SAS revs data-mining, forecasting tools

The updates provide greater functionality, including improved tools, algorithms, filtering, and scalability

The SAS Institute has updated its products for data mining and forecasting.

The releases represent a greater leap in functionality over other recent revisions, according to Mary Grace Crissey, a product marketing manager for SAS. The earlier versions were "much more GUI-driven," she said.

Enterprise Miner 5.3 features 15 new analytical tools and additional algorithms, the company said. An accompanying Text Miner product can analyze unstructured data, such as blogs or customer feedback forms.

Forecast Server 2.1, another updated product, includes improved filtering, more than a dozen additional project management macros, and scalability improvements for working with large data sets.

One satisfied customer is Tim Rey, manager of the data-mining and modeling group at Dow Chemical. He said that the firm took "a considerable amount of time to study both Enterprise Miner and Forecast Server before we purchased.... The products are well-designed, supporting many robust methods that are enabled by easy-to-use interfaces and supported by functional graphics."

Rey's company has not yet deployed the newest versions, but it has "reviewed what was coming and thinks they are welcome additions," he said.

Dow is using Forecast Server to build forecasting models for a variety of scenarios, such as demand and raw materials costs. The firm is using Enterprise Miner in a number of areas, including finance, fraud, engineering, research and development, supply chain, and human resources, he said.

Rey noted that "in both products, you have to have your data in SAS format prior to using them."

To that end, Enterprise Miner 5.3 includes a new wizard designed to make it easier for users to push their data into SAS' software, Crissey said. Longtime SAS customers tend to keep preformatted data sets at the ready, she said.

Enterprise Miner licensing starts at $120,000, with the Text Miner add-on costing an additional $80,000. There is a desktop version of the product that costs $40,000, plus $20,000 for the text-mining option. Enterprise Forecaster pricing begins at roughly $150,000. SAS charges annual renewal fees that are a percentage of the initial cost, according to a company spokesman.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.