Cary-based SAS launches new big data products

Posted by David Ranii on March 24, 2014 

Business software giant SAS has unveiled several new products and product upgrades designed to help its customers take better advantage of the power of big data.

Think faster, easier and more cost-effective, said Jim Davis, senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

SAS customers use SAS business intelligence and analytics software to analyze their operations and predict trends. The products announced Monday by the Cary-based company include:

• SAS In-Memory Statistics for Hadoop: Available Monday, this product applies SAS’ in-memory processing architecture to Hadoop, the popular open-source big data storage system. The upshot, says the company, is that it makes it easier for its business and government customers to transform big data into useful insights.

Previously, SAS customers had to extract data from Hadoop to work with it, a process that was “very time-consuming and doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Davis said.

But with this product, users can process the data within Hadoop.

“By executing our analytics inside Hadoop, we have eliminated the need to move the data and it all stays in one place,” Davis said.

• A brand-new upgrade of SAS Visual Analytics, which follows on the heels of an update unveiled in December.

Available for a little more than a year, Visual Analytics enables users to graphically portray large amounts of data to make it easier to pick out patterns.

Among the improvements embedded in the two upgrades are: the ability to analyze customer comments or Twitter streams to identify new business opportunities, enhanced graphics options, and improved features for use with portable devices using the Apple iOS7 or Android operating systems.

One enhancement that customers were asking for was an easier interface with data coming from various sources. Now, users can “basically point and click on the data source they want to connect to,” Davis said.

Davis said SAS has changed its typical update schedule for Visual Analytics because the market is moving extremely fast.

“Rather than a big, giant release every two years,” SAS is instead going with “incremental” updates much more frequently, he said.

More than 1,500 customers are using Visual Analytics and the company’s pipeline of prospects exceeds 5,000.

• SAS Visual Statistics. Available in July, this product extends Visual Analytics’ capabilities to “more high-end analytics” that are important to data scientists and statisticians, Davis said.

Visual Statistics isn’t limited to working with big data. SAS says it’s also helpful for midsize businesses and individual departments within a larger company.

The product announcements were made in Washington, D.C., at the SAS Global Forum, a gathering of SAS customers.

This year’s forum attracted a record crowd of more than 4,500 people, including about 3,000 people who use SAS products and an additional 1,500 executives intent on learning how the company’s analytics and business intelligence software can benefit them.

“Upper levels of management have taken a keen interest in how they can incorporate analytics into their strategy, and they are looking for best practices,” Davis said.

SAS also is using the forum to highlight that, in addition to SAS enabling customers to access software over the cloud through its own data centers in Cary and overseas, customers can also use SAS software over the “public cloud.”

For example, No. 1 PC maker Lenovo, which has a headquarters in Morrisville, uses SAS’ big data analytics software via Amazon Web Services, the No. 1 cloud computing provider.

“While we host a lot of data out of our own data center, as we scale around the world Amazon is going to become more important to us,” Davis said.

Last year SAS, which is privately held, generated $3.02 billion in revenue, up 5.2 percent from 2012.

Davis declined to discuss in detail how sales are going this year, but he did offer one tidbit: “Sales in the Americas are way ahead of last year’s pace,” he said.

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