RStudio have recently announced ‘RStudio Connect QuickStart’ which is a VM containing a full suite of RStudio’s pro tools, available to be trialled for a 45 day period. RStudio Connect Quickstart allows R users and people exploring the idea of using R in production, a quick and easy way to set-up a full, production-like environment that contains all of RStudio’s enterprise-grade products.
In essence, RStudio Connect quickstart is a virtual machine appliance that when used with your favourite virtualisation software (Virtualbox,VMWare etc) will create a ready to use environment containing the following tools;
- RStudio Server Pro
- RStudio Connect
- RStudio Package Manager
- Webmail (for checking emails from RStudio Connect)
This means tools like RStudio Connect, which is professional software that runs on Linux servers behind a company firewall, can now be set-up locally on a users machine within a matter of minutes. This means the user is able to get a feel for the products and experiment with their functionality. This includes things like: hosting Shiny applications, scheduling and distributing R Markdown documents, and exposing R functions as APIs.
Using RStudio Connect Quickstart
Using RStudio Connect Quickstart is relatively straightforward. Once you have downloaded the Quickstart virtual appliance from here, you then need to import this into VirtualBox or other similar virtualisation product. No further configuration is needed from this point and the virtual machine should start straight up. (Running the Virtual Machine in headless mode is recommended which will start up the environment, without displaying an ugly terminal screen on your desktop.)
Once the Virtual Machine has fully booted, navigating over to http://localhost:5000 on your desktop’s web browser will present you with a welcome page with links to RStudio Connect, RStudio Server Pro, Package Manager and the webmail client.
Creating and Deploying a Shiny app
Creating and deploying a shiny app in QuickStart is really efficient and easy. In this case, I have created some basic charts that I would like to deploy on to RStudio connect. To do this I just press the publish button, specify the URL of RStudio Connect, which in this case is http://localhost:5000/rsconnect (ensure you specify http and not https!).
The Shiny app is now deployed to RStudio Connect and is automatically opened for me to view in a separate browser window.
Old Faithful Geyser Data
Here you can see that I have deployed the default ‘Old Faithful Geyser Data’ app onto RStudio Connect directly from the RStudio Server IDE. Now that my Shiny app has been deployed into RStudio Connect, I can set who can and can’t view it as well as customise performance related settings in the ‘Runtime’ menu to the right.
Publishing an R Markdown Document
In the same way we can deploy Shiny apps, we can also publish R markdown documents. The great thing about RStudio Connect is that we can set a schedule in which we would like the knitted R markdown document to get emailed out on, as well as access it directly from the Connect UI.
In my case, I would like mine to be knitted and emailed to my colleagues every Friday evening. To do this I just need to go into the ‘Schedule’ menu, pick a date and a time that I would like this to go out, and then save the changes. Now my knitted R markdown document will get sent out to the recipients that I specified, every Friday evening.
The wide range of uses and functions the RStudio Connect Quickstart offering provides is perfect for testing, trialling, or just getting to know the superb range of products that RStudio offers. I would encourage everyone to give it a go and have a play around with some of the features it provides, In particular, RStudio Connect and the newest RStudio product family member, RStudio Package Manager. RStudio Package Manager helps you, your team, department or company centralize and organise your R packages which is ideal for environments where connectivity to resources outside of your company network is restricted or blocked.
For more details on using RStudio Connect QuickStart see https://www.rstudio.com/products/quickstart/.