Analytics for the Masses
SAS, known for its high-end analytics, is pushing its way downward into organizations with more BI capabilities, a move that endorses IT consolidation in the enterprise. "We're trying to attack the low end of the market to allow nontech users to access more powerful predictive modeling," says Jim Goodnight, Ph.D., CEO of SAS.
Announced at its SUGI (SAS User Group International) event in April, the BI applications provider is upgrading its SAS Enterprise BI Server, a component of the SAS 9 Intelligence Platform, with query and reporting tools, as well as online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities.
The query and reporting tools enable users to create point-and-click custom reports that cull information from the data warehouse. The upgraded SAS Enterprise BI Server also includes OLAP capabilities, so users can extract and view data from different points of view. For example, a user can run reports of toothbrush sales in New Jersey for the month of March, compare these to toothbrush sales in May, and also contrast them with other product sales in New Jersey in the same time period.
SAS aims to deliver these capabilities as an extension to its high-end business analytics applications (such as forecasting, predictive modeling, and optimization), all on the same SAS 9 platform and using consistent metadata across the suite. This enables more data and analysis to be shared with a broader user base across the enterprise, minimizing the need to purchase several BI applications for analysis.
Using disparate BI solutions can be problematic, because while they incorporate the same data, they often provide different answers, according to Cindi Howson, president of ASK, an industry analyst firm. To provide organizations with one version of the truth, SAS executives maintain that the BI industry needs to change. "People want to reduce the number of suppliers [that they deal with for BI]. It's time we look at the definition of business intelligence to include a spectrum of offerings," says Jim Davis, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at SAS.