This document provides some comparisons of different ways of parallel computing in R. There are a number of ways for achieving parallel computing in R, for example,

- SNOW (Simple Network Of Workstations). One the earliest package for R parallel computing.
- parallel package. Developed by R core team, this contains most of the functionality in SNOW.
- foreach package.
- BiocParallel. The “official” parallel computing package in Bioconductor. It aims to provide a unified interface to existing parallel infrastructure where code can be easily executed in different environments.

Here I provide some simple comparisons of the performances of different parallelism in R. The methods being compared include:

`foreach`

: provided in`foreach`

package.`mclapply`

and`parLapply`

: functions provided in`parallel`

package.`mclapply`

is simpler. It uses the underlying operating system`fork()`

functionality to achieve parallelization. However, it doesn’t work on Windows OS since Windows does not have`fork()`

.`parLapply`

is slightly more complicated but more flexible. It requires users to create and register a cluster. But it supposed to run on all system, even on different machines within a network.

`bplapply`

from`BiocParallel`

package, with different`BiocParallelParam`

, including`MulticoreParam`

`SnowParam`

with`type = "SOCK"`

`SnowParam`

with`type = "FORK"`

In this comparison, the task is to run many linear regressions, using 6 cores. I run everything on my Macbook pro laptop with 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 CPU and 16G RAM.

I first use following codes to simulate data.

```
Nlm = 10000
nobs = 100
X = matrix( rnorm(nobs*3), ncol=3 )
Y = matrix(rnorm(Nlm*nobs), nrow=Nlm)
```

So there will be 10,000 linear regressions. For each one, there are 100 observations and 3 covariates in the regressions.

I then created following functions for different type of parallelism.

```
## functions to run many lm
runManyLM.loop <- function(X, Y) {
N =nrow(Y)
beta = rep(0, N)
for(i in 1:N) {
beta[i] = lm(Y[i,]~X)$coef[2]
}
}
## use foreach
runManyLM.foreach <- function(X, Y, numCores) {
registerDoParallel(numCores)
N = nrow(Y)
beta = foreach(i = 1:N, .combine=c) %dopar% {
lm(Y[i,]~X)$coef[2]
}
}
## use mclapply
runManyLM.mclapply <- function(X, Y, numCores) {
N = nrow(Y)
foo <- function(i, Y, X) {
lm(Y[i,]~X)$coef[2]
}
beta = mclapply(1:N, foo, mc.cores = numCores, Y, X)
}
## use parLapply
runManyLM.parLapply <- function(X, Y, numCores) {
N = nrow(Y)
foo <- function(i, Y, X) {
lm(Y[i,]~X)$coef[2]
}
registerDoParallel(cores=numCores)
cl <- makeCluster(numCores, type="FORK")
beta <- parLapply(cl, 1:N, foo, Y, X)
stopCluster(cl)
}
## use bplapply
runManyLM.bplapply <- function(X, Y, numCores, BPPARAM) {
N = nrow(Y)
foo <- function(i, Y, X) {
lm(Y[i,]~X)$coef[2]
}
beta = bplapply(1:N, foo, BPPARAM = BPPARAM, Y, X)
}
```

I then benchmark the performances of these functions.

```
library(foreach)
library(doParallel)
library(microbenchmark)
library(BiocParallel)
numCores = 4
mParam = MulticoreParam(workers=numCores)
snowSOCK <- SnowParam(workers = numCores, type = "SOCK")
snowFORK <- SnowParam(workers = numCores, type = "FORK")
result <- microbenchmark(runManyLM.foreach(X,Y, numCores),
runManyLM.mclapply(X,Y, numCores),
runManyLM.parLapply(X,Y, numCores),
runManyLM.bplapply(X,Y, numCores, mParam),
runManyLM.bplapply(X,Y, numCores, snowSOCK),
runManyLM.bplapply(X,Y, numCores, snowFORK),
times=50)
```

The results are shown below:

```
## expr min mean max
## 1 runManyLM.foreach(X, Y, numCores) 3.027713 3.297434 3.923210
## 2 runManyLM.mclapply(X, Y, numCores) 1.636211 1.744566 2.213691
## 3 runManyLM.parLapply(X, Y, numCores) 1.914132 2.059862 2.566976
## 4 runManyLM.bplapply(X, Y, numCores, mParam) 2.285717 2.525748 3.212917
## 5 runManyLM.bplapply(X, Y, numCores, snowSOCK) 6.487970 6.927471 9.762698
## 6 runManyLM.bplapply(X, Y, numCores, snowFORK) 2.311750 2.596356 3.429641
```

Based on the results, `mclapply`

provides the best performance. `parLapply`

is slightly slower. `foreach`

is about the half speed. For the 3 bplapply, using `SOCK`

with SNOW is very slow. Not sure why. The other two provides similar performances.