Getting my Friday off to a great start, I just watched a demonstration of a new analytics tool that powered through 1.1 billion rows of data in a flash, delivering results in data visualizations that can run on the user platform of your choice, including the iPad. To quote a tweet from Fern Halper, a partner at Hurwitz & Associates who had seen the demo, "analyzing 1.15B rows of data, in like a second. Very impressive."
The tool, from this site's sponsor, is SAS Visual Analytics. It packs a punch.
SAS Visual Analytics represents the culmination of a variety of ongoing development efforts, as Randy Guard, vice president of product management at SAS, explained during the partner demonstration that I viewed. These include consumer-oriented business intelligence, with "walk up and use," self-service capabilities; data visualization; mobile BI; Hadoop; and high-performance, in-memory analytics.
According to Guard, SAS designed the Visual Analytics architecture from the ground up with a deliberate focus on big data. From the tool's dashboard, called The Hub, users can pull -- or, more precisely, drag -- data from a selection of structured or unstructured sources and drop them in the "pallet," which is the on-screen workspace. From there, the tool does the analysis, creates a visual, and, if the user so desires, publishes the results to the Web or an iPad (with Android devices to follow).
SAS Visual Analytics comprises four elements: the Environment Manager, an administrative tool for managing users, security, and data; the Visual Analytics Explorer, for ad hoc data discovery and visualization; Visual Designer, for standard and advanced reporting and dashboards; and Mobile BI, for rendering the data visualizations natively on Apple iOS devices today and Android devices in the future, Guard said. SAS has pulled these together in The Hub, which provides role-based, secure access for IT, business, and analytics professionals.
In one demonstrated example, Guard grabbed 10 measures (unit ID, unit capacity, unit downtime, unit yield (actual), and so on) and allowed the tool to "tell him everything." Within roughly six seconds, it delivered a schematic showing the correlations among the 10 items. In another example, he showed the ease with which users can drill down from the big picture -- say, sales in the US -- to sales in a specific region, state, or city.
All of this relies on the highly scalable -- from four to 100-plus nodes or blades, depending on the data involved and the number of users -- SAS LASR Analytic Server, an in-memory analytics engine that uses Hadoop as local storage for fault tolerance. "This is not a relational database. It's not SQL dependent."
Dan Vesset, program vice president of IDC's business analytics research, said in a press release that the in-memory architecture offers tremendous benefits.
"Organizations can explore huge data volumes and get answers to critical questions in near-real-time," Vesset said in the release. "SAS Visual Analytics offers a double bonus: The speed of in-memory analytics plus self-service eliminates the traditional wait for IT-generated reports. Businesses today must base decisions on insight gleaned from data, and that process needs to be close to instantaneous."
Antoine Georges, vice president of analytics at Virgin Mobile USA, also watched a product demo, and he shared this thought in a press statement:
I could immediately recognize in SAS Visual Analytics the potential benefit of incorporating the massive amount of information in our call detail records into our models, but also the value of scoring and targeting our customer base in real-time with the most relevant offers. SAS Visual Analytics will let us quickly dig into our big data to uncover opportunities, and in time, to fully exploit them.
I'll say. SAS Visual Analytics definitely delivers a wow factor. What do you think about this tool's potential?