Microsoft To Acquire R Technology Developer Revolution Analytics

Microsoft has struck a deal to acquire Revolution Analytics, a commercial provider of software and services for R, the open-source programming language for developing statistical analysis and predictive analytics applications.

For Microsoft, the acquisition adds another technology to its growing portfolio of products that help businesses work with big data. It also provides more evidence that Microsoft, under CEO Satya Nadella, is shedding its Windows-centric view of the IT world and embracing technologies -- even open-source ones -- from outside the company.

Microsoft did not disclose how much it is paying for Revolution Analytics or say when it expects to complete the acquisition.

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R is a popular programming language used by statisticians and developers of predictive analytical applications that mine big data for insights or predict probable outcomes, such as determining the right product to offer a consumer on a retail website. Many R applications run on Hadoop, the open-source big data platform, or next-generation NoSQL databases like MongoDB, DataStax or CouchDB.

"As their volumes of data continually grow, organizations of all kinds around the world -- financial, manufacturing, health care, retail, research -- need powerful analytical models to make data-driven decisions," said Joseph Sirosh, Microsoft corporate vice president of machine learning, in a blog post.

"This requires high-performance computation that is 'close' to the data and scales with the business' needs over time. At the same time, companies need to reduce the data science and analytics skills gap inside their organizations so more employees can use and benefit from R. This acquisition is part of our effort to address these customer needs," he said.

Revolution Analytics, founded in 2007 and based in Mountain View, Calif., provides a commercial version of the open-source R language, R development tools, analytical software, and other technologies, consulting, training and other services. The company had raised $38.7 million in five rounds of venture financing.

The R community is estimated to number more than two million users.

At first glance, Revolution Analytics would seem like an odd acquisition for Microsoft, a point noted in a blog by David Smith, chief community officer at Revolution Analytics.

"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," he said, pointing to Microsoft's embrace of Linux as a fully supported operating system on its Azure cloud service, as well as its decision in November to release its server-side .NET stack as an open-source technology.

Smith, in his blog, promised "nothing much will change" with the acquisition.

"We're excited the work we've done with Revolution R will come to a wider audience through Microsoft," Smith said. "Our combined teams will be able to help more users use advanced analytics within Microsoft data platform solutions, both on-premises and in the cloud, with Microsoft Azure. And just as importantly, the big-company resources of Microsoft will allow us to invest even more in the R Project and the Revolution R products. We will continue to sponsor local R user groups and R events, and expand our support for community initiatives."

Microsoft customers will be able to use Revolution Analytics' advanced analytics products within Microsoft on-premises data platforms, on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform and in hybrid cloud environments, Sirosh said.

He also pledged to "foster the open-source evolution of R" and its community, as the vendor has with several Apache Hadoop development projects, and support both commercial and open-source distributions of Revolution R across multiple operating systems.