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Computing Power for Big HB Runs?

Recently I have come across a couple datasets where I have tried running covariates, constraints, and (significant) interactions together (with main effects too, of course) and I end up with around 200 or so parameters.  With 1200+ respondents, this is taking my computer 150-300 hours of computing time - 0.04 iterations per second).

My computer specs:
AMB A8-4500M APU Quad core - 1.90 GHz
5400 RPM 600 GB HDD

I've discussed with our partners and we're willing to buy another computer dedicated for running Sawtooth, but we don't know what type of computer would be best.  Is the bottleneck:

HDD vs. SSD?
CPU speed?
# of CPU cores?
Graphics card?
Something else?

I am looking for information on if a new computer should help, and what specs are most important for this new computer?

asked Apr 26, 2013 by Joel Anderson Bronze (1,610 points)

1 Answer

+3 votes
Covariates, interactions and constraints all together does make for a hefty model.  While a new machine would be helpful, I wouldn't expect monumental improvements.

Most people automatically assume that faster processors will make the most difference, and they end up trading off some things like the hard drive and RAM.  You should get the fastest processor you can for your budget, but not at the expense of your hard drive or memory.  HB is not multithreaded but does benefit indirectly from multiple cores (4-8 cores should be sufficient).  In HB the speed per core is more important the number of cores.

HB is I/O intensive, so having a fast hard drive can be very beneficial.  SSDs are much faster than conventional drives, and can help a lot over the 5400 rpm drive you have.

Adding as much RAM as your budget allows will help keep the system from thrashing, which is where the operating system swaps between hard drive and memory constantly.  This can kill HB performance.

I wrote an appendix in the CBC/HB manual which describes some of these issues in more detail.
answered Apr 26, 2013 by Walter Williams Gold Sawtooth Software, Inc. (21,155 points)
Thanks for your help!  

When I used Windows 7's Resource Monitor, it shows SSI Web as "Not Responding" for about 50% of the time (it blinks in and out of this state.  My first thought was the hard disk, but it rarely shows SSI Web in the Disk I/O tab.  Is this an indication of any particular bottleneck?