SAS: High-performance analytics frees data scientists to model faster

High-performance analytics on "big data" could aid European companies as they struggle to make headway in the recession, say senior SAS executives. All sectors are turning to big data, they claim.

High-performance analytics on "big data" could help European companies in their struggle against an economy in the doldrums, according to SAS Institute senior executives.

On a recent road show travelling through Stockholm, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Rome and London, SAS CEO Jim Goodnight and Chief Marketing Officer Jim Davis propounded the time-saving value of the company's high-performance analytics platform. Launched in December 2011, the platform has been joined by a visual analytics tool that can be used to "explore millions of rows of data simultaneously," Goodnight said.

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"What we used to do single threaded on a single machine, we are now doing on hundreds of thousands of CPU cores across an Intel blade farm."

Both executives said that the company's new platform is an in-memory capability that takes advantage of SAS analytics, as opposed to an in-memory database that is necessarily constrained by a programming language, such as SQL.

"SAP is talking about being the second-biggest database vendor by 2015, so their play is to convert their Oracle database customers to theirs," Goodnight said.

Davis said that it now takes 10 to 15 minutes for financial services customers to do "value at risk" calculations that used to take 20 hours. "And marketing optimisation jobs that used to take six to eight hours are now down to 90 seconds."

"This [new] platform means that a model that used to take seven to eight hours for an analyst to run now takes 20 to 30 seconds. So analysts can be more productive," Goodnight added

Both expressed confidence in the ability of the company's technologies to adapt to the world of big data.

"Why are we talking about big data?” Davis asked. “The reason is it represents an obstacle for organisations. [Our new] platform works on one billion plus rows of data, so organisations don't need to worry about sampling or pre-selection of variables."

Goodnight confirmed that banking is, as ever, the major sector for SAS, but also revealed that the company is in discussions with an electricity provider in the UK about analysing smart meter data and an electric car programme, alerting the driver to the need to charge the battery.

"There is not an industry that is not looking to turn on big data," Davis added. He cited retail as a propitious sector, with Macy's as a customer.

The SAS executives also stated their belief that the kind of predictive analytics they offer can help companies in a downturn.

"Europe does continue to sink down with Greece and Spain. Thankfully the US is coming out [of economic difficulty], with 1.5-2% growth, and there is high growth in Asia-Pacific and Latin America," Goodnight said.

"Big data represents a large asset for companies. But it won't change the world," Davis added. 

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