Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Revolution Analytics represents a significant move by Microsoft. Revolution Analytics is the company that is built around the highly popular R language, an open source programming language designed specifically for statistical analytics.
Formed in 2007, Revolution Analytics set out to build and support the R community as well as meet the needs of a growing commercial base. Since then, Revolution Analytics has become the world’s largest provider of R-related software and services. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that R is the world’s most widely used programming language for statistical computing and predictive analytics.
Firs released in 1993 as an open source project, R was created by and for statisticians. It contains many of the features needed to accomplish common statistical-related tasks. For example, R includes data frames, a natural data structure available in few other languages. R also makes it easier to track unknown values within an application so the actual values can be easily inserted once they are known. In addition, R makes it easy to save, reuse and share new analytical techniques with other developers and data scientists.
The R language is particularly efficient at generating visualizations, such as charts and graphs, to identify patterns and hidden anomalies. The language is efficient at reading data, generating lines and points, and properly positioning them into meaningful representations, whether maps, plots (image, scatter, bar), 3-D surfaces or pie charts.
According to Microsoft, the Revolution Analytics acquisition will help its customers more easily implement advanced analytics within Microsoft platforms, including on-premises, on Microsoft Azure or in hybrid cloud implementations.
The R language will allow a wide range of industries to address their need for powerful analytical models, whether financial, retail, healthcare, manufacturing or a host of others. The Microsoft-Revolution Analytics mix offers customers a way to achieve high-performing, data-centric computations that can scale to meet their evolving business needs.
To this end, Microsoft plans to build R and Revolution Analytics’ technologies into Microsoft data systems, including SQL Server. Developers and data scientists will be able to take advantage of in-database analytic capabilities that can be deployed across environments. Microsoft also plans to integrate R into Azure HDInsight and Azure Machine Learning, providing more options for creating analytical models that can aid in making data-driven decisions.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Revolution Analytics is still new, and despite the promises coming out of both companies, we don’t know what R will look like once everything has played out. What we do know is that R is a popular and widely implemented technology used in a wide range of analytical applications. The marriage between Microsoft and Revolution Analytics could go a long way in solidifying R’s hold on analytics.