Microsoft Has Health Care Hopes With Revolution Analytics Buy

Helping businesses profit from their big data with new cloud solutions isn't the only aim behind Microsoft's acquisition of Revolution Analytics.

health care

A month after Microsoft announced that it was acquiring Revolution Analytics, a Mountain View, Calif.-based R programming language specialist, the company is signaling that it is laying the groundwork for health care big data solutions.

The Revolution Analytics deal "has large implications for the healthcare industry," said Tom Lawry, global product strategy lead for Microsoft Health Analytics, in a Feb. 24 blog post. "Healthcare data already accounts for a big portion of the digital universe—and the amount continues to increase by nearly 50 percent a year, according to IDC."

The advent of electronic medical records and the growing popularity of health and fitness trackers—including Microsoft's own Band wearable—are driving demand for IT and cloud computing solutions that not only can handle the vast amounts of data generated by medical systems and devices, but also can leverage that data for better patient outcomes or for helping to prevent diseases and injuries altogether.

"As the volume of health data skyrockets, the industry will need more powerful analytical tools to make data-driven decisions," Lawry added.

Revolution Analytics is a contributor to the open-source R community as well as "the leading commercial provider of software and services based on the 'R' statistical computing language," noted Lawry. The technology, used in data analytics, machine learning and data visualization "is backed by a thriving community of more than 2 million users, making it one of the most widely used statistical programming languages worldwide."

Already, Revolution's R-based offerings are being used by health care companies to solve medical mysteries.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based CardioDX, for example, is using the Revolution R platform "to analyze complex clinical data from thousands of patients, helping doctors to determine the likelihood their patients have obstructive coronary artery disease," Lawry informed. The State University of New York at Buffalo is using the company's technology "to analyze numerous genetic and environmental factors that predispose people to developing MS [multiple sclerosis]."

Businesses, medical researchers and health care companies aren't the only ones that can potentially benefit from Microsoft's move to snap up Revolution Analytics. The open-source community stands to gain from the deal, assert the companies.

David Smith, vice president of marketing and community for Revolution Analytics, said in a Jan. 23 announcement that "Microsoft might seem like a strange bedfellow for an open-source company, but the company continues to make great strides in the open-source arena recently," before offering the software giant's recently open-sourced .NET Core framework and over 1,600 open-source projects backed by Redmond. Smith also argued that "the big-company resources of Microsoft will allow us to invest even more in the R Project and the Revolution R products."

Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of machine learning at Microsoft, echoed the sentiment in a separate Jan. 23 statement. Microsoft is "excited to help foster the open source evolution of R and, particularly, the community of people that drives that evolution," he said. "We will continue to support and evolve both open source and commercial distributions of Revolution R across multiple operating systems."

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...