While this post is specifically related to consumer hardware, it has implications for AI applications, in general.
First the context:
The Danger of Focusing on Specs – Purism
While my Windows-using colleagues were replacing computers every two or three years as they grew slower and slower with age, I found my Linux-using friends and myself were often using the same hardware (even second-hand hardware) for at least twice as long. Even when I replaced hardware with something new, I found that the old hardware still performed, for the most part, as well as it did when I started using it. The hardware specs didn’t matter nearly as much as the software that ran on it.
I agree. I had mentioned before that Linux Mint gave my old Mac Air a completely new lease of life. The battery is failing, but I keep it connected to the mains. I belatedly realised that an iPad Pro is the worst performer for any “computing needs ” despite the sticker price.
Nevertheless, these issues will assume significant importance for AI modelling (whether cloud or on-premises), as enterprises shift towards it and get locked into specific vendors (with significant egress fees). I had never realised this until I got locked in the Dropbox ecosystem. I “rely” on cloud backups and sync, and Dropbox has a shitty front-end for Linux without offering a similar “experience” on Linux as on Windows. I am happy to report that it is a major performance lag on Mac!
Jokes (and a little sarcasm) apart, the key takeaways are:
Here are a few specs you should focus on:
- How much of the hardware is repairable and upgradable after purchase?
- Does the vendor document and encourage you to repair and upgrade the hardware?
- How long does the vendor offer OS updates for that hardware?
- How long does the vendor offer security updates for that hardware?
- How does the vendor’s OS perform on the hardware, and does performance improve or degrade over time?
- Does the vendor provide firmware updates for only their most recent hardware, or their back catalog as well?
AI models will “evolve” rapidly, and therefore, there has to be some system without the hardware upgrade cycle “kicks in”.