Python gets a big data boost from DARPA

Continuum Analytics will extend the widely used NumPy library for distributed systems

DARPA (the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has awarded $3 million to software provider Continuum Analytics to help fund the development of Python's data processing and visualization capabilities for big data jobs.

The money will go toward developing new techniques for data analysis and for visually portraying large, multi-dimensional data sets. The work aims to extend beyond the capabilities offered by the NumPy and SciPy Python libraries, which are widely used by programmers for mathematical and scientific calculations, respectively.

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More mathematically centered languages such as the R Statistical language might seem better suited for big-data number crunching, but Python offers an advantage of being easy to learn.

"Python is a very easy language to learn for non-programmers," said Peter Wang, president of Continuum Analytics. That's important because most big-data analysts will probably not be programmers. If they can learn an easy language, they won't have to rely on an external software development group to complete their analysis, Wang said.

The work is part of DARPA's XData research program, a four-year, $100 million effort to give the Defense Department and other U.S. government agencies tools to work with large amounts of sensor data and other forms of big data.

For the XData project, DARPA awarded funding to about two dozen companies, including the University of Southern California, Stanford University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The organizations are encouraged to use each other's technologies to further extend what can be done in big data, Wang said.

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