Taking Your Analytics Into the Cloud


If you've been itching to serve up your SAS analytics software from the cloud, you won't have to wait much longer.

This week at SAS Global Forum 2013, the company (this site's sponsor) announced the June shipment of SAS 9.4, the latest version of the foundational SAS Business Analytics platform. With 9.4 comes a variety of new capabilities, including the ability to deploy SAS software in private or public clouds.

Keith Collins, CTO, SAS
Keith Collins, CTO, SAS

At the conference in San Francisco, I caught up with SAS CTO Keith Collins to talk about where the company was headed with its technology -- including into the cloud. "If you're not doing something in the cloud, you're nobody," he said. "And we want to be somebody, and so we have developed a cloud-friendly architecture."

In building the cloud-friendly architecture, SAS focused on the ease of deploying a virtual analytics application and managing and monitoring the app, as well as "driving innovation." A major goal, he said, is to make the cost of building and deploying an application in the cloud so cheap that the app becomes disposable.

"Disposible?" I asked.

"That's right," he said. "We want it to be so cheap you can just throw it away if you want."

This kind of innovative development work is taking place within the SAS hosted cloud environment. Three companies (which Collins did not name) are running analytics innovation labs, trying new algorithms, and using High-Performance Analytics to "see if they can find something new that changes their business." Absent the cloud, commissioning the internal resources needed to conduct such experiments would be cost prohibitive or otherwise infeasible for most companies.

If the analytical innovators that Collins mentioned do find something worth putting into production, their deployment options now include a virtual app they can use in a private cloud, public cloud, or hybrid cloud environment. "We want to be as IT friendly as possible, driving down cost of ownership for IT and driving up time to value."

Reluctance among enterprises to conduct mission-critical analytics in the cloud is "falling away fast." Collins sees a fair amount of comfort with the idea of virtual private clouds extending out to the public cloud. Concerns about security, storage, and capacity are diminishing, and Amazon's recently announced Redshift (still in beta) is a potential game changer. Redshift is a petabyte-scale data warehouse delivered from the Amazon cloud as a service. "This will impact where people will build data warehouses for data that's [made anonymous] but is readily available. It'll be an important play."

SAS Visual Analytics, which supports advanced data exploration and visualization, will be among the first SAS 9.4 products available for cloud deployment. Others will be master data management and the classic SAS Analytics Pro suite, Collins said.

Do clouds have a place in your company's analytics strategy? Share below.

Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

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Re: Head in the Clouds
  • 5/2/2013 3:36:00 PM
NO RATINGS

I would think that regulation will lag behind security advancments by several years, just due to red tape. That seems to always be the way of things. 

Re: Head in the Clouds
  • 5/2/2013 2:49:21 PM
NO RATINGS

I'm sure you're right. I haven't talked to anyone lately about cloud security concerns, other than Collins -- and he suggested likewise. Said he's seeing security, as well as regulatory compliance, become less of sticking points than they were a year or two ago.

Re: Head in the Clouds
  • 5/2/2013 2:45:22 PM
NO RATINGS

Beth, 

No doubt that private clouds offer more security and control, but as security platforms for public clouds mature I think you will see a slow migration over that way driven by the share overhead of a private cloud vs a public cloud. 

Re: Head in the Clouds
  • 5/2/2013 2:39:13 PM
NO RATINGS

@bulk, they can't fight the rising tide! The question really is what type of cloud they select. I have to believe that private clouds, either on premises or at a secure hosting center, will remain the choice for sensitive, mission-critical data for a few years yet.

Head in the Clouds
  • 5/2/2013 2:03:26 PM
NO RATINGS

I think it is interesting that so many companies who fought against the idea of working on their data and storing it in the cloud are quickly making a 180. I recently saw a customer who is very secruity minded in terms of their data take steps to doubling the bandwidth of their pipe to the internet so they could start testing cloud services to handle their data. It seems that the road was not as long or slow as once thought. 

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