[R] Reasons to Use R

halldor bjornsson halldor.bjornsson at gmail.com
Mon Apr 9 23:22:27 CEST 2007

Dear Lorenzo,

Thanks for starting a great thread here. Like others, I would like to
hear a summary
if you make one.

My institute uses R for internal data processing and analyzing. Below
are some of our reasons, and yes cost (or lack thereof) is not the
only one.

First, prior to the rise of R we already had a number of people using
Splus, and our
main compute server had licenses for Splus. As the institution moved
from Sun Unix
servers to Linux workstations and servers, the licensing issue became
important. Having
to service many licenses (one per workstation, and several on the
servers) is time consuming for overworked IT staff. Furthermore, our
Splus programs that ran routinely on the servers
could all be easily made run on R. Hence, this was really a no-brainer.

Second, R runs on both windows and linux (and solaris and macs,-
although the last one is not really an issue for us). We have made
some user programs that are tailor-made for the work we do, these we
bundle into R packages, that then can be used on both windows and
linux. This was a very important consideration for us.

Third, user community. Even with commercial solutions (such as Matlab)
the quality of the
user community is very important, - if we had felt that R did not have
an active and responsive community we probably would have been more
hesitant. Needless to say
R has an incredibly active community which makes it an attractive environment.
Furthermore, other institutions in our field are also adopting R, at
least in the research departments.

Fourth, R is a good choice for many of the things that we do (data
analysis of varying complexity, good graphics, maptools [working with
shapefiles] etc). It was therefore an obvious candiate for us from the

Now, R does not have everything we want. One thing missing is a decent
R-DB2 connection, for windows the excellent RODBC works fine, but ODBC
support on Linux is  a hassle. The big file issue is there, but many
of our files are GRIB which is a format that is  generally not
supported by anyone.... Furthermore, object graphics, ala pythons
matplotlib (and of course  Matlab) is not there, but would be very
handy. However, that being said, it is easy to make publication (print
and web) quality graphics with R. And of course as always with Open
Source if you miss something bad enough why not do it (or have it
done) yourself and add it to the package.

We have not used R much for large NetCDF datasets, there are other
tools (such as
the CDO package, which also supports GRIB) that are better oriented for this.

We have used R on solaris, Linux (several different flavours) and
Windows (since W98).  We currently use it on our primary production
servers (RedHat Enterprise Edition), but we have not used it in a
parallel setting. We have not used R for making on-the-fly
calculations and graphics for the web, although this is clearly

I hope this helps, I have found  this thread to be a good one.


On 4/5/07, Lorenzo Isella <lorenzo.isella at gmail.com> wrote:
> Dear All,
> The institute I work for is organizing an internal workshop for High
> Performance Computing (HPC).
> I am planning to attend it and talk a bit about fluid dynamics, but
> there is also quite a lot of interest devoted to data post-processing
> and management of huge data sets.
> A lot of people are interested in image processing/pattern recognition
> and statistic applied to geography/ecology, but I would like not to
> post this on too many lists.
> The final aim of the workshop is  understanding hardware requirements
> and drafting a list of the equipment we would like to buy. I think
> this could be the venue to talk about R as well.
> Therefore, even if it is not exactly a typical mailing list question,
> I would like to have suggestions about where to collect info about:
> (1)Institutions (not only academia) using R
> (2)Hardware requirements, possibly benchmarks
> (3)R & clusters, R & multiple CPU machines, R performance on different hardware.
> (4)finally, a list of the advantages for using R over commercial
> statistical packages. The money-saving in itself is not a reason good
> enough and some people are scared by the lack of professional support,
> though this mailing list is simply wonderful.
> Kind Regards
> Lorenzo Isella
> ______________________________________________
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> PLEASE do read the posting guide http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html
> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

Halldór Björnsson
Deildarstj. Ranns. & Þróun
Veðursvið Veðurstofu Íslands

Halldór Bjornsson
Weatherservice R & D
Icelandic Met. Office

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