What is Microsoft ROpen?

Under all the pretty (or not so pretty) GUIs that we use as a development environment there is a framework that does all the work. Integrated Development Environments (IDE) are syntactical tools that allows us to develop more efficiently.  R is no different.  Underlying the IDE in tools such as RStudio is the R framework and executable. It is responsible for interpreting and executing the R commands or scripts.

Probably the most common R framework or executable distribution is available free of charge from the Comprehensive R Network (CRAN) at https://cran.rstudio.com. Downloading and installing the CRAN R distribution is enough to get you started working with R. The CRAN R distribution includes RGui, a simple R editor. The download page for RStudio, a very common R IDE, includes a link to the CRAN R distribution. R development environments will not work without an available R framework. This is analogous to Visual Studio being and IDE for the .Net framework.  R IDEs generally do not specifically require the CRAN version of R but the CRAN distribution seems to be most common distribution.

Microsoft ROpen (https://mran.revolutionanalytics.com/ ) is Microsoft’s implementation and distribution of R.  ROpen is not a GUI or IDE it is a distribution that extends the general distribution.  ROpen is open source. The framework can be downloaded as an install or the source can be downloaded. ROpen is 100% compatible with the CRAN distribution so R scripts running in the CRAN distribution should run fine running in the ROpen distribution. Data scientists and developers have a choice which R executable to use on their machines.

Using ROpen as the R framework will provide additional packages and features not available in the CRAN distribution. Users of ROpen will see benefits such as:

  • Improved math library which will provide performance improvements
  • Connectivity to SQL Server and other big data services
  • Ability to run memory and processor intensive processes on R Server
  • Improved process to manage additional CRAN libraries by date

Microsoft provides multiple editors that utilize ROpen.  RGui, a simple R editor is installed with the R distribution. Microsoft’s R Client is a more powerful IDE than RGui. Installing R Client   will download and install ROpen.  R Tools for Visual Studio 2015 will turn Visual Studio into a R IDE. The tools provide a lot of scripting support similar to RStudio.  All of the above options will provide a development environment using ROpen.  Data scientists using an existing IDE such as RStudio can take advantage of ROpen. RStudio will work with ROpen.

ROpen is Microsoft’s enhanced R framework. It installs with its version of RGui and additional performance enhancing libraries. Regardless of what R IDE or GUI editor you choose to work with, chances are it will work with ROpen. With your IDE or GUI editor running with ROpen, your R scripts and commands should see a performance gain.