Building a Good Modeling Computer
SoilVision Systems Ltd. often receives questions from customers about how to build a powerful computer for running their models and to minimize lost time. These guidelines are derived from our own experiences from running models in our office.
- In our experience, the most important feature of your computer is RELIABILITY, as opposed to speed or performance. Some types of modeling are going to take a long time to run, no matter how good your machine is. What is important is that your machine not fail to complete an analysis due to hardware failures. Therefore, reliability matters much more than performance. How do you obtain a reliable machine? This means a few things:
- Go to a reputable supplier who will provide technical support. Good companies will offer technical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While you can build your own computer from custom parts, you will not have the assurance of on-call technical support should something go wrong.
- Investing in a RAID system can be a good idea, but is not essential. Hard drive failures are the most common type of failure, so a small investment in redundancy can pay off immensely in time saved. Not only can your analysis finish, but a total system reinstall will be avoided.
- Upgrading RAM is usually inexpensive and generally has a good payoff in performance. A good rule of thumb is to always exceed Microsoft's system recommendations.
- CPU performance is not critical. It will make a small difference in how fast your models run. Almost all new desktop PCs are multi-cores and will work fine.
- A graphics card that supports OpenGL is required for our software. 3D should be supported, which is standard with most desktops available today. High-performance (gaming) graphics cards are of minimal benefit.
- It is a good idea to disable (or schedule) the Windows Automatic Updates feature. Depending on your IT environment, you would not want your computer to reboot in the middle of the night during an important model run!
Numeric solvers are strongly affected by the speed of your hard disk, as they typically must write a lot of data to the disk. Solvers can also consume large amounts of disk space when running large models. When choosing a drive to store your data, both of these factors should be considered.
- Traditional hard drives are very reliable and the technology is mature, and thus are excellent value for large amounts of storage. Solid-state drives are much faster for data access but the cost per gigabyte of storage is much higher, and also have a shorter lifetime than a traditional drive.
- Our recommendation is to pair the two technologies together: use a solid-state drive as a boot drive and install your operating system and all applications there. Use a traditional hard drive for all your data storage. That gives you the combined benefits of the fast boot and load times with the large storage capacities.
- Watch for software updates! SoilVision regularly releases software updates, which often contain performance improvements in addition to new software features. In the SVOffice Manager, simply check the links at the bottom of the screen to see if you are up-to-date or not. Click on the link if there is one to visit our downloads page.