Sidebar: SAS Bids to Broaden Use of Its Tools

SAS Institute Inc. has primarily made its mark as a vendor of data mining and statistical analysis software. But the SAS 9 upgrade that it shipped last week is aimed at making the company more of a direct competitor with Business Objects SA, Cognos Inc. and other mainstream data analysis vendors, said Jim Goodnight, SAS president and CEO.

With SAS 9, "we want to be the most strategic part of a company's business intelligence platform," Goodnight said. He acknowledged that users with big investments in rival query and reporting tools "are not going to change easily" to SAS 9. But SAS hopes to reach a broader set of end users within its installed base and expand its presence among midsize companies, Goodnight said.

Dreyfus Service Corp., a mutual funds company in New York, has about 100 statisticians and data analysts who use the existing SAS 8 release. Prasanna Dhore, executive vice president of marketing, e-commerce and CRM at Dreyfus, said simplified user interfaces that are included in SAS 9 could make it easier for salespeople to run their own queries instead of having to ask the company's statisticians to build reports for them.

Dreyfus also uses data analysis tools made by vendors such as Cognos and Business Objects. The predictive analysis capabilities that SAS offers are "a tremendous advantage" over rival offerings, Dhore said. "But are we going to replace all that other stuff? The jury's out there. We have to evaluate it."

Irving Tyler, CIO at Quaker Chemical Corp. in Conshohocken, Pa., said SAS 8 is already used by up to 30% of his company's employees, including plant-floor workers. But Quaker had to build its own Web-based front-end query tool to make that possible, he added.

Tyler hopes to turn off the six-year-old homegrown tool when Quaker upgrades to SAS 9, which could happen late this year or in early 2005. "We literally have been waiting for SAS to complete the deal," he said. The user interfaces in SAS 9 should provide increased drill-down capabilities for Quaker's power users but still be simple enough for other workers, Tyler noted.

SAS is "throwing down the gauntlet to Cognos and Business Objects," said Wayne Eckerson, an analyst at The Data Warehousing Institute in Seattle. "But a lot of SAS customers have made investments in those products already. SAS has got some work to do to convince people to use its tools for broader analytic needs."

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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