Microsoft R Server Is Free for Developers and Students

Nearly a year after announcing the acquisition of Revolution Analytics, Microsoft releases its own branded analytics software platform and offers it to developers for free.

big data analytics

As part of a major push into big data analytics, nearly a year ago Microsoft announced it was acquiring Revolution Analytics, the largest commercial software and services provider for R, the popular open-source statistical computing language. Signaling that the integration process is essentially complete—the deal closed on April 6—Microsoft's Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of the software giant's Data Group, announced the availability of Microsoft R Server, effectively replacing Revolution R Enterprise.

In a Jan. 12 announcement, Sirosh described the big-data-crunching software "as a broadly deployable enterprise-class analytics platform based on R that is supported, scalable and secure. Supporting a variety of big data statistics, predictive modeling and machine learning capabilities, R Server supports the full range of analytics—exploration, analysis, visualization and modeling."

For enterprises, Microsoft intends for the software to serve as the one big data tool to rule them all. Microsoft R Server's multiplatform support allows its "enterprise customers to standardize advanced analytics on one core tool, regardless of whether they are using Hadoop (Hortonworks, Cloudera and MapR), Linux (Red Hat and SUSE) or Teradata," said Sirosh.

"By using and extending open source R, Microsoft R Server is fully compatible with R scripts, functions and CRAN packages, to analyze data at enterprise scale," he continued. "It also addresses the in-memory limitations of open source R by adding parallel and chunked processing of data in Microsoft R Server, enabling users to run analytics on data much bigger than what fits in main memory."

Microsoft R Server will also be featured in the upcoming release of SQL Server 2016, under the guise of SQL Server R Services. The bundled offering will cost less than the stand-alone Revolution R Enterprise product. The Windows version of Revolution R Enterprise will be available as stand-alone software until SQL Server 2016 officially launches, said Sirosh.

A Developer Edition of Microsoft R Server, "with all the features of the commercial version," will be available to coders as a free download. It will also be included in the Microsoft Data Science Virtual Machine, a Windows Server 2012-based virtual machine that includes tools for data scientists and developers.

Microsoft is also making Microsoft R Server available free for students under the company's DreamSpark technology in education program. "Providing even more students with access to Microsoft R Server is a pretty big deal," wrote Microsoft Program Manager Joseph Rickert in a blog post. "Microsoft R Server extends the reach of R into big data, distributed processing environments by providing a framework for manipulating large data sets [a chunk at a] time so that all of the data being analyzed does not have to simultaneously fit into memory."

Finally, Microsoft reiterated its support for open-source R and pledged that the company would issue regular updates to Microsoft R Open, formerly Revolution R Open. "Microsoft R Open is 100% compatible with all R scripts and packages, and just like R is open source and free to download, use and share," Sirosh reminded.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...