SAS enlarges its palette for big data analysis

SAS offers new tools for training, as well as for banking and network security


SAS Institute did big data decades before big data was the buzz, and now the company is expanding on the ways large-scale computerized analysis can help organizations.

As part of its annual SAS Global Forum, being held in Dallas this week, the company has released new software customized for banking and cybersecurity, for training more people to understand SAS analytics, and for helping non-data scientists do predictive analysis with visual tools.

Founded in 1976, SAS was one of the first companies to offer analytics software for businesses. A private company that generated US$3 billion in revenue in 2014, SAS has devoted considerable research and development funds to enhance its core Statistical Analysis System (SAS) platform over the years. The new releases are the latest fruits of these labors.

With the aim of getting more people trained in the SAS ways, the company has posted its training software, SAS University Edition, on the Amazon Web Services Marketplace. Using AWS eliminates the work of setting up the software on a personal computer, and first-time users of AWS can use the 12-month free tier program, to train on the software at no cost.

SAS launched the University Edition a year ago, and it has since been downloaded over 245,000 times, according to the company.

With the release, SAS is taking aim at one of the chief problems organizations face today when it comes to data analysis, that of finding qualified talent. By 2018, the U.S. alone will face a shortage of anywhere from 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise, The McKinsey Global Institute consultancy has estimated.

Predictive analytics is becoming necessary even in fields where it hasn't been heavily used heretofore. One example is information technology security. Security managers for large organizations are growing increasingly frustrated at learning of breaches only after they happen. SAS is betting that applying predictive and behavioral analytics to operational IT data, such as server logs, can help identify and deter break-ins and other malicious activity, as they unfold.

Last week, SAS announced that it's building a new software package, called SAS Cybersecurity, which will process large of amounts of real-time data from network operations. The software, which will be generally available by the end of the year, will build a model of routine activity, which it then can use to identify and flag suspicious behavior.

SAS is also customizing its software for the banking industry. A new package, called SAS Model Risk Management, provides a detailed model of a how a bank operates so that the bank can better understand its financial risks, as well as convey these risks to regulators.

SAS also plans to broaden its user base by making its software more appealing beyond computer statisticians and data scientists. To this end, the company has paired its data exploration software, called SAS Visual Analytics, with its software for developing predictive models, called SAS Visual Statistics. The pairing can allow non-data scientists, such as line of business analysts and risk managers, to predict future trends based on current data.

The combined products can also be tied in with SAS In-Memory Analytics, software designed to allow large amounts of data to be held entirely in the server's memory, speeding analysis. It can also work with data on Hadoop clusters, relational database systems or SAS servers.

QVC, the TV and online retailer, has already paired the two products. At its Italian operations, QVC streamlined its supply chain operations by allowing its sales staff to spot buying trends more easily, and spend less time building reports, according to SAS.

The combined package of SAS Visual Analytics and SAS Visual Statistics will be available in May.

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