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Microsoft buys itself an analytical Revolution…

Posted on: February 17, 2015

Microsoft buys itself an analytical Revolution, jumps to the front of open source enterprise analytics.

The recent acquisition of Revolution Analytics by Microsoft Corporation surprised many people in the analytics industry. What is the biggest name in packaged licensed enterprise software doing with buying the biggest name in enterprise analytics software for the most widely used open source language for analytics on the planet?

Some facts, Microsoft has partnered with Revolution Analytics for many years. The company was earlier named Revolution Computing and founded in 2007. In fact, founding CEO, Richard Schulz had said in an Jan 31 2009 interview with this author:
As to R and Windows, two things are worth noting:

  1. Microsoft has moved rapidly to embrace R and REvolution for that matter.
  2. Windows is still the predominant operating system in large commercial enterprises.
 
Norman Nie served as CEO of Revolution Analytics from 2009 to 2012. Revolution Computing was then renamed Revolution Analytics. They let go many people in 2010. Revolution also announced it had received additional funding of $9 million from North Bridge Venture Partners and Intel Capital. Overall the company received $38 million in funding as per Crunchbase. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/revolution-computing
 
The match for Microsoft and Revolution makes sense given Microsoft’s decision to open source .NET and its including R for machine learning as a service in Azure. (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-in/documentation/articles/machine-learning-r-csharp-web-service-examples/ )
 
Given this, the fact remains that other leading vendors of R based products, RStudio , works closely with Revolution Analytics. RStudio  was also founded by a Microsoft Alumnus, JJ Allaire (http://decisionstats.com/2012/01/25/interview-jj-allaire-founder-rstudio/). Microsoft has effectively stolen the lead from Oracle (which has its own version of R), SAP that works with R with HANA, and TIBCO.
 
Customers can expect better usage between R and SQL Server, Azure, and of course Microsoft Excel. SAS Institute can expect more competition. This can even have a spillover effect for other analytics startups. Revolution Analytics can expect a huge number of enterprise customers to pitch Revolution R  and a very big marketing and sales team and budget.
 
Microsoft Excel remains the most widely used underpowered statistical software in the world and more tie-ins to R can help increase its computing power.  The integration with SQL Server Analytics can help further streamline that product line for Microsoft. As for Azure based cloud analytics, these are the early days but we can expect more traction there as well. Overall people with R expertise or usage can only hope to gain.
 
The open source community will be closely watching though and any effort to appropriate its work can lead to incidents similar to the Open Office fiasco that Oracle had with Libre Office.
 
With this bold move, it seems the Ballmer era is finally over and Microsoft is finally in a new age of analytics. An analytics revolution is coming our way and it will be powered by the largest enterprise software company in the world.
 
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