R you ready? Open source stats come to Visual Studio

R Tools for Visual Studio, in da house

There's no longer any particular surprise to hear the words “Microsoft” and “open source” in the same sentence: in the latest addition to its stable, Redmond is wrapping the venerable statistical package R in its warm embrace.

The company has offered a first look at R Tools for Visual Studio (RTVS) here.

While commercial users gravitate towards packages like SPSS (now owned by IBM), R is nearly ubiquitous in the academic world.

R has a long history, including one of turning new users into gibbering wrecks, so at least one of the aims of RTVS will be to get application developers to make its high-powered analysis a little less forbidding.

To get cracking on the business of shipping code, devs need Visual Studio, RTVS, and Microsoft R Open. The division between the last two is necessary for licensing reasons: R is licensed under the GPLv2, while Redmond's favourite open source license is the MIT license.

The toolkit includes an “R aware editor”, with VS's Intellisense to provide syntactically-correct auto-complete. There's the familiar-to-VS interactive window that lets devs run code while they're editing it.

Microsoft R Open and Microsoft R Server provide multi-threaded maths libraries, cluster support, and what Redmond describes as “a high performance CRAN repo with checkpoint capabilities.” ®

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