• March 31, 2004
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

SAS Moves Beyond Business Intelligence

SAS Institute has unveiled its biggest product launch to date, according to company executives. Its unified SAS9 Intelligence Platform uses grid computing and multithreading technology capabilities to increase speed, reliability, and scalability, as well as an easier-to-use interface that provides customized point-and-click analysis for less technically skilled employees. "The time has come for a new [era] in software," says Dr. Jim Goodnight, president and CEO of SAS. "SAS9 takes intelligence to a higher level, driving data access throughout the organization." According to Goodnight, managers at every level should be able to use software to manage the present and predict the future. "This is what we call going beyond BI," he says. Amazon.com is a good example of a company that "is going beyond BI", says Guy Creese, a research director at Aberdeen Group. Amazon stores rich profiles on customers that include what they buy, their interests, and future product recommendations. "Companies want to push that insight to the frontlines," Creese says. "Don't bury the insight. Move it to the front office to take action in a unified manner." Having access to that insight is important, but getting it exactly when you need it is vital. So SAS is using grid computing and multithreading capabilities to deliver faster processing speeds--and to drive costs lower. Grid computing takes advantage of the resources of many computers in a network to address a single problem, while at the same time cut down on computer processing cycles. Multithreading capabilities enable a program to manage its use by multiple users simultaneously, and manage multiple requests by the same user without duplicating the programming running on the computer. As programs are interrupted by other requests, the status of work for that initial request, or thread, is tracked until the work is completed. This decreases query time and reliability. "We're seeing 25 to 30 percent faster sorts. Data mining can occur four to five times faster," Goodnight says. "We are fully supported on all platforms and can take advantage of all processors on a machine." Paul Coleman, Ph.D., director of marketing statistics at Federated Department Stores, has been beta testing SAS9 for nearly two weeks. "It works fairly bug-free. That sounds like a mundane thing, but that's not the case," Coleman says. Just as important is its ease-of-use. Because the SAS interfaces more easily for business managers to use, it takes a weight off Coleman and his staff of 14 SAS-trained IT statisticians, analysts, and consultants, he says: "The whole thing is, getting information to the people that are making the decisions." Even though business managers don't have to be technically savvy to use the SAS solution, Coleman expects some resistance. Still, he applauds SAS for bringing analytical querying capabilities to nontechnical managers. "What really impresses me is that [SAS is] taking a giant risk in terms of what they're putting behind the product," Coleman says. "They're giving [customers] a solution before the question is asked. To roll it out for a large company--that's going to take real knuckle bruising just having to deal with change and day-by-day wars, but SAS feels secure enough in this release [to do this]." SAS9 was also launched in Europe yesterday, and in the Asia/Pacific region this morning. "This is the biggest international launch we've ever made and there's more to come," says Art Cooke, president of SAS International. The SAS9 Intelligence Platform sets the stage for seven software solutions slated to ship later this year. Next quarter, the company will ship SAS Marketing Automation. Forrester analysts Elana Anderson and Eric Schmitt state in the report, "SAS Shakes Up Marketing Automation," that SAS has the potential to disrupt the marketing automation software market and seize a leadership position. Additional solutions to ship later this year on the SAS9 platform are SAS Strategic Performance Management, SAS Financial Management Solutions, SAS Supplier Relationship Management, SAS Activity-Based Management, SAS Risk Dimensions, and SAS IT Management Solutions.
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