Microsoft To Acquire R Technology Developer Revolution Analytics

24 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Acquisition of Revolution Analytics is a double win for Microsoft.

Microsoft has agreed to acquire open-source software company Revolution Analytics, heavily embracing the R programming language, a data analysis tool widely used by both academics and corporate data scientists.In the same week Microsoft announced it was snapping up text analysis software startup Equivio, the computing giant has now revealed it’s buying Revolution Analytics, a provider of “software and services” for a programming language used in statistical computing and predictive analytics.

Microsoft followed up its hologram-studded Windows 10 launch event on Friday with the equally significant acquisition of Revolution Analytics Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Revolution Analytics is best known for offering developer tools for use with the R language, and though Microsoft already works with R, this represents a new bet on the language, reflecting the company’s wider interest in data science. Revolution’s customers, Microsoft machine learning vice president Joseph Sirosh says in a blog post about the deal, include large banks and financial services firms, pharmaceutical companies, as well as manufacturing and technology companies. Microsoft says that it made this acquisition “to help more companies use the power of R and data science to unlock big data insights with advanced analytics.” The two companies did not disclose the financial details of the transaction. And Microsoft uses R for its own projects. “We have a data science community inside Microsoft that uses R to analyze business data across a variety of things, and even build models for quite a few applications,” says Microsoft vice president for machine learning Joseph Sirosh.

Like many open-source projects, it offers many of them for free and then charges for things like consulting, technical support, training and indemnification packages. That’s an audience that Microsoft is actively trying to court with its infrastructure-as-a-service platform, which sports a store that allows users to freely exchange the kind of data crunching algorithms that the framework is used to create among one another. The company also offers an enterprise extension to R that allows for parallelized analytics and a cloud-based service that is available on demand through Amazon’s AWS Marketplace. The ML Marketplace is part of Azure Machine Learning, a managed analytics engine that is already compatible with R and over 350 third party libraries from the upstream ecosystem. Inside the corporate world, R has become a de facto means of analyzing data, and it’s often used in the data science competitions run by startup Kaggle, competitions that have become a popular way for companies to tap independent data scientists for help with particularly thorny problems.

The acquisition paves the way for Redmond to extend that support a step further to the development phase, potentially providing a much-needed boost for the service amid intensifying competition from rival cloud providers. Revolution Analytics provides an enterprise-class platform for the development and deployment of R-based analytic solutions that can scale across large data warehouses and Hadoop systems, and can integrate with enterprise systems. Google boasts an entire set of machine learning tools on its platform, while Amazon poses an even more formidable threat with Kinesis, a multi-purpose stream processing service introduced all the way back in November, 2013. While it may still seem a bit odd for Microsoft to acquire an open-source company, it has actually invested quite heavily in its own open-source initiatives around .NET and other projects lately.

Its Revolution R product line, combined with its advisory services and training, help people and companies realize the potential of big data using sound statistical, scientific methodologies. As Revolution Analytics’ chief community officer David Smith notes, the company has also embraced Linux and Hadoop, and contributed to projects like Chef, Puppet, Docker and others. The biggest asset that the software giant is gaining through the transaction is Revolution Analytics’ commercial R implementation, a major improvement over the original open-source version that removes the need to store all the data for a project in the memory of the machine on which it’s running.

Hooking up Revolution R to Azure, as Micoroft has done with its homegrown development platform, could help foster participation in ML Marketplace and create a bigger choice of pre-packaged analytic functions for customers. It’s the tool of choice for data scientists at Microsoft, who apply machine learning to data from Bing, Azure, Office, and the Sales, Marketing and Finance departments. Microsoft supports R within the Azure ML framework, including the ability to experiment and operationalize workflows consisting of R scripts in MLStudio. As the volumes of data continually grow, organizations of all kinds around the world – financial, manufacturing, health care, retail, research – need powerful analytical models to make data-driven decisions. With McKinsey & Company expecting hundreds of thousands of new data science jobs to open in the next few years, that audience represents a massive future market for development tools that Redmond is clearly eager to address.

Her work takes her from the bowels of the corporate network up to the great free ranges of the open-source ecosystem and back on a daily basis, with the occasional pit stop in the world of end-users. She is especially passionate about cloud computing and data analytics, although she also has a soft spot for stories that diverge from the beaten track to provide a more unique perspective on the complexities of the industry.

Microsoft engineers have also actively contributed to the Linux kernel for years. “As a data scientist and longtime R enthusiast, I am incredibly excited about Revolution Analytics technology and employees joining Microsoft.” concluded Joseph. This acquisition will help customers use advanced analytics within Microsoft data platforms on-premises, in hybrid cloud environments and on Microsoft Azure. They will also have more resources behind their open-source R projects including RHadoop, DeployR and the Reproducible R Toolkit and be able to add further enhancements and bring R capabilities to the Microsoft suite of products. They will continue to advance the big data and enterprise integration capabilities of Revolution R Enterprise and continue to offer expert technical training and consulting services.

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