SAS issues 'its most significant release'

The analytics giant is out with its long-anticipated SAS 9 platform, promising to widen the reach of predictive analytics to more business users.

CARY, N.C. -- Calling it "our future" and "the most significant release in our 28-year history," SAS Institute Inc. today issued its SAS 9 analytics software and accompanying SAS Intelligence Platform. The company announced the product's release during a kickoff event and global webcast from its world headquarters here.

The company said that SAS 9 has taken a giant step "beyond BI." Jim Goodnight, SAS CEO, said that technology has to move beyond simply working as it should in the back office to delivering business intelligence as a strategic asset that affects a company's bottom line. SAS 9 does exactly that, Goodnight said, helping companies learn from the past, manage the present and quickly predict future revenue streams and profit opportunities.

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"SAS 9 provides a unified version of the truth on a single, scalable platform that's hardware independent," he said. "It goes beyond reporting what happened [in an enterprise] and reports what will happen."

This could be welcome news for CIOs. Late last year, analysts with Forrester Research Inc. claimed that the biggest challenge facing CIOs in 2004 would be predicting where their businesses are going. SAS said that SAS 9 helps CIOs anticipate their companies' changing needs with predictive and descriptive modeling, forecasting, simulation, optimization and design of experiments. The company also claims that SAS 9 technology will help companies in their efforts to comply with various government regulations -- another of this year's prominent CIO headaches.

SAS 9 features several analytics additions, including enhanced predictive modeling capabilities, Predictive Model Markup Language (PMML) scoring code and a Web-based model repository to enable reusability. SAS Enterprise Miner and SAS Text Miner have new Java interfaces; SAS text mining is also now fully integrated within SAS data mining.

Seven software solutions will ship this year as part of the SAS 9 Intelligence Platform, the company said. Companies can expect applications that analyze marketing automation, risk dimensions, performance management, financial management, supplier relationship management, activity-based management and IT management.

Perhaps most important, SAS 9 makes strategic data available to and usable for nearly everyone in the enterprise, a point hammered home by Goodnight. Guy Creese, an analyst with Aberdeen Group in Boston, said that this access across the enterprise is becoming more and more important and that employees from the shop floor to the sales field need the ability to tap key business data. "Open architecture and the ability to play with other technologies in the company landscape is also crucial," he said. "Silos, whether they're departmental or technical, are fading."

It's this consolidation of data that appeals to Richard Goat, chairman of the Delivery Partnership, an SAS partner based in the United Kingdom. "I've worked with data warehouses for years," he said, "and I'm glad to see that SAS is bringing it all together."

Goodnight said that SAS 9 works with all existing SAS products.

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