SAS promises pervasive BI with new tool

Visual Analytics designed to let enterprise users explore, visualize terabytes of data much faster

SAS Institute this week unveiled new technology designed to allow a broad swath of enterprise users to do advanced analytics on massive volumes of data.

The new Visual Analytics technology, part of the SAS High-Performance Analytics suite, allows business users to explore data gathered from corporate databases and the Web, and to generate easy to understand charts, graphs, dashboards and the like.

SAS said the Visual Analytics technology takes advantage of in-memory processing techniques to handle data at much faster speeds than the company's existing analytics tools can support.

Analytics tasks that used to take several hours can be accomplished in minutes using the tool, according to SAS.

Unlike many purely server-based enterprise analytics technologies, Visual Analytics gives business users a full range of data discovery, data visualization and querying capabilities from desktop and mobile client devices, the company said.

The initial version of the new tool allows iPad users to view reports and download information to their devices. Future versions will support other mobile devices as well, SAS added.

Visual Analytics gives business users a new way to access and analyze Big Data without having to rely on IT and data analysts, said Randy Guard, senior vice president of product management.

The technology supports improved decision making by allowing business users to spot business trends and opportunities much faster than they were able to previously, Guard said.

Visual Analytics allows business users to explore magnitudes more data from internal and external sources, he said. Instead of basing decisions on a sampling of data, enterprise can run analytics on entire data sets, he said.

Much of the increased speed comes from the technology's in-memory architecture that allows enterprises to run multiple terabytes of data directly in memory, he said.

In beta tests, Visual Analytics was able to complete tasks that used to take 20 to 30 hours in less than five minutes, he said.

Visual Analytics can run on commodity hardware.

Visual Analytics is available in five standard configurations ranging from a four-node configuration to a 96-node system capable of running over 10 terabytes of data in memory.

Mike Schiff, an analyst at MAS Strategies, said Visual Analytics "is the sort of thing where you don't have to be a rocket scientist to use."

The technology should help broaden the use of SAS's BI tools within a single company, he said.

The company will find it a challenge to find a way to sell the product outside the SAS customer base, he said.

James Kobielus, an analyst at Forrester Research, described the SAS Visual Analytics tool as "an in-memory client server architecture for doing interactive exploration of deep data sets."

"This is a really strong set of products for competing with the SAP's of the world on the server side and the TIBCO's and the QlikView's on the client side," he said.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

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