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Big computers

We here at Stata are often asked to make recommendations on the “best” computer on which to run Stata, and such discussions sometimes pop up on Statalist. Of course, there is no simple answer, as it depends on the analyses a given user wishes to run, the size of their datasets, and their budget. And, we do not recommend particular computer or operating system vendors. Many manufacturers use similar components in their computers, and the choice of operating system comes down to personal preference of the user. We take pride in making sure Stata works well regardless of operating system and hardware configuration.

For some users, the analyses they wish to run are demanding, the datasets they have are huge, and their budgets are large. For these users, it is useful to know what kind of off-the-shelf hardware they can easily get their hands on. To give you an idea of what is available, HP makes a server with up to 1 TB of memory. Yes, 1 terabyte! This computer can be configured and ordered online at hp.com.

It can have up to 4 processors, each with 8 cores, for a total of 32 cores of processing power. A sample rack-mount configuration with the fastest 8-core Intel Xeon processors available for this computer and a full 1 TB of memory totals roughly $100,000. We mention HP because they were one of the first to allow such large memory configurations without going to a much more expensive completely custom-built solution. Wouldn’t you love to have one of these running Stata/MP (or Halo)?

You can run Windows or Linux on a computer like the above. If you prefer Mac OS X, the largest current configuration from Apple allows a total of 12 cores and 32 GB of memory. This is a tower case unit and costs around $10,000. Visit store.apple.com to configure such a computer.

The largest fastest laptops easily purchased these days allow up to 4 cores and 16 GB of RAM. That much power in a small package will cost you though, with such a configuration costing over $7,000. Here is one such example you can configure from Dell: dell.com.

We’ll keep you updated periodically with the state of the high end of the computer market as memory capacities and number of cores increase.

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