SAS 9 targets the suits

Enough of the wisecracks about white lab coats; SAS Institute Inc. is pitching the latest release of its analytics solution at the business suits.

Determined to put to rest its image as the BI (business intelligence) tool for rocket scientists, SAS 9 is being positioned as a completely re-architected system with refined user interfaces aimed at bringing data management and analytics to everyone in the organization.

Described as the most significant release in SAS' 28-year history, SAS 9 features user interfaces designed to meet specific user needs, for example, web-based interfaces for the management layer, add-ins to Microsoft Office which allow results to be presented on applications like Excel or Word, and an Enterprise Guide for power users, said Lui Yuan Tze, chief technology officer of SAS Institute.

This way, organizations no longer have to depend on business intelligence analysts or IT to churn out the reports. "With the data volume going up, information can no longer be controlled from a single point. Organizations are trying to provide greater information availability to end users," said Paul Castle, managing director, Singapore, SAS Institute.

Other architectural enhancements in SAS 9 include tighter integration. For example, a common metadata layer and common workflow process layer enables a report to be picked up via another interface, while Text Miner enables the integration of structured data with unstructured data.

Multithreading has also been introduced to improve performance, said Lui. For example, internal SAS procedures take advantage of threads to "parallelize" computationally intensive operations to reduce execution time. The SAS I/O subsystem also allows reading of entire blocks of data and accessing DBMS data in parallel by using multiple threads to parallel DBMS servers.

SAS also provides for multi-processing across CPUs on one machine through the use of MPConnect, enabling grid computing in complex, distributed environments.

Interoperability is also provided at different layers -- data, metadata layer, graphics and platform portability. "If you develop SAS applications on one operating system, you will be able to run them on another OS," said Lui.

According to Castle, SAS Institute spends between 25-30 per cent of its annual revenue on R&D.

Technology aside, SAS is also delivering prepackaged business applications on the SAS 9 platform to address the information needs of the enterprise in relation to its suppliers, the internal organization and its customers.

In banking, for example, SAS offers risk compliance applications which help banks to assess market credit risks impacted by the amount of credit they have to keep. Other capabilities of these prepackaged applications include churn management, campaign management, credit scoring, Web analytics and corporate governance.

The first seven SAS applications which have been made available are Marketing Automation, Risk Dimensions, Strategic Performance Management, Financial Management, Supplier Relationship Management, Activity-based Management and IT Management.

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