KDnuggets : News : 2009 : n02 : item34 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >

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Subject: Data Analysts Captivated by Rís Power

By ASHLEE VANCE, New York Times, January 6, 2009

To some people R is just the 18th letter of the alphabet. To others, itís the rating on racy movies, a measure of an atticís insulation or what pirates in movies say.

R is also the name of a popular programming language used by a growing number of data analysts inside corporations and academia. It is becoming their lingua franca partly because data mining has entered a golden age, whether being used to set ad prices, find new drugs more quickly or fine-tune financial models. Companies as diverse as Google, Pfizer, Merck, Bank of America, the InterContinental Hotels Group and Shell use it.

But R has also quickly found a following because statisticians, engineers and scientists without computer programming skills find it easy to use.

"R is really important to the point that itís hard to overvalue it," said Daryl Pregibon, a research scientist at Google, which uses the software widely. "It allows statisticians to do very intricate and complicated analyses without knowing the blood and guts of computing systems."

It is also free. R is an open-source program, and its popularity reflects a shift in the type of software used inside corporations. Open-source software is free for anyone to use and modify. I.B.M., Hewlett-Packard and Dell make billions of dollars a year selling servers that run the open-source Linux operating system, which competes with Windows from Microsoft. Most Web sites are displayed using an open-source application called Apache, and companies increasingly rely on the open-source MySQL database to store their critical information. Many people view the end results of all this technology via the Firefox Web browser, also open-source software.

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KDnuggets : News : 2009 : n02 : item34 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >

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