Sorry, you said you want a stats revolution?

February 23, 2009

(This article was first published on Decision Science News » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)



Decision Science News was intrigued by a company called REvolution Computing that got some attention of late for spinning their own mix of the R language for statistical computing and giving it away for free. So DSN asked to interview them to see what it’s all about

Decision Science News: So who are you guys and what is your scientific background?

REvolution: Well, at this point our team has grown and we have about 30 employees with diverse backgrounds, from bioinformatics to finance to core statistics and software engineering. However when we got started with REvolution, we were a group that had tremendous experience with high performance computing and building production software. Our first application with R was something called ParallelR , which enables users of R to seamlessly benefit from optimized performance by automatically running on multiple cores, servers, and clusters (we even have a cloud-based deployment). Our team today is a combination of employees and an extended community, from R community participants, to package developers, to researchers and related consultants.

Decision Science News: how did you get started working with R professionally?

REvolution: Traditionally our customers came to us for parallel computing solutions based in languages like C, Fortran, or Java. More and more we started to see pull from our customers toward scripting languages, and R in particular. Some of our pharma partners particularly were compelled by the proposition of optimizing the performance of R, and many of our first references are related to those applications (gene expression, classification, etc. [case study])

Decision Science News: What’s so great about your R compared to the regular download?

REvolution: Well, we’re not competing with the “regular” download – we actively collaborate with the core team, and utilize the codebase. What we have done is on several fronts. First, we have added capability and functionality related to optimization and high performance. Second, we are adding specific support for the 64-bit Windows platforms (and other more obscure OS distributions). Third, we are actively working on an IDE, large data handling, and other interesting capabilities (stay tuned!).

In addition to these aspects, we have packaged REvolution R into a commercially supported distribution around which we also provide training and consulting services. It’s a fully supported product in the same spirit as, say, RedHat Linux.

Decision Science News: Is there any risk that getting ‘locked in’ to your distribution of R? What if your distribution goes away, will our code still run on vanilla R?

REvolution: We prefer to say “mandatory customer loyalty” than lock-in. (KIDDING!) Of course, “open source” is a big part of “commercial open source,” and users of REvolution R can run their codebase on vanilla R.

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