SAS' analytics software can extend big data's reach

SAS has unveiled new analytic software that will help business users analyze and visualize massive amounts of data in near-real time and share the results with others via the Web or iPad mobile devices.

SAS Visual Analytics “focuses on handling large volumes of data and creating visuals on the data, all done with a point-and-click approach from a mouse pad,” Randy Guard, SAS vice president for product management, said during a virtual press conference. SAS Visual Analytics allows users to create standard reports and dashboards and publish them to an Apple iPad and, in the future, to Android mobile devices, Guard said.

The speed of in-memory architecture is what gives users value, said Dan Vesset, program vice president of market business analytics research for IDC. “Organizations can explore huge data volumes and get answers to critical questions in near-real time,” Vesset said. 

SAS Visual Analytics, however, offers both the speed of in-memory and self-service capabilities, which eliminates users having to wait for IT-generated reports, Vesset added.

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Business users have to be able to drill through data while at the same time the IT staff needs to manage data as a corporate asset, SAS’ Guard said. With Visual Analytics, each time business analysts or users want to create reports, they don’t have to call IT for a new table, index or cube it is all self-service, Guard noted.

The core of SAS Visual Analytics is the SAS LASR Analytic Server, which allows the software to run on low-cost, industry-standard blade servers. “SAS LASR Server is not a relational database or [Microsoft] SQL-dependent,” Guard said.

It is purpose-built to handle analytics and drive all visuals back to the client, he added. LASR Server is built on a highly scalable architecture using commodity blade servers, which range from as low as four blades up to more than 100 blades. The servers can scale depending on volume of data and number of users, Guard said.

SAS Visual Analytics could be applied in government agencies in much the same way it can be used to solve business problems. For example, for a retailer involved in a marketing campaign, SAS Visual Analytics could allow analysts to look at all data from online sales, stores, external demographic information and social media to provide “next-best-offer recommendations” for customers, SAS officials said. 

The software could be deployed to help government agencies get a handle on the vast amounts of structured and unstructured data being collected.

Various agencies at federal, state and local levels have accumulated massive amounts of data on such varied topics as pollen in trees, water quality, disease patterns, transportation infrastructure, weather statistics and satellite photography, according to a recent article on big data in Government Computer News. If tools are developed to integrate these massive datasets across governmental boundaries and make them efficiently searchable, unexpected benefits may emerge, industry experts said.

SAS Visual Analytics includes:

  • SAS LASR Analytic Server  Clients communicate with SAS LASR Analytic Server for calculations on the data resident in memory, producing remarkably fast results.
  • The Hub A central location to launch the various elements of SAS Visual Analytics. Business users, analysts and IT personnel all access Visual Analytics through this single entry point, based on role-based security to perform the functions they want to perform
  • Mobile  A tool for viewing reports, connecting to servers and downloading information on the go.
  • Explorer An ad hoc data discovery and visualization tool to explore and analyze data.
  • Designer Used to create standard and custom reports and dashboards.
  • Environment Administration Used by administrators to manage users, security and data.

Server components run on Red Hat or SUSE Linux, and the mobile client is available for the iPad from the iTunes App Store. Other mobile devices will be supported in the future.

The software is the latest addition to the SAS High-Performance Analytics family of products that includes SAS Grid Computing, SAS Database and SAS-in-Memory Analytics, which includes Visual Analytics. Visual Analytics uses SAS’ new in-memory, distributed calculation engine specifically engineered for the next generation of real-time advanced analytics, Guard said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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