June 30, 2015

Consortium Makes Business Case For R Language

George Leopold

As more data scientists and researchers embrace the R programming language and statistical computing environment, the Linux Foundation has moved to strengthen the user community and, with it, the development of more business applications through a collaborative development initiative called the R Consortium.

Founding members of the R Consortium include Alteryx, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Mango Solutions, Microsoft, Oracle, RStudio and Tibco Software, the Linux Foundation announced on Tuesday (June 30). Microsoft and RStudio were listed as “platinum” members.

The open source programming language is used by millions of statisticians, analysts and data scientists for data analysis, financial and other types of modeling along with visualization. “The R Consortium will promote the sharing of ideas and accelerate findings that make R even better for business, research and academic purposes.” Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said in a statement.

In a survey of data scientists released last year by the data mining community web site KDNuggets, the R language topped a list of preferred programming and statistical languages. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they are using R. SAS was a distant second at 36.4 percent.

The new consortium will complement the R Foundation, the Austrian-based organization that maintains the programming language. The consortium also will provide funding to support R language services and development, the Linux Foundation said.

The consortium’s structure includes an infrastructure steering committee that will oversee technical decisions along with working group projects. A board of directors will oversee business operations. The consortium also will operate as a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project.

Consortium members said potential projects include efforts to strengthen the R Forge infrastructure, assisting a Stanford University Group running a user group dubbed “useR! 2016,” developing R programming language documentation and generally promoting closer collaboration among R users and developers.

An R user group is meeting this week in Aalborg, Denmark. R language user and application developer conferences are scheduled for September in London and Boston in November.

The consortium said the R language currently supports more than 2 million users as industries such as biotechnology, financial services and academic researchers embrace the open source framework for statistical computing and graphics. The programming language also runs on a variety of computing platforms, proponents note.

Tim Hesterberg, Google’s senior quantitative analysts, said the search giant is using R for a range of projects, including connecting the statistical language to its internal data processing tools.

Meanwhile, Neil Mendelson, Oracle’s vice president for big data and advanced analytics, noted that the R user community is increasingly expanding beyond academic researchers to include enterprise data scientists.

“Data scientists use R to drive business decisions,” added Brian Gentile, general manager of Tibco Analytics. “The community needs the infrastructure in place to accelerate this critical work.”

Other consortium members said the consortium represents the next step in helping businesses leverage the R programming language.

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