The next version of PortfolioCenter – expected Fall 2012 – will require Windows Vista, 7, or Server 2008. If you need to upgrade your hardware to continue running PortfolioCenter, the type of processor or CPU is a crucial decision.
Processors are described by their decision-making speed (GHz) and the number of decisions that can occur concurrently. Because Windows handles many tasks simultaneously, you need a CPU capable of making many decisions at once. This type of multi-tasking is determined by the number of CPUs, cores and threads.
Imagine that you have a giant stack of jobs that must be done.
- The CPU is like an employee. The CPU hardware, like an employee, is able to process data and make decisions. If you have a single employee and you keep stacking more jobs on his desk, he will make a little bit of progress on each job as he scurries between them — slowly accomplishing every job. Buying a computer with multiple CPUs is like hiring more employees. Each “employee CPU” makes decisions and processes data independently and concurrently without significant slowing the activity of the other “employee CPUs.” Your jobs get done faster.
- A multi-core CPU is like giving each employee several helpers so one can grab a file folder from the cabinet while another finishes adding numbers. Each core can make decisions independently of the other cores, but all cores in the CPU share the same data retrieval and storage hardware – independently but not concurrently. So if two helpers need different papers in the filing cabinet, the second may have to wait while the first files, but the jobs will still finish faster. The more helpers each employee has, the faster his average performance – so, more cores is better.
- A multi-threaded CPU is like giving an employee the ability to multi-task without giving him helpers. Just as a talented employee may read a document while reaching for the phone but not file a paper, a multi-threaded CPU can do several similar things at once. Multi-threaded CPUs are therefore neither independent nor concurrent, but still offer some performance improvement over a single CPU without multi-threading.
As you might guess, there is a price/performance decision point for each of these choices. The best performance comes with the highest cost.
PortfolioCenter can make use of any of these improvements. Buy the highest numbers you can reasonable afford:
- A multi-CPU computer will offer the best performance
- A single multi-threaded CPU will provide the lowest performance
- A mid-range multi-core CPU is a good compromise for an average firm running PortfolioCenter