Microsoft and R

Microsoft purchased Revolution Analytics recently, a commercial company that works with the R programming language. This seems to be a decision to improve the analytics and analysis offerings from Microsoft. I’ve heard this will be incorporated into their Machine Learning offering, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some basic R support in SQL Server at some point. If you’re not familiar with R, we’ve got a basic piece at SQLServerCentral on it.

Microsoft has made lots of acquisitions before, and while there’s some question of whether Microsoft can make R easy to use, I think they can. Years ago, Microsoft bought Proclarity, a company that had some BI type products. Did they succeed with that acquisition? I think they did. A number of the technologies likely made their way into PowerPivot and Power View even though the Proclarity products have somewhat disappeared, being incorporated into other products.

The R language and environment is complex, and I’m not sure how many database developers or DBAs want to become experts. However I do think that it could be possible to make the language easier, perhaps by building functions into SQL Server that help with the data analysis and computational features, and adding extensions in ADO.NET or other client libraries that might support easier rendering of visualizations.

We have lots of tools to help here already, with PowerPivot and other related Excel add-ins, and I suspect that any offerings here will overlap with those products, but allow Microsoft to woo an even wider audience of data professionals.

Steve Jones

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