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Microsoft Buying Revolution Analytics For Deeper Data Analysis

Microsoft acquisition of Revolution Analytics, an R-language-focused advanced analytics firm, will bring customers tools for prediction and big-data analytics.

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Microsoft announced Friday that is will close a gap in its data-analysis portfolio by acquiring Revolution Analytics, an eight-year-old vendor that has developed a commercially supported enterprise platform around the open-source R statistical- and predictive-analysis language.

"We're making this acquisition to help more companies use the power of R and data science to unlock big data insights with advanced analytics," wrote Microsoft's Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president, machine learning, in a blog post on Jan. 23.

[ Want more on growing big data capabilities? Read Microsoft Azure Adds NoSQL, Search & HBase Services. ]

SAS is the marketshare leader in advanced analytics, followed by IBM, which acquired SPSS in 2009 in order catch up in that arena. Revolution Analytics was founded in 2007 (as Revolution Computing) to take advantage of the fast-growing open-source R movement. CEO Dave Rich and CTO Greg Todd are veterans of Accenture Analytics, while other leaders joined from SPSS, MathSoft (now part of Tibco), and Netezza (now part of IBM).

Microsoft has deep analytics expertise in its labs and in its cloud and search businesses. There are bits and pieces of advanced analytics capabilities built into Microsoft SQL Server, SQL Server Analysis Services, and SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW). Microsoft also has the Azure Machine Learning Service (Azure ML), introduced last year, but it lacks an advanced analytics workbench product. The acquisition of Revolution Analytics will give Microsoft on-premises tools for data scientists, data miners, and predictive analysts.

"Revolution Analytics provides an enterprise-class platform for the development and deployment of R-based analytic solutions that can scale across large data warehouses and Hadoop systems, and can integrate with enterprise systems," wrote Sirosh.

In a Revolution Analytics blog on the deal, the company's chief community officer, David Smith, defended Microsoft's credibility and support of open-source movements. He also took pains to explain the company's stake in supporting R, listing Xbox online gaming, Bing, Azure, Office, and Azure ML as products and services that make use of the language.

"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," wrote Smith, a veteran of S-Plus. "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."

The companies provided no details on the expected timing of the acquisition, but Microsoft promised more details regarding the ways the company's technology will fit within its portfolio when the transaction closes.

Just 30% of respondents to our new Big Data and Analytics Survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives? Get the The Trouble With Big Data issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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Curt Franklin
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 11:53:53 AM
Re: The most surprising part of the announcement is...
Doug, that's good news for customers. Whenever you hear about any large company "embracing open source" you have to wonder whether they're engaging in the IT version of green-washing. It's always nice to hear that such is not the case!
D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
1/26/2015 | 9:52:16 AM
Re: The most surprising part of the announcement is...
I do think Revolution is a good fit. Microsoft has been using a lot of R internally and most recently it introduced the cloud-based Azure ML service, which makes use of R. What they lacked was a platform and tools for data scientists and statisticians. Revolution represented a buy versus build, so it gets them farther, faster. On open source, Microsoft has been much more open under Nadella. Revolution's blog, linked above, does a lot to explain Microsoft's open source cred.
Curt Franklin
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 9:19:53 AM
The most surprising part of the announcement is...
Doug, do you think that Microsoft saw qualities in Revolution that made the company a particularly good fit, or was it just the first real target of opportunity in the space? And how important do you think the reliance on R is -- do you think Microsoft is really embracing open source or are they holding their corporate nose and accepting it where they have no choice?
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