Revolution Analytics Lifts R Language into Terascale Computing

By Michael Feldman

August 4, 2010

R language booster Revolution Analytics is going after the predictive analytics crowd with its latest Revolution R Enterprise software platform. The company announced this week it will be introducing a package called RevoScaleR to bring the R language into the world of “Big Data,” enabling analytics applications to turbo-charge their performance and scale terabyte-sized mountains of data.

Analytics has increasingly become a way for companies to automate intelligence. Businesses in quantitative finance, life sciences, telecom, manufacturing and retail are all looking to mine their data for profits. Governments are also generating enormous amounts of data, and are looking for ways to make sense of it all. Organizations traditionally looked to SAS and SPSS (now a part of IBM) to provide high-end analytics, but a new ecosystem is growing up around the open-source R language, a framework used for statistical computing and modeling.

Developed in the 1990s by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman in New Zealand, the R language was purpose-built for the needs of statisticians. As such, it is tailor-made for analytics and has become the most popular programming language for such work in academia and, increasingly, in the commercial realm. “It’s really has become the lingua franca of learning statistics at universities,” says Jeff Erhardt, COO at Revolution Analytics.

Because of its open-source nature, R is attracting a lot of innovation from its user community. Erhardt says there are probably close to 2 million users worldwide today, and that number is growing. His company hopes to turn that grassroots popularity into a thriving business by propelling the language into the enterprise.

To accomplish that will require some work. R has two fundamental limitations. First, the language is memory bound. That is, it expects the entire database to be in RAM. For the typical workstation, that becomes a problem for any dataset over a few gigabytes. Second is performance. R executes a single process, so cannot take advantage of the performance inherent in multicore/multithreaded CPUs and cluster architectures. According to Revolution Analytics CTO David Champagne, to make it into the enterprise, both issues have to be addressed. And that’s what Revolution R Enterprise and the new RevoScaleR package aim to do.

Speed is really the big issue here, given that the results of predictive analytics are time-sensitive to one degree or another. For example, a trading desk in the US needs to be ready to execute the optimal trades and arbitrage opportunities when the markets in Tokyo open in the morning. To do that, the trading institution has to be able to churn through its entire portfolio overnight.

Overcoming the memory limitation has been accomplished with what the company calls its “external memory” framework. Essentially, it allows data to be quickly brought into memory in bite-sized chunks so that even terabyte-sized data files with billions of rows can be accommodated. To support this model, Revolution Analytics invented the XDF file format in which data rows and columns can be read and written in arbitrary blocks. In fact, new columns and rows can even be inserted on the fly without having to rewrite the rest of the file. This speeds up data transformations considerably, according to Champagne, and makes the analytics workflow much more efficient.

A lot of the execution speed is the result of good old-fashioned parallelism. The initial RevoScaleR implementation enables R applications to be parallelized across multiple cores (and CPUs) on a laptop, workstation or server. With a dual-socket Intel Xeon 5600 (Westmere) server, that means computation can be distributed across as many as 12 cores. Support for distributing an app across multiple nodes in a datacenter will follow shortly. RevoScaleR provides an interface for a number of common statistical algorithms including linear regression, cross tabulation, logistic regression, and summary statistics, with more on the way.

The company has demonstrated considerable speedups using the RevoScaleR package. On an 8-core Nehalem server, with 8 GB of RAM, they were able to process a 13 GB file in record time. In this case the file contained US airline flight data from 1987 to 2008 and was made up of 123 million rows and 29 columns. They were able to execute a linear regression on two variables (arrival delay and day of the week) in about 1 second. The next best implementation (using a special R package to deal with big data files) took around six minutes.

Specific comparisons against traditional SAS and SPSS implementations are lacking, but according to Champagne, beta customers using RevoScaleR have reported orders of magnitude performance speedup compared to legacy analytics platforms. And although Erhardt claims they are not specifically going after SAS and SPSS accounts, customers looking for a less proprietary solution might be tempted by the Revolution offering. “Clearly they come to us, in particular, when they are looking for cost advantage,” he says.

The company basically has two tiers of pricing for commercial customers (Revolution R Enterprise is free to academic users). For the individual user on a desktop, they’re going to charge in “the low thousands of dollars.” The second tier is for multiple users in a more typical enterprise server-based setup. Depending on the configuration, prices should be in the low-five figure range, with a site license in the six-figure range. According to Erhardt, the goal is to leverage the open-source R software and offer their enterprise product at a fraction of the price of traditional analytics software platforms.

The initial RevoScaleR package will be available in 30 days, but only with multicore/multiprocessor support, and only on Windows. Support for distributed computing across a cluster and on Linux is slated for sometime in the next quarter. Also in the queue is support for C++ users who want to add their home-grown algorithms that take advantage of RevoScaleR’s external memory model. And last on the docket is a Web services product that will make R applications accessible from a browser or some other client interface. For a more detailed look at what’s in store, check out the company’s white paper of its roadmap.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry’s first plug-and-play, portable parallel file system that d Read more…

By Doug Black

SC18 Student Cluster Competition – Revealing the Field

November 13, 2018

It’s November again and we’re almost ready for the kick-off of one of the greatest computer sports events in the world – the SC Student Cluster Competition. This is the twelfth time that teams of university undergr Read more…

By Dan Olds

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and much of the surrounding Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

AI Can Be Scary. But Choosing the Wrong Partners Can Be Mortifying!

As you continue to dive deeper into AI, you will discover it is more than just deep learning. AI is an extremely complex set of machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement, and analytics algorithms with varying compute, storage, memory, and communications needs. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

New Data Management Techniques for Intelligent Simulations

The trend in high performance supercomputer design has evolved – from providing maximum compute capability for complex scalable science applications, to capacity computing utilizing efficient, cost-effective computing power for solving a small number of large problems or a large number of small problems. Read more…

OpenACC Talks Up Summit and Community Momentum at SC18

November 12, 2018

OpenACC – the directives-based parallel programing model for optimizing applications on heterogeneous architectures – is showcasing user traction and HPC impact at SC18. Most noteworthy is that five of 13 CAAR applic Read more…

By John Russell

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry Read more…

By Doug Black

SC18 Student Cluster Competition – Revealing the Field

November 13, 2018

It’s November again and we’re almost ready for the kick-off of one of the greatest computer sports events in the world – the SC Student Cluster Competitio Read more…

By Dan Olds

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

OpenACC Talks Up Summit and Community Momentum at SC18

November 12, 2018

OpenACC – the directives-based parallel programing model for optimizing applications on heterogeneous architectures – is showcasing user traction and HPC im Read more…

By John Russell

How ASCI Revolutionized the World of High-Performance Computing and Advanced Modeling and Simulation

November 9, 2018

The 1993 Supercomputing Conference was held in Portland, Oregon. That conference and it’s show floor provided a good snapshot of the uncertainty that U.S. supercomputing was facing in the early 1990s. Many of the companies exhibiting that year would soon be gone, either bankrupt or acquired by somebody else. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

At SC18: GM, Boeing, Deere, BP Talk Enterprise HPC Strategies

November 9, 2018

SC18 in Dallas (Nov.11-16) will feature an impressive series of sessions focused on the enterprise HPC deployments at some of the largest industrial companies: Read more…

By Doug Black

SC 30th Anniversary Perennials 1988-2018

November 8, 2018

Many conferences try, fewer succeed. Thirty years ago, no one knew if the first SC would also be the last. Thirty years later, we know it’s the biggest annual Read more…

By Doug Black & Tiffany Trader

CEA’s Pick of ThunderX2-based Atos System Boosts Arm

November 8, 2018

Europe’s bet on Arm took another step forward today with selection of an Atos BullSequana X1310 system by CEA’s (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Ener Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This