Thursday, October 21, 2010

Here's To You, Mr. Robinson (and Kristen and Raj T)

If you use Esri Business Analyst, know it or not, chances are you've been assisted at one time another by the technical support angels - Kristen Carroll, Jason Robinson and Raj T(huthija).  They are there to help you, and they help us help you immensely.  From time to time, we will share some of this with you.  Please realize however that any comments you see here are not representative of Esri, just informal stuff of interest.

One of the things we love talking with Jason about is what PC hardware is best for GIS.  After all, having the right system in the first place sure makes support easier.

Recently, we posted on the RPM blog about using the Ready Boost feature on Vista and Windows 7 to allow an older PC to run ArcGIS 10.  But, truth be known, RPM has purchased new PCs for Business Analyst 10.  And here is what we bought - the Asus K50AF.  Even though Esri recommends Intel CPUs, we have had very good results with AMD processors, and this is a highly rated machine.  It has 4GB of RAM and another 1/2 GB of video RAM. This PC is going for around $700 on Amazon right now. 
You may opt for a slightly different model to take advantage of using 8GB of RAM on this 64 bit PC - and indeed, the amount of RAM is key.  ArcGIS can really use the extra RAM, and you need a 64 bit machine to do it - as 32 bit operating systems cannot use more than 4GB of RAM whether they are XP SP3 or Vista or W7.  The bottom line is, you want a gaming computer.  The same kind of PC that is great for video games is great for CAD and GIS.

This Asus is now the basic PC that RPM delivers to clients pre-installed with their banking base map and application.  (Many of our clients get the PC free with their BA subscription, and you can ask us about that).

What is REALLY interesting to those of us who love this stuff is the question of what kind of desktop computer is ideal for GIS.  This is where Jason has some interesting takes on the kind of PC he builds for himself, as a professional GIS practitioner and as an avid, experienced gamer.  And here's some of what he has to say. 

In my personal opinion the real keys as far as a great performing

1.  The best CPU that makes sense budget wise.  I prefer duo cores to
quads+ due to the higher clock cycle though I believe duo cores are
gradually getting phased out for quad and more cores.  Clock
cycle=horsepower but I can understand why going with quad core or more if
someone is doing a lot of multi tasking.

2.  64 bit operating system.  Window 7 64 bit makes the most sense.  BA
development has found dramatic performance increases with a 64bit OS and
8 gigs of RAM when running the OD cost matrix type functions (point to
point drive time/distance functions in Locator Report/Desire Lines).

3.  System memory of 8 gigs or more.

4.  Raid-0 or Raid-0+1 hard drive configuration.  Fantastic read/write
performance and noticeable system performance increase across the board.
I'm still a bit leery of the SSD drives considering the premium for the
latest generation models.  (Note: this is changing, and Solid State Drives are
indeed very fast).

5.  For video cards a middle of the road one is fine.  This mainly helps
with re-draw speeds but those will be somewhat constrained by ArcGIS. 
(Note: we love extra dedicated video RAM).

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