At its recent analyst event, SAS Institute - a company formed in 1976 and still delivering consistent year-on-year growth - proved that it has a vision for the future, one that Executive Vice President Jim Davis described as “the new analytic experience.”
From a technology standpoint, SAS is one of the creators of “true” analytics (as opposed to business intelligence in fancy dress), but there are new challenges ahead and a long-standing customer base to consider.
“SAS’s response to the fast-paced change in the ways that data can now be captured, stored, and analysed was twofold: it adapted the strategic direction of the business and continued to evolve its technical capabilities,” says Tom Pringle, research analyst, Ovum.
“SAS made it clear that future plans involve close working with partners, to broaden both market reach and access to new opportunities. Particularly highlighted among those new opportunities were healthcare/life sciences and government, two industries in which Ovum expects to see increasingly wider adoption of analytical technologies.”
For Pringle, the majority of SAS’s current annual revenue is either subscription or renewal, an enviable position; modernising more than 70,000 user deployments, however, brings challenge as well as opportunity.
“The solutions SAS can offer its existing clients to facilitate modernisation include not just “bigger” and “faster” capabilities, but also new ways of accessing them,” he explains.
SAS Cloud Analytics was, according to Jim Davis, the fastest growing part of the portfolio in 2014, and is one of the primary means by which Ovum expects existing and new users to access analytical capability (across the spectrum of infrastructure-, platform-, and software-as-a-service).
“Bigger and faster did make an appearance,” Pringle explains.
“Even with a selective approach to what is stored, data volume is growing exponentially, and “bigger,” represented here by Hadoop, underpins the new analytic experience, in SAS’s view.
“It provides users the ability to store more, more effectively. The concept of “faster,” eloquently illustrated by Dr. Goodnight in a live demo, is about speed, but also – critically – speed at scale.”
Speed at scale leads to two other key SAS themes: machine learning at scale and automation, Pringle adds.
“In my view, these logically lead to the latest darling of the data world: the Internet of Things (IoT),” he adds.
“I am guardedly optimistic about IoT’s potential role because I firmly believe we are at the very beginning of understanding both its importance and how it will shape data technologies.
“Perhaps SAS’s underscoring of it as an area that could be bigger than big data explains why this company has such a long history and continues to grow.”