Visual Numerics is a 100 person, privately held company that’s been around for a while – nearly 40 years – and yet is largely under the radar thanks to the size of other “analytics” companies. As the business world moves from BI to analytics it is sometimes finding that BI tools are really focused on reporting and OLAP. VNI offers embeddable libraries for advanced math and visualization. Its focus on embedding, rather than on being an application, is not unique among analytics companies but it is not common either.
VNI offers a wide range of algorithms and one of its key value propositions is supporting multiple platforms and languages. Their routines work everywhere, and work the same everywhere, which can be a big deal for customers. In particular, they offer common routines for customers seeking both Java and .Net/C# options. They help companies get a faster time to market for analytics, offer platform consistency, deliver efficient algorithms and can offer execution at source e.g. in database.
VNI has been focused in science and research historically but now more and more business focused including both direct customers such as Humana and OEMs such as SAP and Teradata. Historically lots of work in flight testing, space, pollution, oil and gas, weather forecast etc. Now they do more “normal” predictive analytics and optimization. Today they say they are often finding customers who have used “first generation” capabilities and now need to move to newer and more powerful (or more specific) techniques e.g. in forecasting. VNI’s willingness to do consulting to build custom algorithms, visualization applications and other software etc is part of their pitch. Example applications include product supply optimization, portfolio analysis, visualization, forecasting, network traffic and other similar high performance analytic scenarios.
Their OEM business is clearly their current focus, and their embeddability is going to be a big advantage there. For instance:
- Teradata is embedding the C based analytics in the database engine to offer in database analytics as user defined functions (see below)
- NextSigma is using their .NET algorithms for Monte Carlo simulations in support of Six Sigma
- Acision, a company providing mobile messaging infrastructure, is developing a new application based on their algorithms to show deliver marketing analytics derived from the text message traffic to their telco customers
- SAP Netweaver is using their code to improve text search (initially).
They offer two main products – IMSL numerical libraries and PV WAVE visual data analysis. Their Java and .Net products are adding 2D/3D charting linked to the algorithms and overall data mining, predictive analytics, optimization and simulation are the focus areas going forward.
VNI clearly competes at some level with the likes of SAS and SPSS but VNI aims to offer algorithms that are more embeddable and more cross-platform without the overhead of a complete application. They also compete with some of the easier to embed analytic application products like KXEN or Matlab but seem to offer a broader array of algorithms as well as a smaller footprint.
Teradata, a Visual Numerics customer, recently announced the availability of Warehouse Miner 5.2. This offers data mining functions embedded in the Teradata database. A major component of Warehouse Miner 5.2 is the Teradata Statistical Library- a collection of functions based on Visual Numerics’ IMSL Libraries . With Warehouse miner users can run data mining functions against detailed data in the warehouse without manually coding or moving data between systems.