The main reason to run statistical computations in parallel is to gain speed, meaning to reduce the execution time of your program or functions. Factors Affecting Speed discusses the main items affecting the speed of programs or functions. Factors Affecting Results discusses details that can cause a parallel run to give different results than a serial run.
Some Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox™ functions have built-in parallel computing capabilities. See Quick
Start Parallel Computing for Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox. You can also use any Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox functions with Parallel Computing Toolbox™ functions such as
parfor loops. To decide
when to call functions in parallel, consider the factors affecting speed and
Some factors that can affect the speed of execution of parallel processing are:
Parallel environment setup. It takes time to run
parpool to begin computing in parallel. If your
computation is fast, the setup time can exceed any time saved by
computing in parallel.
Parallel overhead. There is overhead in communication and coordination when running in parallel. If function evaluations are fast, this overhead could be an appreciable part of the total computation time. Thus, solving a problem in parallel can be slower than solving the problem serially. For an example, see Improving Optimization Performance with Parallel Computing in MATLAB® Digest, March 2009.
parfor loops. This is described in
Working with parfor.
parfor does not work in parallel when called
from within another
parfor loop. If you have
programmed your custom functions to take advantage of parallel
processing, the limitation of no nested
loops can cause a parallel function to run slower than expected.
When executing serially,
parfor loops run
slightly slower than
Passing parameters. Parameters are automatically passed to worker sessions during the execution of parallel computations. If there are many parameters, or they take a large amount of memory, passing parameters can slow the execution of your computation.
Contention for resources: network and computing. If the pool of workers has low bandwidth or high latency, parallel computation can be slow.
Some factors can affect results when using parallel processing. You might need to adjust your code to run in parallel, for example, you need independent loops and the workers must be able to access the variables. Some important factors are:
Persistent or global variables. If any functions use persistent or global
variables, these variables can take different values on different worker
processors. The body of a
parfor loop cannot contain
global or persistent variable declarations.
Accessing external files. The order of computations is not guaranteed during parallel processing, so external files can be accessed in unpredictable order, leading to unpredictable results. Furthermore, if multiple processors try to read an external file simultaneously, the file can become locked, leading to a read error, and halting function execution.
Noncomputational functions, such as
keyboard, can behave
badly when used in your custom functions. Do not use these functions in a
parfor loop, because they can cause a worker to
become nonresponsive, since it is waiting for input.
parfor does not allow
The random numbers you use can affect the results of your computations. See Reproducibility in Parallel Statistical Computations.
For advice on converting for loops to use
parfor, see Parallel for-Loops (parfor) (Parallel Computing Toolbox).