Nov 28th 2016

Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server (edX)

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Learn how to use Microsoft R Server to analyze large datasets using R, one of the most powerful programming languages.

The open-source programming language R has for a long time been popular (particularly in academia) for data processing and statistical analysis. Among R's strengths are that it's a succinct programming language and has an extensive repository of third party libraries for performing all kinds of analyses. Together, these two features make it possible for a data scientist to very quickly go from raw data to summaries, charts, and even full-blown reports. However, one deficiency with R is that traditionally it uses a lot of memory, both because it needs to load a copy of the data in its entirety as a data.frame object, and also because processing the data often involves making further copies (sometimes referred to as copy-on-modify). This is one of the reasons R has been more reluctantly received by industry compared to academia.

The main component of Microsoft R Server (MRS) is the RevoScaleR package, which is an R library that offers a set of functionalities for processing large datasets without having to load them all at once in the memory. RevoScaleR offers a rich set of distributed statistical and machine learning algorithms, which get added to over time. Finally, RevoScaleR also offers a mechanism by which we can take code that we developed on our laptop and deploy it on a remote server such as SQL Server or Spark (where the infrastructure is very different under the hood), with minimal effort.

In this course, we will show you how to use MRS to run an analysis on a large dataset and provide some examples of how to deploy it on a Spark cluster or a SQL Server database. Upon completion, you will know how to use R for big-data problems.

Since RevoScaleR is an R package, we assume that the course participants are familiar with R. A solid understanding of R data structures (vectors, matrices, lists, data frames, environments) is required. For example, students should be able to confidently tell the difference between a list and a data frame, or what each object is generally a good representation for and how to subset it. Students should be familiar with basic programming concepts such as control flows, loops, functions and scope. Students should have a good understanding of how to write and debug R functions. Finally, students are expected to have a good understanding of data manipulation and data processing in R (e.g. functions such as merge, transform, subset, cbind, rbind, lapply, apply). Familiarity with 3rd party packages such as dplyr is also helpful.

What you'll learn:

You will learn how to use MRS to read, process, and analyze large datasets including:

- Read data from flat files into R’s data frame object, investigate the structure of the dataset and make corrections, and store prepared datasets for later use

- Prepare and transform the data

- Calculate essential summary statistics, do crosstabulation, write your own summary functions, and visualize data with the ggplot2 package

- Build predictive models, evaluate and compare models, and generate predictions on new data


- Familiarity with R.

- DAT204x: Introduction to R for Data Science

- DAT209x: Programming in R for Data Science