The time has come for data professionals to learn R. Microsoft has purchased Revolution Analytics and is betting that they can make R faster, less memory-intensive, and better for enterprise applications.
SQL Server 2016 is also allowing us to run R code against our SQL databases. The upside to this is fantastic: instead of pulling SQL data out via ODBC and manipulating it, we can push the (much smaller) R code into SQL Server and process data locally.
So why do you want to get in on this right now? The reason is that more complementary skills improves your chances of a successful career (where “successful” can mean more money, better benefits, the dress code or hours you want to work, etc.). Let’s say that you’re a good database administrator who knows SQL Server pretty well. That’s a nice skill to have and can land you a decent position. But now let’s say that you’re also really good with statistics and can use tools like R to perform data analysis. At this point, you’ve moved beyond “good database administrator” and into “really good data professional.” Guess which one’s more likely to land you that fantastic job offer.
R won’t be everyone’s cup of tea; a lot of people have trouble with or simply don’t like statistical analysis, and in that case, go pick up a different complementary skill. But if you’re already doing a lot of data analysis on the cheap (queries, Excel spreadsheets, and reports for management), you’re part of the way to learning a valuable skill, and with everything integrating together in 2016, this is a golden opportunity to get ahead of the game.