GPU vs. CPU for Data Analytics Tasks – Which One is Best?

When it comes to data analytics, selecting the right hardware is crucial for achieving optimal performance and efficiency. GPUs and CPUs are the two primary computing devices used for data analytics tasks, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

CPUs have traditionally been the preferred choice due to their versatility and multi-tasking abilities. However, with the rise of big data and machine learning, GPUs are becoming increasingly popular for their ability to handle large datasets and perform parallel computations.

In this article, we will explore the differences between GPUs and CPUs for data analytics tasks and help you determine which one is best for your needs.

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CPUs for Data Analytics Tasks

Central Processing Units (CPUs) are the most common type of processor used in computers today, and have long been the workhorse for data analytics tasks. CPUs consist of multiple cores that can execute instructions sequentially and in parallel, making them versatile for a wide range of applications.

Strengths of CPUs

CPUs have several strengths that make them well-suited for data analytics tasks, including:

  • Versatility: CPUs can handle a wide range of tasks beyond data analytics, such as general-purpose computing, file management, and system maintenance.
  • Multi-tasking: CPUs can run multiple tasks simultaneously, making them ideal for multi-threaded applications like data analytics.
  • High clock speeds: CPUs typically have higher clock speeds than GPUs, which enables them to execute single-threaded tasks faster.

Common Use Cases

CPUs are commonly used for data analytics tasks such as:

  1. Data processing and cleaning
  2. Statistical analysis
  3. Querying and indexing
  4. Running business intelligence (BI) tools
  5. Developing and testing algorithms


Despite their strengths, CPUs have some limitations for data analytics tasks, including:

  • Limited parallel processing: CPUs are not designed for highly parallel workloads, which can limit their performance for some types of data analytics tasks.
  • High power consumption: CPUs can consume a lot of power, which can increase operating costs for large-scale data analytics operations.
  • Limited memory bandwidth: CPUs have limited memory bandwidth compared to GPUs, which can result in slower performance when working with large datasets.

Overall, CPUs are a versatile and reliable choice for data analytics tasks, but may not be the best option for highly parallel workloads or large-scale operations with limited time and budget constraints.

GPUs for Data Analytics Tasks

Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) were originally designed for rendering graphics and images, but in recent years have emerged as powerful accelerators for data analytics tasks. GPUs consist of thousands of processing cores that can execute instructions in parallel, making them ideal for computationally-intensive tasks.

Strengths of GPUs

GPUs have several strengths that make them well-suited for data analytics tasks, including:

  • Parallel processing: GPUs can process thousands of calculations simultaneously, which enables them to handle large amounts of data quickly and efficiently.
  • High memory bandwidth: GPUs have higher memory bandwidth than CPUs, which allows them to access and manipulate data more quickly.
  • Energy efficiency: GPUs can deliver high performance while consuming less power than CPUs, which can result in lower operating costs.
  • Customizable architectures: GPUs can be customized for specific applications and workloads, making them flexible and adaptable.

Common Use Cases

GPUs are commonly used for data analytics tasks such as:

  1. Machine learning and deep learning
  2. Image and video processing
  3. Scientific simulations and modeling
  4. Cryptocurrency mining
  5. Data visualization


Despite their strengths, GPUs have some limitations for data analytics tasks, including:

  • Limited multi-tasking: GPUs are designed for parallel processing and may not be as effective for multi-tasking or sequential processing.
  • High initial cost: GPUs can be expensive to purchase and install, which can be a barrier for smaller organizations or individuals.
  • Limited compatibility: GPUs may not be compatible with all software applications, and may require additional programming or optimization to work effectively.

GPUs are a powerful and efficient option for data analytics tasks that require high performance and parallel processing. However, they may not be the best choice for all applications, and should be carefully evaluated based on the specific needs and requirements of the organization or project.

Comparing GPUs and CPUs for Data Analytics Tasks

Data analytics tasks require powerful computing resources that can process and analyze large amounts of data quickly and efficiently. Two of the most popular options for these tasks are Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and Central Processing Units (CPUs). Let’s compare them based on several key factors:

Speed and Performance

GPUs are generally faster and more powerful than CPUs for data analytics tasks, thanks to their parallel processing capabilities. This means they can handle large datasets and complex computations more efficiently, resulting in faster processing times and higher performance.

Energy Efficiency

GPUs are typically more energy-efficient than CPUs, as they can deliver high performance while consuming less power. This can result in lower operating costs over time, especially for large-scale data analytics projects.

Cost Considerations

While GPUs may offer better speed and performance, they can also be more expensive than CPUs. This is particularly true for high-end GPUs with specialized architectures and features. CPUs, on the other hand, are more widely available and typically less expensive, making them a more budget-friendly option for some data analytics projects.

Future Trends

As data analytics tasks become more complex and data sets continue to grow, GPUs are likely to become increasingly popular for their processing power and parallel computing capabilities. According to a study of Globe Newswire, Graphic Processors (GPUs) was worth USD 44.7 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a remarkable CAGR of 33.5% to reach USD 450.9 billion by 2030.

However, CPUs will continue to have a role in data analytics, particularly for applications that require multi-tasking or sequential processing.

In addition, advancements in technology and architecture are likely to make both GPUs and CPUs more efficient, powerful, and affordable over time, making them even more accessible for data analytics tasks.

The choice between GPUs and CPUs for data analytics tasks depends on several factors, including the specific needs and requirements of the project, the available budget, and the future trends in the field.

GPU Vs. CPU for Data Analytics: Which One is Best for Your Needs?

The choice between GPUs and CPUs for data analytics tasks ultimately depends on the specific needs and budget of the organization.

GPUs are perfect for tasks that involve heavy parallel processing, such as deep learning, while CPUs are more suitable for tasks that require multi-tasking capabilities, such as general data analytics.

Organizations with the budget for GPU hardware and specialized software may benefit from the increased processing power and speed of GPUs.

The GPU has seen a recent explosion in popularity as the computational power necessary for machine learning has increased and is paired with the fact that this computational power is readily available off-the-shelf from both NVIDIA and AMD. However, organizations with more limited budgets may find that CPUs are a more cost-effective solution for their data analytics needs.

See why the GPU is better than the CPU for data analytics tasks:

GPU vs CPU for data analytics

Why is GPU replacing CPU in analytics?

GPU is replacing CPU in analytics due to its massively parallel processing capabilities, which enables it to perform complex calculations and handle large amounts of data at a much faster rate than a CPU.

Additionally, GPUs are designed to handle specialized tasks such as image processing, computer vision, and machine learning, which are becoming increasingly important in data analytics. With the rise of big data, companies are looking for faster and more efficient ways to process and analyze their data, and GPUs provide a cost-effective solution to this problem.

Emerging GPUs technologies are improving dataset quality without compromising efficiency or increasing costs. The high cost of maintaining a fleet of machines may soon make CPU’s reign come to a close.

Moreover, computation speed is crucial in large data analytics. CPU may require over 3 billion floating point operations per second, whereas GPU can significantly reduce this for faster processing.

AI workloads are now too big for CPUs alone. Computation tasks need to be offloaded to specialized chips that can handle them faster, such as GPUs or TPUs.

As a result, more and more businesses are turning to GPUs to accelerate their data analytics processes and gain a competitive edge.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Hardware

Choosing the right hardware for your data analytics needs can be a daunting task. Here are some factors to consider when selecting hardware:

  • Processing Power: The hardware’s processing power is a crucial factor in data analytics. The CPU and GPU are the primary processing units used in data analytics, and the choice between them will depend on the nature of the data analytics work.
  • Memory: The amount of memory required will depend on the size of the data sets you are working with. The more data you need to process, the more memory you will require.
  • Storage: The amount of storage you need will depend on the size of the data sets you are working with. If you have large data sets, you will need a large amount of storage.
  • Energy Consumption: Energy consumption is another important factor to consider when selecting hardware. Hardware that is energy-efficient will save you money in the long run.
  • Budget: The cost of hardware is also an important factor to consider. High-end hardware can be expensive, so it’s important to choose hardware that fits your budget.

By considering these factors, you can choose the right hardware for your data analytics needs.

Case Studies and Examples

Case studies and examples are a powerful way to understand how different hardware configurations can impact data analytics performance. Here are a few examples:

  • NVIDIA Tesla V100: In a study conducted by the University of Bristol, researchers used NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs to accelerate deep learning workloads for drug discovery. The GPUs were able to speed up computations by a factor of 15-20x compared to CPUs, reducing the time required to train complex models from days to just a few hours.
  • AWS EC2 P3 Instances: The AWS EC2 P3 instances are powered by NVIDIA V100 GPUs and are designed for machine learning and high-performance computing workloads. A case study by NVIDIA showed that a company was able to reduce the time required for image classification from 1.5 hours to just 3 minutes using AWS EC2 P3 instances.
  • Intel Xeon Scalable Processors: In a case study conducted by Intel, a company was able to reduce the time required to process complex financial models from 24 hours to just 10 minutes by upgrading their hardware to Intel Xeon Scalable processors. The processors feature advanced features such as Intel Turbo Boost Technology, which can dynamically increase clock speed to improve performance.

These examples show the impact that hardware can have on data analytics performance.

Tips to Choose Right Hardware for Data Analytics Tasks

Here are some key considerations to choose right hardware for optimal performance and cost-effectiveness.

  • Define your use case: Before selecting hardware, it is essential to define the specific use case and requirements for the data analytics task. This will help determine the appropriate hardware configuration, including CPU or GPU, memory, storage, and network bandwidth.
  • Choose the right vendor: When selecting hardware, it is important to choose a reliable and reputable vendor with a proven track record in providing high-quality hardware that meets your needs. Consider factors such as customer service, warranty, and support.
  • Consider energy efficiency: Energy consumption is a significant factor to consider when selecting hardware. Energy-efficient hardware, such as GPUs, can significantly reduce operating costs and environmental impact.
  • Plan for scalability: Data analytics workloads are growing rapidly, and it is essential to select hardware that can scale with your needs. Consider future growth and the potential need for additional resources.
  • Evaluate total cost of ownership: When selecting hardware, consider the total cost of ownership, including the initial hardware cost, maintenance, energy consumption, and upgrades.

By considering these recommendations and tips, businesses can select the appropriate hardware configuration for their data analytics tasks, ensuring optimal performance, cost-effectiveness, and scalability.

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FAQs – GPU Vs. CPU for Data Analytics

  1. What is the main difference between GPU and CPU for data analytics tasks?
    GPU is designed to handle many simple but highly complex mathematical operations at once, while CPUs are designed to handle complex instructions.
  2. What are the benefits of using GPUs for data analytics?
    GPU can process data much faster than CPU and can handle larger datasets efficiently.
  3. What types of data analytics tasks are best suited for CPUs?
    Tasks that require complex calculations with relatively small datasets, such as financial modeling, are best suited for CPUs.
  4. What types of data analytics tasks are best suited for GPUs?
    Tasks that require parallel processing of large datasets, such as deep learning and image processing, are best suited for GPUs.
  5. What are the limitations of using GPUs for data analytics?
    GPUs are expensive and require specialized hardware and software, making them less accessible for small businesses or individual users.
  6. Can GPUs be used in conjunction with CPUs for data analytics tasks?
    Yes, GPUs can be used in conjunction with CPUs to enhance the processing capabilities and efficiency of data analytics tasks.
  7. How do I determine whether to use a GPU or CPU for my data analytics task?
    Consider the size and complexity of your dataset, the specific requirements of your task, and your budget before deciding which hardware to use.
  8. Are GPUs more expensive than CPUs for data analytics tasks?
    Yes, GPUs are generally more expensive than CPUs. However, the improved performance and efficiency they offer can often make them a worthwhile investment for data analytics tasks.
  9. Can I use both GPUs and CPUs together for data analytics?
    Yes, it is possible to use both GPUs and CPUs together for data analytics tasks. This can offer the benefits of both technologies and improve overall performance and efficiency.

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About Nolan Foster

With 20+ years of expertise in building cloud-native services and security solutions, Nolan Foster spearheads Public Cloud and Managed Security Services at Ace Cloud Hosting. He is well versed in the dynamic trends of cloud computing and cybersecurity.
Foster offers expert consultations for empowering cloud infrastructure with customized solutions and comprehensive managed security.

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