Tibco offers free R to the enterprise

A new free edition of Tibco's R runtime engine might entice more organizations to use the programming language

Hoping to entice more enterprises to use the R statistical programming language directly within their predictive modeling and data visualization jobs, Tibco has released a free version of its R runtime engine.

The Tibco Enterprise Runtime for R Developers Edition is a free version of the Tibco Enterprise Runtime for R engine, which was released last September as part of the updated Tibco Spotfire Professional 5.0 in-memory visual analytics software. The developer edition features the same capabilities as the enterprise version but does not require Spotfire in order to run.

The purpose of this free release "is not to compete with open-source R [programs] on individual statisticians' desktops. It is about selling to the organizations in which these statisticians work, so that it will be easier for them to integrate, deploy and scale their work on an enterprise-compatible platform," said Lou Bajuk-Yorgan, senior director of product management for Tibco Spotfire.

The R programming language has long been used for statistical analysis, though it tends not to be used directly within business intelligence (BI) applications, Bajuk-Yorgan said. Richard Stallman's Gnu Project offers the mostly widely used implementation of R as an open-source program.

"When someone is developing a new way of analyzing data to solve a problem, the default way they would prototype and share it would be in R," Bajuk-Yorgan said. But Tibco found that many customers "were reluctant to use R in production," because few R runtime engines are available that offer enterprise-level support or could be easily incorporated with other business intelligence (BI) tools such as Tibco's.

As a result, business analysts have largely been modeling their problems in R but then recoding them in other environments, such as SAS and MATLAB, in order to use their formulas in production environments. Tibco is hoping that offering a version of R for enterprises will allow analysts to use their original R scripts, thereby eliminating the recoding work.

"R is where the energy and creativity is in the statistical community, so we see value in making the R language available on an enterprise platform," Bajuk-Yorgan said. He also noted that the use of R could also ease the difficulties that organizations have had in finding data analysts, because most universities teach R as part of a statistics curriculum and fewer graduates know how to program in SAS or MATLAB.

The Tibco Enterprise Runtime for R Developers Edition can only be used for non-production work. It can be used on a desktop computer to develop, test and run R code. Integrating the R code with another application, or scaling up to high-volume use, would require the licensed version, Bajuk-Yorgan said.

Tibco has also set up a community site for users of the software to share best practices.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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