Microsoft: Adding an R to IoT

Finding a market to build a presence can be hard for any technology company, be it a start up or an established enterprise.  That can certainly be said for Microsoft, which has faced enormous challenges in several markets, ranging from enticing customer to adopt upgrades for its well-known software (like the IE browser) to criticisms of its tactics in constraining software innovation by developers. 

But its connection with enterprise remains one of its best assets, with acquisitions and recent efforts by CEO Satya Nadella, who led Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise division before ascending into the leadership role.  Nadella had seen how attractive the benefits of cloud technology had become for customers and developers, and had encouraged tactics to embrace that interest. 

Thus Microsoft’s launch last month of R Server reflects more than Nadella’s influence. It signals a marketing lesson for established tech companies: develop persistence in servicing your core customers and leveraging technology across platforms to service those customer better.

Microsoft announced a free developer edition of R Server. R Server is the rebranded version of Revolution R Enterprise software, which Microsoft acquired by purchasing the start up Revolution R last year.  The software integrates R into other Microsoft business intelligence packages–SQL Server, Azure, Cortana Analytics, and Power BI.

A Quick Primer on R

R is an open source programming language meant for conducting statistical calculations on data sets.  The analysis of those sets is used to create data structures to be graphed for data visualization. R in its early days was developed with terminals in mind.  That meant having to type code line by line to create the data visualization.  Various graphic user interfaces has been developed over time. The most popular among professionals is R Studio.

R has a specific appeal to marketers. The quality of data marketing faces is increasingly semi-structured data, thanks to sources such as social media, attributes and real-time media sharing.  R integration offers analysts an alternative way to blend data from a range sources and create useful models that correlate it.

R Server also offers a way to process that data faster.  R itself is typically limited by the amount of RAM in the computer on which the data is rendered.  R Server extends the processing capacity, permitting larger data sets to be processed. Combined with R programming’s accommodation for scripting, R Server permits significant automation improvements to support predictive modeling and machine learning. Given that marketing is becoming more influenced by IoT data, faster modeling has a special appeal in an IoT environment.

Microsoft’s introduction of R Server into its enterprise solutions is also an intriguing twist to a long standing quality of R–a lower cost of barrier compared to enterprise solutions. Many surveys indicate that data scientists use R alongside other solutions, so Microsoft may have gained a brilliant advantage by blending R into its BI software.  A vibrant open source community supports R, so not only can marketers gain some technical help where needed, but Microsoft also has a ready forum to spread word of its R integration.

Overall this development means Microsoft is primed to stake its claim among enterprises with BI software that containing the analytic features businesses want.

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