Yes, you can run R in the cloud securely

February 20, 2017
By

(This article was first published on Mango Solutions » R Blog, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Once thought of as the ‘little programming language that could’, R has fundamentally transformed the way data scientists and organisations use their data. It gives businesses the power to leverage big data and develop predictive models that enable action, not just reaction.

But R isn’t just another programming language. R is a rich ecosystem of more than 10,000 packages, test data and model evaluations that make powerful predictive analytics possible.

This is good for data scientists in companies innovating on the edge of industries, but it can be bad news for enterprise security. Why? Because R packages contain executable code. And as with all software you download over the internet, you need to be aware of the security risks.

That doesn’t mean you can’t run R in the cloud securely. You can, and you should.

Running R in the cloud is an excellent way to try the software and perform computations on huge datasets, without burdening system administration, buying on-premise compute resources that spend most of their time underused and without exposing your enterprise to security risks.

How to run R in the cloud securely

One way to run R in the cloud securely is by deploying and operationalising your R code on Microsoft R Server.

Microsoft R Server is commercial software package that runs on a range of platforms, offering greater scale and an infrastructure that can handle major workloads, remote access and authenticated connection. It’s the easiest way to build and deploy R-based predictive models securely, reliably and at scale.

As the most powerful enterprise-class analytics platform for R, Microsoft R Server is available in the cloud as R Server on Azure HDInsight, or as preconfigured virtual machines on Azure.

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Using R Server on HDInsight

You can run Microsoft R Server as a service on top of HDInsight, effectively integrating R Server with your HDInsight cluster. This means your R scripts can use Spark and MapReduce to run distributed R computations – all backed by enterprise-grade security and Microsoft’s SLA.

All you need to get started is an Azure subscription and a Secure Shell (SSH) client. You can access a guide to creating a new R Server on HDInsight cluster here.

Using R server on Azure Virtual Machines

If you have an Azure subscription you can easily provision the R Server Virtual Machine either via the Azure Marketplace, or by locating it through the Azure Classic Portal. It’s available as R Server for Windows and R Server for Linux.

These virtual machines enable you to quickly configure a server environment to support R because they’re pre-configured with Microsoft R Server, leveraging the power and scalability of the cloud. With Azure VMs you can also install additional R tools or other development tools.

Another Azure virtual machine – the Microsoft Data Science Virtual Machine – comes pre-configured with R Server and SQL Server R services on Windows. The Developer Edition includes additional data-analysis functions with big-data capabilities, and a web service for integrating your R code into applications.

Why it’s safer to run R in the cloud

Running R in the cloud doesn’t just make sense from a business or process perspective; it makes sense from a security one too.

Azure Virtual Machines, pre-configured with R Server, enable you to deploy R and perform computations in a scalable, agile and – above all – secure way. In fact, running R on an Azure Virtual Machine means you can:

  • Encrypt your data
  • Authenticate access to your code and manage permissions
  • Identify and detect threats in your network
  • Meet all your compliance requirements

Azure’s core security features can be used with virtual machines and protect your work and your data. These features include:

You can also take advantage of Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery to protect your application data and minimise business interruption costs – not to mention all the other security solutions on Azure Marketplace.

Get R up and running in the cloud

If data is the new oil, then the cloud is the new offshore platform. It’s an essential part of your data strategy and gives you the space, the computing power and the tools you need to analyse huge amounts of data.

This is why running R in the cloud makes sense. It’s secure, it’s reliable and most of all it lets you take full advantage of R’s vast capability in a cost-effective way. And if you need help getting started, there’s a community of helpful users and support services at your disposal.

So, what are you waiting for?

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