Ross Bennett — written Jan 6, 2013 — source

First, let us consider a running sum function in pure R. To get started,
I looked at the source code of the TTR package to see the algorithm
used in `runSum`

. The `runSum`

function uses a Fortran routine to compute
the running/rolling sum of a vector. The `run_sum_R`

function below is
my interpretation of that algorithm implemented in R.
Many thanks to the package author, Joshua Ulrich, for pointing out to me
that, in many cases, the algorithm is more critical to performance than
the language.

test replications elapsed relative 1 run_sum_R(x, 50) 100 3.364 1.007 2 run_sum_R(x, 100) 100 3.339 1.000 3 run_sum_R(x, 150) 100 3.390 1.015 4 run_sum_R(x, 200) 100 3.590 1.075

For these benchmarks, I will just focus on the performance of the functions
for a fixed `x`

and varying the value of `n`

. The results of the benchmark
of `run_sum_R`

show that the elapsed time is fairly constant for the
given values of `n`

(i.e. O(1)).

Now let us consider a running sum function in C++, call it `run_sum_v1`

.
One approach is to loop through each element of the given vector
calling std::accumulate to compute the running sum.

test replications elapsed relative 1 run_sum_v1(x, 50) 100 0.045 1.000 2 run_sum_v1(x, 100) 100 0.088 1.956 3 run_sum_v1(x, 150) 100 0.128 2.844 4 run_sum_v1(x, 200) 100 0.170 3.778

Although the elapsed times of `run_sum_v1`

are quite fast, note that the
time increases approximately linearly as `n`

increases (i.e. O(N)). This
will become a problem if we use this function with large values of `n`

.

Now let us write another running sum function in C++ that uses
the same algorithm that is used in `run_sum_R`

, call it `run_sum_v2`

.

test replications elapsed relative 1 run_sum_v2(x, 50) 100 0.007 1 2 run_sum_v2(x, 100) 100 0.007 1 3 run_sum_v2(x, 150) 100 0.007 1 4 run_sum_v2(x, 200) 100 0.007 1

The benchmark results of `run_sum_v2`

are quite fast and much more
favorable than both `run_sum_R`

and `run_sum_v1`

. The elapsed time is
approximately constant across the given values of `n`

(i.e O(N)).

Finally, let us benchmark all three functions as well as `runSum`

from
the TTR package for a point of reference using larger values for the
size of `x`

and `n`

.

test replications elapsed relative 3 run_sum_v2(y, 4500) 100 0.082 1.00 1 runSum(y, 4500) 100 0.889 10.84 4 run_sum_R(y, 4500) 100 33.717 411.18 2 run_sum_v1(y, 4500) 100 37.538 457.78

An interesting result of benchmarking with these larger values is
that `run_sum_R`

is faster than `run_sum_v1`

for the given values.
This example demonstrates that it is not always the case that C++ code
is faster than R code. The inefficiency of `run_sum_v1`

is due to having
`std::accumulate`

inside the for loop. For a vector of size 100,000 and
`n = 5000`

, `std::accumulate`

is called 95,001 times!

This is obviously not an “apples-to-apples” comparison because a different algorithm is used, but the point of the example is to demonstrate the importance of the algorithm regardless of the programming language.

It should be noted that `runSum`

does some extra
work in R such as checking for a valid `n`

, non-leading NAs, etc.
and should be considered when comparing the benchmark results of
`run_sum_v2`

to `runSum`

.

**tags:**
benchmark

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