March 5, 2012

A Revolution for Open Source Big Data

Nicole Hemsoth

Earlier last month, Revolution Analytics appointed Accenture Analytics veteran, David Rich, as CEO. At the time of the handover, the company’s then CEO, Norma Nie said that Rich, “anticipated the challenges that enterprises would face from the rise of big data, authored the product road map and brokered the technology partnerships that now enable Revolution Analytics to provide orders of magnitude improvement over legacy products in speed, data capacity and price performance.”

This week during an interview, David Rich shed light on his future at the helm of Revolution Analytics. He provided a sense of what the company faces as the world of analytics gains unprecedented levels of attention—and how his company can make that “little” open source statistical language “R” soar.

Rich considers Revolution Analytics to be the “Red Hat of the R Language” pointing to the same trajectory Red Hat followed with Linux. As he stated of the company’s open source future, “when Oracle recently announced that they’re standardizing on R, we actually thought that was a great thing. The same thing happened with Linux, think about what happened a decade or so ago with Linux, it was sort of similar, the legacy customers were tired of paying the high license fees and so they put Red Hat in business.”

As Rich noted this week, Revolution Analytics is poised to see some major growth in coming years. He said that the open source language is finding new homes in the enterprise thanks to his company. As he described it, in the advanced analytics world there have basically been two major programming languages…. Think of it like COBOL back in the mainframe days, SAS and SPSS.

Just as in these cases, a community came along, mostly academics to start, but still, an open source community that created a language called R. Rich says that as an “old timer” it reminds him of the promise of object-oriented programming, which is a lot easier to do and take advantage of lots of things. As he put it, “So now, if you go on campus and if you ask anybody what they’re doing problems and stats and any other course that they have, it’s in R. So there’s now a third language emerging on the scene and it does remind me of the shift from COBOL to C++ and we’ve seen the movie before in other types of IT technology and I think this is where we are.

Selling support services as a model is the underpinning for any number of “big data” players now, especially those riding the Hadoop coat tails. He said that this model is certainly sustainable, “as long as there’s technology and new technology, there will be technology consulting and associated services.”

Rich thinks there’s an opportunity to take things one step further via what he calls “knowledge process outsourcing.” According to Revolution’s CEO, this is the next big new thing that follows after business process outsourcing.

As he told Silicon Angle, “If you think about what the potential of the having data, having the ability to quickly sift through it and more importantly having data scientists (which are hard to come by, by the way) and then marrying that with good business people to come up with good insights. I think you are going to see a whole range of businesses, let me be illustrative, people doing fraud as a service, or people doing customer acquisition retention as a service, and be a much more outcomes based, much more reliant on a platform, and reliant on data and marrying that with a services capability.”

He says that the commercial relation with the client would be a gain sharing type model, and that will totally disrupt the typical type of materials, services and consulting business profound ways. ; As Rich put it, “that’s the next new convergence, people with data, people with platforms, people with business insights, bringing that together and to form an integrated service will be the key next wave.”

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