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Below an interview with Jeroen Ooms, a pioneer in R and web development. Jeroen contributes to R by developing packages and web applications for multiple projects.
Ajay- What are you working on these days?
Jeroen- My research revolves around challenges and opportunities of using R in embedded applications and scalable systems. After developing numerous web applications, I started the OpenCPU project about 1.5 year ago, as a first attempt at a complete framework for proper integration of R in web services. As I work on this, I run into challenges that shape my research, and sometimes become projects in their own. For example, the RAppArmor package provides the security framework for OpenCPU, but can be used for other purposes as well. RAppArmor interfaces to some methods in the Linux kernel, related to setting security and resource limits. The github page contains the source code, installation instructions, video demo’s, and a draft of a paper for the journal of statistical software. Another example of a problem that appeared in OpenCPU is that applications that used to work were breaking unexpectedly later on due to changes in dependency packages on CRAN. This is actually a general problem that affects almost all R users, as it compromises reliability of CRAN packages and reproducibility of results. In a paper (forthcoming in The R Journal), this problem is discussed in more detail and directions for improvement are suggested. A preprint of the paper is available on arXiv: http://arxiv.org/abs/1303.2140.
I am also working on software not directly related to R. For example, in project Mobilize we teach high school students in Los Angeles the basics of collecting and analyzing data. They use mobile devices to upload surveys with questions, photos, gps, etc using the ohmage software. Within Mobilize and Ohmage, I am in charge of developing web applications that help students to visualize the data they collaboratively collected. One public demo with actual data collected by students about snacking behavior is available at: http://jeroenooms.github.com/snack. The application allows students to explore their data, by filtering, zooming, browsing, comparing etc. It helps students and teachers to access and learn from their data, without complicated tools or programming. This approach would easily generalize to other fields, like medical data or BI. The great thing about this application is that it is fully client side; the backend is simply a CSV file. So it is very easy to deploy and maintain.
Ajay-What’s your take on difference between OpenCPU and RevoDeployR ?
Jeroen- RevoDeployR and OpenCPU both provide a system for development of R web applications, but in a fairly different context. OpenCPU is open source and written completely in R, whereas RevoDeployR is proprietary and written in Java. I think Revolution focusses more on a complete solution in a corporate environment. It integrates with the Revolution Enterprise suite and their other big data products, and has built-in functionality for authentication, managing privileges, server administration, support for MS Windows, etc. OpenCPU on the other hand is much smaller and should be seen as just a computational backend, analogous to a database backend. It exposes a clean HTTP api to call R functions to be embedded in larger systems, but is not a complete end-product in itself.
OpenCPU is designed to make it easy for a statistician to expose statistical functionality that will used by web developers that do not need to understand or learn R. One interesting example is how we use OpenCPU inside OpenMHealth, a project that designs an architecture for mobile applications in the health domain. Part of the architecture are so called “Data Processing Units”, aka DPU’s. These are simple, modular I/O units that do various sorts of data processing, similar to unix tools, but then over HTTPS. For example, the mobility dpu is used to calculate distances between gps coordinates via a simple http call, which OpenCPU maps to the corresponding R function implementing the harversine formula.
Ajay- What are your views on Shiny by RStudio?
Jeroen- RStudio seems very promising. Like Revolution, they deliver a more full featured product than any of my projects. However, RStudio is completely open source, which is great because it allows anyone to leverage the software and make it part of their projects. I think this is one of the reasons why the product has gotten a lot of traction in the community, which has in turn provided RStudio with great feedback to further improve the product. It illustrates how open source can be a win-win situation. I am currently developing a package to run OpenCPU inside RStudio, which will make developing and running OpenCPU apps much easier.
Ajay- Are you still developing excellent RApache web apps (which IMHO could be used for visualization like business intelligence tools?)
Jeroen- The OpenCPU framework was a result of those webapps (including ggplot2 for graphical exploratory analysis, lme4 for online random effects modeling, stockplot for stock predictions and irttool.com, an R web application for online IRT analysis). I started developing some of those apps a couple of years ago, and realized that I was repeating a large share of the infrastructure for each application. Based on those experiences I extracted a general purpose framework. Once the framework is done, I’ll go back to developing applications
Ajay- You have helped build web apps, openCPU, RAppArmor, Ohmage , Snack , mobility apps .What’s your thesis topic on?
Jeroen- My thesis revolves around all of the technical and social challenges of moving statistical computing beyond the academic and private labs, into more public, accessible and social places. Currently statistics is still done to mostly manually by specialists using software to load data, perform some analysis, and produce results that end up in a report or presentation. There are great opportunities to leverage the open source analysis and visualization methods that R has to offer as part of open source stacks, services, systems and applications. However, several problems need to be addressed before this can actually be put in production. I hope my doctoral research will contribute to taking a step in that direction.
Ajay- R is RAM constrained but the cloud offers lots of RAM. Do you see R increasing in usage on the cloud? why or why not?
Jeroen- Statistical computing can greatly benefit from the resources that the cloud has to offer. Software like OpenCPU, RStudio, Shiny and RevoDeployR all provide some approach of moving computation to centralized servers. This is only the beginning. Statisticians, researchers and analysts will continue to increasingly share and publish data, code and results on social cloud-based computing platforms. This will address some of the hardware challenges, but also contribute towards reproducible research and further socialize data analysis, i.e. improve learning, collaboration and integration.
Ajay- Describe how you started using R. What are some of the benefits you noticed on moving to R?
Jeff- I began using R in an internship while working on my undergraduate degree. I was provided with some unformatted R code and asked to modularize the code then wrap it up into an R package for distribution alongside a publication.
To be honest, as a Computer Science student with training more heavily emphasizing the big high-level languages, R took some getting used to for me. It wasn’t until after I concluded that initial project and began using R to do my own data analysis that I began to realize its potential and value. It was the first scripting language which really made interactive use appealing to me — the experience of exploring a dataset in R was unlike anything (more…)
Message from Winston Cheng of R Studio.
Here is a brief interview with Alvaro Tejada Galindo aka Blag who is a developer working with SAP Hana and R at SAP Labs, Montreal. SAP Hana is SAP’s latest offering in BI , it’s also a database and a computing environment , and using R and HANA together on the cloud can give major productivity gains in terms of both speed and analytical ability, as per preliminary use cases.
Ajay- What made the R language a fit for SAP HANA. Did you consider other languages? What is your view on Julia/Python/SPSS/SAS/Matlab languages
Blag- I think “R” is a must for SAP HANA. As the fastest database in the market, we needed a language that could help us shape the data in the best possible way. “R” filled that purpose very well. Right now, “R” is not the only language as “L” can be used as well (http://wiki.tcl.tk/17068) …not forgetting “SQLScript” which is our own version of SQL (http://goo.gl/x3bwh) . I have to admit that I tried Julia, but couldn’t manage to make it work. Regarding Python, it’s an interesting question as I’m going to blog about Python and SAP HANA soon. About Matlab, SPSS and SAS I haven’t used them, so I got nothing to say there.
Ajay- What is your view on some of the limitations of R that can be overcome with using it with SAP HANA.
Blag- I think mostly the ability of SAP HANA to work with big data. Again, SAP HANA and “R” can work very nicely together and achieve things that weren’t possible before.
Ajay- Have you considered other vendors of R including working with RStudio, Revolution Analytics, and even Oracle R Enterprise.
Blag- I’m not really part of the SAP HANA or the R groups inside SAP, so I can’t really comment on that. I can only say that I use RStudio every time I need to do something with R. Regarding Oracle…I don’t think so…but they can use any of our products whenever they want.
Ajay- Do you have a case study on an actual usage of R with SAP HANA that led to great results.
Blag- Right now the use of “R” and SAP HANA is very preliminary, I don’t think many people has start working on it…but as an example that it works, you can check this awesome blog entry from my friend Jitender Aswani “Big Data, R and HANA: Analyze 200 Million Data Points and Later Visualize Using Google Maps “ (http://allthingsr.blogspot.com/#!/2012/04/big-data-r-and-hana-analyze-200-million.html)
Ajay- Does your group in SAP plan to give to the R ecosystem by attending conferences like UseR 2012, sponsoring meets, or package development etc
Blag- My group is in charge of everything developers, so sure, we’re planning to get more in touch with R developers and their ecosystem. Not sure how we’re going to deal with it, but at least I’m going to get myself involved in the Montreal R Group.
|Name:||Alvaro Tejada Galindo|
|Company:||SAP Canada Labs-Montreal|
|Instant Messaging Type:|
|Instant Messaging ID:||Blag|
|Professional Blog URL:||http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/weblogs?blog=/pub/u/252210910|
|My Relation to SAP:||employee|
|Short Bio:||Development Expert for the Technology Innovation and Developer Experience team.Used to be an ABAP Consultant for the last 11 years. Addicted to programming since 1997.|
SAP HANA is SAP AG’s implementation of in-memory database technology. There are four components within the software group:
- SAP HANA DB (or HANA DB) refers to the database technology itself,
- SAP HANA Studio refers to the suite of tools provided by SAP for modeling,
- SAP HANA Appliance refers to HANA DB as delivered on partner certified hardware (see below) as anappliance. It also includes the modeling tools from HANA Studio as well replication and data transformation tools to move data into HANA DB,
- SAP HANA Application Cloud refers to the cloud based infrastructure for delivery of applications (typically existing SAP applications rewritten to run on HANA).
R is integrated in HANA DB via TCP/IP. HANA uses SQL-SHM, a shared memory-based data exchange to incorporate R’s vertical data structure. HANA also introduces R scripts equivalent to native database operations like join or aggregation. HANA developers can write R scripts in SQL and the types are automatically converted in HANA. R scripts can be invoked with HANA tables as both input and output in the SQLScript. R environments need to be deployed to use R within SQLScript
More blog posts on using SAP and R togetherDealing with R and HANA
HANA meets R
When SAP HANA met R – First kiss
Using RODBC with SAP HANA DB-
SAP HANA: My experiences on using SAP HANA with R
and of course the blog that started it all-
Jitender Aswani’s http://allthingsr.blogspot.in/
I really liked the no hassles way Biocnoductor has put a cloud AMI loaded with RStudio to help people learn R, and even try using R from within a browser in the cloud.
Not only is the tutorial very easy to use- they also give away 2 hours for free computing!!!
Check it out-
and wow! I am using Google Chrome to run R ..and its awesome!
Interesting- check out two hours for free — all you need is a browser and internet connection
Here is an interview with JJ Allaire, founder of RStudio. RStudio is the IDE that has overtaken other IDE within the R Community in terms of ease of usage. On the eve of their latest product launch, JJ talks to DecisionStats on RStudio and more.
Ajay- So what is new in the latest version of RStudio and how exactly is it useful for people?
JJ- The initial release of RStudio as well as the two follow-up releases we did last year were focused on the core elements of using R: editing and running code, getting help, and managing files, history, workspaces, plots, and packages. In the meantime users have also been asking for some bigger features that would improve the overall work-flow of doing analysis with R. In this release (v0.95) we focused on three of these features:
Projects. R developers tend to have several (and often dozens) of working contexts associated with different clients, analyses, data sets, etc. RStudio projects make it easy to keep these contexts well separated (with distinct R sessions, working directories, environments, command histories, and active source documents), switch quickly between project contexts, and even work with multiple projects at once (using multiple running versions of RStudio).
Version Control. The benefits of using version control for collaboration are well known, but we also believe that solo data analysis can achieve significant productivity gains by using version control (this discussion on Stack Overflow talks about why). In this release we introduced integrated support for the two most popular open-source version control systems: Git and Subversion. This includes changelist management, file diffing, and browsing of project history, all right from within RStudio.
Code Navigation. When you look at how programmers work a surprisingly large amount of time is spent simply navigating from one context to another. Modern programming environments for general purpose languages like C++ and Java solve this problem using various forms of code navigation, and in this release we’ve brought these capabilities to R. The two main features here are the ability to type the name of any file or function in your project and go immediately to it; and the ability to navigate to the definition of any function under your cursor (including the definition of functions within packages) using a keystroke (F2) or mouse gesture (Ctrl+Click).
Ajay- What’s the product road map for RStudio? When can we expect the IDE to turn into a full fledged GUI?
JJ- Linus Torvalds has said that “Linux is evolution, not intelligent design.” RStudio tries to operate on a similar principle—the world of statistical computing is too deep, diverse, and ever-changing for any one person or vendor to map out in advance what is most important. So, our internal process is to ship a new release every few months, listen to what people are doing with the product (and hope to do with it), and then start from scratch again making the improvements that are considered most important.
Right now some of the things which seem to be top of mind for users are improved support for authoring and reproducible research, various editor enhancements including code folding, and debugging tools.
What you’ll see is us do in a given release is to work on a combination of frequently requested features, smaller improvements to usability and work-flow, bug fixes, and finally architectural changes required to support current or future feature requirements.
While we do try to base what we work on as closely as possible on direct user-feedback, we also adhere to some core principles concerning the overall philosophy and direction of the product. So for example the answer to the question about the IDE turning into a full-fledged GUI is: never. We believe that textual representations of computations provide fundamental advantages in transparency, reproducibility, collaboration, and re-usability. We believe that writing code is simply the right way to do complex technical work, so we’ll always look for ways to make coding better, faster, and easier rather than try to eliminate coding altogether.
Ajay -Describe your journey in science from a high school student to your present work in R. I noticed you have been very successful in making software products that have been mostly proprietary products or sold to companies.
Why did you get into open source products with RStudio? What are your plans for monetizing RStudio further down the line?
JJ- In high school and college my principal areas of study were Political Science and Economics. I also had a very strong parallel interest in both computing and quantitative analysis. My first job out of college was as a financial analyst at a government agency. The tools I used in that job were SAS and Excel. I had a dim notion that there must be a better way to marry computation and data analysis than those tools, but of course no concept of what this would look like.
From there I went more in the direction of general purpose computing, starting a couple of companies where I worked principally on programming languages and authoring tools for the Web. These companies produced proprietary software, which at the time (between 1995 and 2005) was a workable model because it allowed us to build the revenue required to fund development and to promote and distribute the software to a wider audience.
By 2005 it was however becoming clear that proprietary software would ultimately be overtaken by open source software in nearly all domains. The cost of development had shrunken dramatically thanks to both the availability of high-quality open source languages and tools as well as the scale of global collaboration possible on open source projects. The cost of promoting and distributing software had also collapsed thanks to efficiency of both distribution and information diffusion on the Web.
When I heard about R and learned more about it, I become very excited and inspired by what the project had accomplished. A group of extremely talented and dedicated users had created the software they needed for their work and then shared the fruits of that work with everyone. R was a platform that everyone could rally around because it worked so well, was extensible in all the right ways, and most importantly was free (as in speech) so users could depend upon it as a long-term foundation for their work.
So I started RStudio with the aim of making useful contributions to the R community. We started with building an IDE because it seemed like a first-rate development environment for R that was both powerful and easy to use was an unmet need. Being aware that many other companies had built successful businesses around open-source software, we were also convinced that we could make RStudio available under a free and open-source license (the AGPLv3) while still creating a viable business. At this point RStudio is exclusively focused on creating the best IDE for R that we can. As the core product gets where it needs to be over the next couple of years we’ll then also begin to sell other products and services related to R and RStudio.
In 1995 Joseph J. (JJ) Allaire co-founded Allaire Corporation with his brother Jeremy Allaire, creating the web development tool ColdFusion. In March 2001, Allaire was sold to Macromedia where ColdFusion was integrated into the Macromedia MX product line. Macromedia was subsequently acquired by Adobe Systems, which continues to develop and market ColdFusion.
After the sale of his company, Allaire became frustrated at the difficulty of keeping track of research he was doing using Google. To address this problem, he co-founded Onfolio in 2004 with Adam Berrey, former Allaire co-founder and VP of Marketing at Macromedia.
On March 8, 2006, Onfolio was acquired by Microsoft where many of the features of the original product are being incorporated into the Windows Live Toolbar. On August 13, 2006, Microsoft released the public beta of a new desktop blogging client called Windows Live Writer that was created by Allaire’s team at Microsoft.
Starting in 2009, Allaire has been developing a web-based interface to the widely used R technical computing environment. A beta version of RStudio was publicly released on February 28, 2011.
JJ Allaire received his B.A. from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) in 1991.
RStudio is an integrated development environment (IDE) for R which works with the standard version of R available from CRAN. Like R, RStudio is available under a free software license. RStudio is designed to be as straightforward and intuitive as possible to provide a friendly environment for new and experienced R users alike. RStudio is also a company, and they plan to sell services (support, training, consulting, hosting) related to the open-source software they distribute.