Is Python going to be better than R for Big Data Analytics and Data Science? #rstats #python

Uptil now the R ecosystem of package developers has mostly shrugged away the Big Data question. In   a fascinating insight Hadley Wickham said this in a recent interview- shockingly it mimicks the FUD you know who has been accused of ( source

5. How do you respond when you hear the phrase ‘big data’? Big data is extremely overhyped and not terribly well defined. Many people think they have big data, when they actually don’t.

I think there are two particularly important transition points:

* From in-memory to disk. If your data fits in memory, it’s small data. And these days you can get 1 TB of ram, so even small data is big!

* From one computer to many computers.

R is a fantastic environment for the rapid exploration of in-memory data, but there’s no elegant way to scale it to much larger datasets. Hadoop works well when you have thousands of computers, but is incredible slow on just one machine. Fortunately, I don’t think one system needs to solve all big data problems.

To me there are three main classes of problem:

1. Big data problems that are actually small data problems, once you have the right subset/sample/summary.

2. Big data problems that are actually lots and lots of small data problems

3. Finally, there are irretrievably big problems where you do need all the data, perhaps because you fitting a complex model. An example of this type of problem is recommender systems

Ajay- One of the reasons of non development of R Big Data packages is- it takes money. The private sector in R ecosystem is a duopoly ( Revolution Analytics ( acquired by Microsoft) and RStudio (created by Microsoft Alum JJ Allaire). Since RStudio actively tries as a company to NOT step into areas Revolution Analytics works in- it has not ventured into Big Data in my opinion for strategic reasons.

Revolution Analytics project on RHadoop is actually just one consultant working on it here and it has not been updated since six months

We interviewed the creator of R Hadoop here

However Python developers have been trying to actually develop systems for Big Data actively. The Hadoop ecosystem and the Python ecosystem are much more FOSS friendly even in enterprise solutions.

This is where Python is innovating over R in Big Data-

  • Blaze: Translates NumPy/Pandas-like syntax to systems like databases.

    Blaze presents a pleasant and familiar interface to us regardless of what computational solution or database we use. It mediates our interaction with files, data structures, and databases, optimizing and translating our query as appropriate to provide a smooth and interactive session.

  • Odo: Migrates data between formats.

    Odo moves data between formats (CSV, JSON, databases) and locations (local, remote, HDFS) efficiently and robustly with a dead-simple interface by leveraging a sophisticated and extensible network of conversions.

    odo takes two arguments, a target and a source for a data transfer.

    >>> from odo import odo
    >>> odo(source, target)  # load source into target 
  • Dask.array: Multi-core / on-disk NumPy arrays

    Dask.arrays provide blocked algorithms on top of NumPy to handle larger-than-memory arrays and to leverage multiple cores. They are a drop-in replacement for a commonly used subset of NumPy algorithms.

  • DyND: In-memory dynamic arrays

    DyND is a dynamic ND-array library like NumPy. It supports variable length strings, ragged arrays, and GPUs. It is a standalone C++ codebase with Python bindings. Generally it is more extensible than NumPy but also less mature.

    The core DyND developer team consists of Mark Wiebe and Irwin Zaid. Much of the funding that made this project possible came through Continuum Analytics and DARPA-BAA-12-38, part of XDATA.

    LibDyND, a component of the Blaze project, is a C++ library for dynamic, multidimensional arrays. It is inspired by NumPy, the Python array programming library at the core of the scientific Python stack, but tries to address a number of obstacles encountered by some of its users. Examples of this are support for variable-sized string and ragged array types. The library is in a preview development state, and can be thought of as a sandbox where features are being tried and tweaked to gain experience with them.

    C++ is a first-class target of the library, the intent is that all its features should be easily usable in the language. This has many benefits, such as that development within LibDyND using its own components is more natural than in a library designed primarily for embedding in another language.

    This library is being actively developed together with its Python bindings,

On a single machine dask increases the scale of comfortable data from fits-in-memory to fits-on-diskby intelligently streaming data from disk and by leveraging all the cores of a modern CPU.

Users interact with dask either by making graphs directly or through the dask collections which provide larger-than-memory counterparts to existing popular libraries:

  • dask.array = numpy + threading
  • dask.bag = map, filter, toolz + multiprocessing
  • dask.dataframe = pandas + threading

Dask primarily targets parallel computations that run on a single machine. It integrates nicely with the existing PyData ecosystem and is trivial to setup and use:

conda install dask
pip install dask

When open source fights- closed source wins. When the Jedi fight the Sith Lords will win

So will R people rise to the Big Data challenge or will they bury their heads in sands like an ostrich or a kiwi. Will Python people learn from R design philosophies and try and incorporate more of it without redesigning the wheel

Converting code from one language to another automatically?

How I wish there was some kind of automated conversion tool – that would convert a CRAN R package into a standard Python package which is pip installable

Machine learning for more machine learning anyone?

The Amazing Watson makes Data Science so elementary

I got the email from IBM saying try out Watson, yada yada yada. I was not so sure what to expect. So i uploaded the diamonds dataset from the flagbearer ggplot2 package in R.

Simple benchmark- can IBM Watson data viz beat the best data viz package (ggplot2) in the best statistical language (R)

To my chagrin and humility- here are the results

Interface is awesome

Watson actually asks questions which an experienced Data Scientist would ask

The default data visualization is actually superior but the tabs for customizing appearance needs some work.


Just uploaded the dataset and these were some of the questions asked by Watson to me.

Screenshot from 2015-07-16 00:25:30



Screenshot from 2015-07-16 00:25:07Step 2

Look at how Watson answers one of these questions

Screenshot from 2015-07-16 00:17:40

Screenshot from 2015-07-16 00:16:29

Screenshot from 2015-07-16 00:15:43



Screenshot from 2015-07-16 00:32:49Step 3

I added human input(me) to try and customize it

Screenshot from 2015-07-16 00:33:12


Screenshot from 2015-07-16 00:33:25

SAS for R Users

I recently managed to get a copy of SAS University Edition.  Screenshot from 2015-03-04 19:54:34

1) Here were some problems I had to resolve- The download size is 1.5 gb of a zipped file ( a virtual machine image). Since I have a internet broadband based in India it led to many failed attempts before I could get it. The unzipped file is almost 3.5 gb. You can get the download file here

Secondly the hardware needed is 64 bit, so I basically upgraded my Dell Computer. This was a useful upgrade for me anyway.

2) You can get an Internet Download Manager to resume downloading in case your Internet connection has issues downloading a 1.5 gb file in one go. For Linux you can see

and for Windows


3) I chose VM Player for Linux because I am much more comfortable with VM Player ( Desktop free version). I got that from here ~200 MB

Screenshot from 2015-03-04 19:39:17

4) Finally I installed VM Player and Open an Existing Virtual Machine to boot up SAS University Edition  Screenshot from 2015-03-04 19:43:08























I was able to open the SAS Studio at the IP Address provided.

Screenshot from 2015-03-04 21:52:32
















I downloaded a   Dataset from this collection here


6) Then I uploaded it to within the SAS Studio System

Screenshot from 2015-02-28 17:06:34Screenshot from 2015-03-03 12:29:07

7) Lastly I was able to run some basic commandsScreenshot from 2015-03-03 12:27:48

Screenshot from 2015-03-04 21:54:06

I was really impressed by the enhancements made to the interface, the ability to search command help through a drop down, the color coded editor and of course the case insensitive SAS language (though I am not a fan of the semi colon I loved using Ctrl + / for easy commenting and uncommenting)

  1. For a SAS turned R turned SAS coder- here are some views
  2. SAS has different windows for coding, log and output. R generally has one
  3. SAS is case insensitive while R is case sensitive. This is a blessing especially for variable and dataset names.
  4. SAS deals with Datasets than can be considered the same as Rs Data Frame.
  5. R’s flexibility in data types is not really comparable to SAS as it is quite fast enough.
  6. SAS has a Macro Language for repeatable tasks
  7. SQL is embedded within SAS as Proc SQL and in R through sqldf package
  8. You have to pay for each upgrade in SAS ecosystem. I am not clear on the transparent pricing, which components does what and whether they have a cloud option for renting by the hour. How about one web page that lists product description and price.
  9. SAS University Edition is a OS agnostic tool, for that itself it is quite impressive compared to say Academic Edition of Revolution Analytics.
  10. R is object oriented and uses [] and $ notation for sub objects. SAS is divided into two main parts- data and proc steps, and uses the . notation and var system
  11. SAS language has a few basic procs but many many options.
  12. How good a SAS coder you are often depends on what you can do in data manipulation in SAS Data Step
  13. Graphics is still better in R ggplot. But the SAS speed is thrilling.
  14. RAM is limited in the University Edition to 1 GB but I found that still quite fast. However I can upload only a 10 mb file to the SAS Studio for University Edition which I found reasonable for teaching purposes.