Microsoft released “Microsoft R Server” last week. It’s very difficult for me to explain what R Server is, because I’m not sure exactly what it is and isn’t — mostly because the documentation I’ve been able to find has been bloated with marketing-speak.
Here’s what I think Microsoft R Server is. R is an open source language and large library that can perform a wide range of classical statistics techniques. R is often used interactively by typing commands in a shell, but you can write R scripts too.
A company called Revolution Analytics was created in 2007 to wrap the free R language in value-add stuff so they could charge users money for something that’s free. At some point, the company released Revolution R which essentially put the R language inside the Visual Studio IDE tool.
Then in January 2015, Microsoft bought this company that sells technology you can get for free. The name was changed to Microsoft R.
Then, last week, in January 2016, Microsoft R Server was announced. As far as I can tell, Microsoft R Server continues down the path of adding extra stuff to the free R so that companies can be charged money. The current value-add, again, as far as I can tell by wading through the marketing verbiage, is improved performance (OK, that’s nice) and connections to huge data storage capabilities in Microsoft Azure (that’s very nice) — that you have to pay for (OK, not so nice).
When I went to download and install Microsoft R Server, the documentation was atrocious. Too much blah blah blah. As a developer, I want a one-page Quick Start document so I can install and evaluate the technology myself, rather than be assaulted by annoying marketing text like, “Microsoft R Server is your flexible choice for analyzing data at scale, building intelligent apps, and discovering valuable insights across your business.” Seriously? I found a “Getting Started” PDF, opened it up — and it was 66 pages long. Seriously?
After I finally installed Microsoft R Server, I coded up a custom neural network in R to try things out. It was quite nice. I like it. Thumbs up.
As you can tell, I like R a lot. But I don’t like intrusive marketing messaging when I’m trying to install and understand a new product or technology.