Microsoft is quietly reinventing itself, moving from an old business model entwined with outdated cultural norms to become relevant again as the technology leader in a data rich and computationally empowered world. For a veteran of the open source community, having actively contributed to Emacs, GNU, Linux, and now R, for over 30 years, this is quite a remarkable turn around for Microsoft (who through their previous CEO described Linux as a Cancer and compared it to Communism). We’ve seen and been disappointed before by Microsoft’s attempts to embrace open source but Microsoft’s future now depends on change and this time they need to be serious.
It’s a journey!
The Microsoft ecosystem is growing to encompass many open source offerings including Microsoft’s own open source software including Azure (cloud compute) software. Indeed the Microsoft cloud platform encompasses all of our favourite open source tools, coupled, sometimes uneasily still, with a closed source heritage.
Microsoft is bringing all of this together onto the Azure compute platform. From a data science perspective the aim is to empower everyone from independent data scientist consultants through to enterprise data science teams with tools and accessible compute. Azure delivers the compute resources required when needed with the freedom of using our tools of choice.
A pathway into this new world for developers is through the Microsoft Visual Studio Dev Essentials program (you don’t need to use Visual Studio!). Developers can sign up for a free access account. Through this access developers can explore, for example, Microsoft’s enhancements to the most widely used tool for the data scientist, R. Many of these enhancements (but not all) remain closed source and limit our freedoms. Nonetheless they are worthy a look.
I share here the steps you can follow to sign up as a developer for free access to the Visual Studio Dev Essentials program.
- Visit Visual Studio Dev Essentials and choose to Get a new account or Join now.
- Provide an email address and password and be sure to read and if appropriate to then accept the terms and conditions.
- A code will be sent to your email address. Enter the code and then click Next.
- Provide your name, country, and then click Continue.
- Click on Join Visual Studio Dev Essentials (if you are a developer).
- You will get a $25 monthly Azure credit for 12 months (useful for creating a Linux Data Science Virtual Machine offering an off-the-shelf open source stack packed with the data scientist’s toolkit).
- Accept terms and conditions, then Confirm.
- You then have a Visual Studio Dev Essentials free subscription.
- Explore the packages now available, in particular you can now download Microsoft R Server 9.0.1. To do so you might see Microsoft R Server instead. Click on that download and on the download page search for 9.0.1 to find Microsoft R Server 9.0.1 release. See my guide to Installing Microsoft R Server 9.0.1 on Ubuntu 16.10 for details.
Graham @ Microsoft