. Would Blue Waters really be better off at another location? I'm not sure.
All that said, I'm extremely grateful for my time at NCSA and the amount I was able to learn with state of the art technology. It's just that working will cool stuff (and great people) doesn't pay the bills anymore.
I agree that the meetings don't always work well, I think you're 100% right on that. However, we're talking about Fortune 100 companies that aren't necessarily in any financial trouble, it's just difficult to manage that many employees. It's not physically possible for all of the employees to be in one location.
My premise is, given meetings of that nature, why not telecommute?
So how does that work when you are employed by a large corporation that has multiple locations, where the majority of the people in meetings are on the phone from different locations? How does it matter if I'm at one of the other corporate offices rather than my home office?
Heh. I was a victim of paper check fraud as well. At one store the clerk asked the thief for their driver's license, wrote down the crook's real DL#, and still accepted my check even though the names didn't match. Even if it were law (maybe it is?) the clerks are too lazy to pay attention and half the time they know the criminal and are in on the deal.
Walmart's collection agency was the worst. They had all these hoops they wanted us to jump through to prove it was a fraudulent charge, we filled it all out twice, referred them to the Detective in charge of our case, etc. The collections agency still wouldn't drop it. Finally they threatened that if we didn't pay they'd hand the case over to their lawyers. I responded "please do" and that's the last we heard from them.
Being formerly from a research institution I can say it happens... sometimes. Usually the people in charge of the project realize they can make money at it and spin off a company.
Other times, really excellent software, that would be great for the community, goes absolutely nowhere because there isn't an easy path to profit. Once the grant money ends, the project dies. Then other groups write more proposals to solve the same problem over and over because there's nothing in the market.
Anonymous Coward, eh? You must still work there.