Is R Worthy of the Enterprise?

I’ve been a big proponent of R for the last few years and have written extensively on R as well in this blog. There have been a lot of folks who have written and believe that R is worthy of being in the Enterprise and I have to say, at this point I’m just not so sure of that.

My gripe with R is just how slow it seems to be for performing the basics such as descriptive statistics and frequency tables. When you compare the timings for these procedures against WPS or SAS using moderate sized data sets (i.e. 500,000 records), R is left in the dust.

What really caused my reversal in thought towards R is that I started to test the R library SAS7BDAT to read a SAS version 7 data set. I thought it might be a nice addition to the Bridge to R to be able to read a SAS data set directly. As I got into test the library for performance issues, I was a little surprised by what I discovered. Just reading in a SAS v7 data set that has five variables and 500,000 observations (or records) to perform a simple T Test, WPS was up to 18 times faster. The larger the data set, the faster WPS was over R.

I have always heard that R is supposed to be fast because the data frame is held in memory. I also think it has its place in education for learning statistics and data analysis. But the corporate world is another story. Using WPS, I can often blow R out of the water in terms of performance and this is with reading the WPS data set from the hard drive AND performing the computations.

Personally, I think the strength of R is in development of algorithms for models and graphics. GGPLOT2 is absolutely awesome and allows you to do some amazing graphs. But for running production jobs, especially time critical jobs, using WPS for the models when appropriate is a much better solution to the problem.

Don’t forget there’s still time to get into the action to win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet. If you register to take out a WPS evaluation before September 30th, 2012, you will automatically be registered in the drawing for the tablet. Certain conditions apply so read the the earlier blog post for all the details. You can request a WPS evaluation by going to the MineQuest Business Analytics website at the WPS evaluation page.