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DesignForward FAQs

Q1:      What is the proposed funding level for the Design Forward Project (in it’s entirety)?

A1:       The total amount of the DesignForward project is estimated to be $30M over two years (FY2013 and FY2014).  Each RFP individually will not exceed $15M. 

Q2:      Where can I find more information about activities and expectations of the ASCR or ASC Co-Design centers?

A2:      Websites for the Co-Design Centers are listed in the SOW. Vendors should reach out to the POCs at the Co-Design Centers to obtain up to date information.

Q3:      Must an Offeror responding to Attachment A be a system integrator or designer? Does the DOE intend to fund proposals in the system integration area only from companies intending to act as system integrators, in the context of complete system designs?

A3:      No. Offerors can explore solutions that would be applicable to any system designer.

Q4:      What criteria should an offeror use to determine whether to propose specific interconnect-related R&D (for example, on network interface integration) as a portion of a system integration proposal (in response to Attachment A), as an interconnect proposal (in response to Attachment B), or as part of a single proposal that is responsive to both areas (as described in Section 7.2)?

A4:      Offerors should evaluate the content of their proposals to determine if they are predominantly focused on the issues raised in one Attachment (A or B), in which case the proposal should be considered in response to that attachment. If not predominantly focused on the issues of one attachment then the proposal should be considered responsive to both.

Q5:     Is peak performance the only performance metric that will be considered?

A5:      No. A range of metrics are detailed in Attachments A and B. These will all be considered.

Q6:      Which languages will be required, and which preferred? Will there be a requirement for totally new languages and programming models – what is the required balance? How important are scripting languages?

A6:      C, C++ and Fortran are required. Python is widely used by DOE applications and thus is also important. Support for new languages and programming models will be evaluated in the context of the execution model and system architecture.

Q7:       How are Design Forward proposals expected to interact with other DOE funded projects?

A7:      DOE will provide points of contacts to existing projects when appropriate. Offerors are encouraged to establish connections to DOE researchers in preparing their proposals.

Q8:      Should B1-2.1 address improvements in physical interface components such as cables or optics?

A8:      Proposals that address improvements in such components as a major part of the proposed R&D is outside of the intended scope of this RFP.   We see these items as an engineering effort that should leverage ongoing developments in the commodity space.  Offerors may identify any major gaps in this area for future consideration. 

Q9:      Several of the technical targets seem overly aggressive.   Will you consider proposals that do not satisfy all requirements?

A9:      Requirements marked “TR” are not mandatory, but are considered as aspirational goals to drive R&D beyond that on vendor’s roadmaps for other market segments.   Proposals that offer a credible approach to fulfilling these requirements to the highest degree will be given preference.

Q10:      Can you provide any guidance on expected traffic patterns on the interconnect?

A10:      It is expected that Offerors will want to work with the co-design centers to better understand application communications patterns and its implications for interconnect provisioning and design.

Q11:     Would you consider doing the project as a Cooperative Agreement or is it mandatory to use the Fixed Price Non-Commercial Supplies & Services Contract?

A11:    The use of our General Provisions for Fixed Price Non-Commercial Supplies and Services is mandatory.  Awards from this project will be subcontracts under the DOE-LBNL prime contract and not cooperative agreements (CRADAs).

Q12:    Is the $15M maximum on a per year or per project basis?

A12:   The $15M maximum is the limit on each subcontract awarded under these RFPs.  An award will be for the project.

Q13:    Will you consider awards to one Offeror under each RFP that total more than $15M (separate subcontracts — say — a $10M proposal for the interconnect and then a second $10M proposal from the same vendor for the system integration)?

A13:    From the RFP - "The DOE Laboratories have established a limit of $15M for the value of any subcontract awarded as a result of this RFP. An award in excess of $15M would require additional reviews and not allow the DOE Laboratories to meet the schedule. The DOE Laboratories will not view favorably a proposal with a DOE cost share value[1] in excess of $15M. Further, since the ideal would be two or more awards in each technology area and because there is limited funding for these awards, the DOE Laboratories may view a proposal with a value of, for instance, approximately $10M more favorably than a proposal nearing the $15M threshold unless the latter proposal is compelling in the way it addresses a DesignForward technology area."   Yes, an Offeror may submit proposals in response to both RFPs and they will be considered as long as they each meet the requirements of the individual RFPs.

Q14:    Please extend the proposal due date to May 17, 2013.

A14:    We're sorry but to meet our schedule and make awards this summer, we can't grant an extension to the proposal due date.

Q15:    The RFP says that the Price Proposal should be separate from the Technical/Management Proposal but in the T/M proposal you ask for the pricing attached to each milestone/deliverables.

a.       Do you want that pricing information in the T/M as well as in the Price Proposal?

b.      Do you want a summary of the pricing in the T/M proposal as well?

A15:    Pricing should be separate from and not included in the Technical/Management Proposal.  In the Technical/Management Proposal, please provide the milestone/deliverable description without pricing.

Q16:     Are there other page count requirements beyond just no more than 75 pages for the Technical/Management Proposal?

A16:    There are no page count requirements beyond those for the Technical/Management Proposal.  However, we would prefer not to receive marketing materials or general information not specifically relevant to the proposals.

Q17:    What is the RFP Solicitation number?  Is it “DesignForward RFP 4-2-13”?

Two RFPs were issued.  They are DesignForward System Integration and DesignForward Interconnect.

Q18:    You ask for a brief CV in the Staffing Plan MR, but do you also want a complete resume in the backup as well?

A18:    We would like enough information to evaluate the quality of the personnel proposed but do not desire long lists of publications or presentations.

Q19:    We assume that the ASCR or ASR Co-Design Centers would not be considered Subcontractors.  Would you confirm?

A19:    The ASCR or ASR Co-Design Centers would not be considered Subcontractors but if they are included in your plans, we would expect their roles to be defined in your proposal.

Q20:     If we have no subcontractors, we assume we do not fill out the Small Business Subcontracting Plan.  Would you confirm?

A20:    If you have no subcontractors, please provide a letter, on corporate letterhead and signed by the appropriate individual, stating that there are no subcontracting opportunities and briefly explain why there are no subcontracting opportunities.  Alternatively, instead of a plan specific to this proposal, a corporate wide subcontracting plan which has been approved by another government agency can be submitted.

Q21:    Is there a special financial form that we must fill out?  I did not see any mentioned.

A21:    No, there is no special financial form to be completed.  If you have not previously done business with LBNL and are selected for an award, you will be asked to submit tax identification forms prior to award.

Q22:    Can a university lab be a lower tier subcontractor on a proposal primed by an industry lead? 

A22:    Yes, a university can be a lower tier subcontractor under an industry lead.

Q23:    We heard that DOE has allocated only $6M for the Network track and $20M for the system integration track.  Is that correct?

A23:    There has not been a predetermined funding allocation between Attachments A and B.  Instead we will review the proposals we receive and make a determination of the best balance on the basis of the overall DesignForward portfolio thus the amount of funding for Attachment A versus B could vary.

Q24:    In re-reading the RFP, it one section says: "If Offeror determines that a particular metric is not applicable to the technology being proposed, then Offeror shall explain why they believe the metric is not relevant and shall replace that metric with an alternate meaningful metric."  We can come up with some other meaningful metrics, but I'm not sure we can do that for all of the ones that don't apply. Is it possible to define fewer metrics than the RFP requires? Or must there be a one-to-one matching of RFP metrics to proposal metrics?

A24:    With justification, a proposal may replace a group of metrics with an alternative group of meaningful metrics relevant to the proposed research.   It does not necessarily need to be one-for-one, but must be comprehensive and address at least performance and reliability.

Q25:    If our proposed research spans both technology areas but is tightly integrated, should we submit two proposals that have many of the same components? Or submit one proposal and explain that it addresses both technology areas? 

A25:    You should either 1) submit two proposals with scope of work, etc. tailored to the technology area, or 2) pick the area that you believe is most relevant.

Q26:    Do you have a preference between a single larger proposal addressing both Attachment A and Attachment B vs. two smaller proposals?

A26:    Our preference would be for separate proposals so that we can have the appropriate technical evaluation team assigned to the proposal.

Q27:    Is the non-foreign-ownership certification on the Representations and Certifications form required? Is there a preference for domestic firms?

A27:    The foreign ownership certification is required because of the language in the IP waiver.  The provisions of the Class Advance IP Waiver don't automatically apply to any foreign owned or controlled subcontractors or lower tier subcontractors so we need to know which Offerors might be foreign owned.  Ownership may be considered during the evaluation but we do not have a preference for domestic-owned Offerors. 

Q28:    Does the cover sheet count toward the 75 page limit on the RFP response?  Does a table of contents count toward the 75 page limit on the RFP response?

A28:    A cover page and table of contents can be included in addition to the 75 pages.  Or you can use a slightly smaller font to stay within the page limit.

Q29:    There are a number of references listed after sections within our proposal.  Do the reference lists count against the 75 page maximum?   Would it be preferable to have those references in a separate list as an appendix to the proposal?  Evaluators will not need to read the referenced material to understand and evaluate the proposal.

A29:    A reference list can be separate and not counted against the page limit.

Q30:    Section “A1-3 Performance Metrics” of the Statement of Work says “Offeror shall estimate or quantify the impact of the proposed technology over industry roadmaps and trends.”   Does each performance metric need to have a numerical value or is it fine to describe some of the performance metrics qualitatively if it seems difficult to provide a numerical value?
A30:    It's fine to describe some of the performance metrics qualitatively.

Q31:      Can you please clarify what type of information you would like for “Total delivered value for exascale workflows”? Are you looking for a description of how the proposed solution offers value beyond what would be provided by industry roadmaps and trends or something quantitative?
A31:    We are looking for a description, although a quantitative response would also be viewed favorably.

Q32:    If a proposed solution does not address a particular metric beyond what would be achieved based on industry trends, is it fine to leave this metric off?
A32:    Yes, it would be alright to leave off this metric.

Q33:     Section 4.3 Fault Tolerance and Resiliency:  What, exactly, is included in the mean time to interrupt (MTTI)? For example, if an application needs to be restarted from a user-defined checkpoint, does that count against the MTTI? Note such a restart could be rather local as opposed to a global restart. Is that acceptable? What if we just surfaced a failure up to application to ask if it okay to proceed in the face of an error and it was okay to proceed – does that count against MTTI?

A33:     As described in A1-4.3 we are interested in “advances that lead to a mean time to a system interrupt requiring user or administrator action of one day or longer in a 2020 exascale system.” 

Q34:     Attachment A: System Integration Research and Development Requirements Section A1-2.1: “Advances to support isolation and flexibility in resource association” 
1)  Does isolation mean the ability to create partitions within a large machine that do not interfere with one another?
2)  How important is it for the network to reduce/eliminate network interference or jitter when multiple jobs are running at the same time?
3)  If the system supported isolation through network partitions would the bi-sectional bandwidth requirements be different? In particular what influence does/is jitter/network interference having on the choice of bi-sectional and injection bandwidths?
4)  Similarly, how important is it to obtain repeatable performance?

1)  Yes, isolation means the ability to create partitions within a large machine that do not interfere with one another. 
2)  Proposal responses will be evaluated using the Best Value Source Selection (BVSS) process. The features and price of each response will be evaluated.
3)  We expect to be able to run jobs across the whole system.
4)  Proposal responses will be evaluated using the BVSS process. The features and price of each response will be evaluated.

Q35:    Attachment A: Section A1-4.3.b: “ Data Movement across the machine (TR-2)”   Does this really mean bi-section bandwidth or do you mean all-to-all bandwidth? In a fat-tree, the bi-section equals to all-to-all bandwidth. But in a “dragonfly” network with distributed routers, typically the bi-section is ½ of the all-to-all bandwidth.

A35:     We are interested in application performance. Please use the metric that relates to that and clearly explain in your response.

Attachment B: Interconnect Research and Development Requirements: Section B1-4.2 "Processor/Network/Memory Integration (TR-1)"  MPI Applications: 250-500 Million messages per second. Does this rate include optimizations such as message aggregation (or coalescing)?

A36:    No, this rate does not include optimizations.  We want the raw message rates without software optimizations like coalescing.

Q37:    Attachment B: Interconnect Research and Development Requirements: Section B1-4.4: “Fabrics (TR-1)”  The high bi-section target implicitly seems to exclude certain topologies such as toroidal or mesh networks.  Are you, definitively, not interested in such networks?

A37:     Our intent is not to prejudge any proposed topology. We are interested in application performance. Please refer to Q9 of the FAQ.

Q38:    Can the CV's of the key personnel be part of a separate attachment that is not counted within the 75 pages? We will refer to that appendix in the staffing plan.

A38:    Yes, the CVs can be separate.

Q39:    Section 7.3.2 of the DesignForward SOW, in part says, “….Some projects may develop a hardware prototype that demonstrates the value of the proposed concept. Others may perform a simulation or analysis that assesses the impact (or feasibility) of a proposed development. If funding provided through this RFP is insufficient to effectively demonstrate a concept or produce a prototype, Offerors shall provide a separate, non-binding budgetary estimate for follow-on work that would be needed to achieve this result…”    What is the due date for submission of a separate, non-binding budgetary estimate for follow-on work?  

A39:    While it would be preferable to receive everything by the proposal due date (May 2), we will grant an extra week until May 9 to receive a separate budgetary estimate for follow-on work that would be needed. 

Q40:    I don't see any indication of salary caps in the solicitation. Are there caps on the allowable salaries?

A40:    There are no salary caps in the RFP.  However, all salaries and other costs must be determined fair and reasonable and in line with what we'd expect to pay for similar salaries or costs from another source.