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SAS Executive Viewpoint 2012


Dr Goodnight kicked it off the executive viewpoint at the 2012 SAS Inside Intelligence session. SAS had another growth year in 2011 ($2.7B and growth of 12.1%) as Jim highlighted both its continued investment in new buildings around the world and the fact that many SAS locations around the world, and SAS overall, continue to get strong best place to work ratings (this is important to Jim personally as well as for recruitment).

Jim focused on Big Analytics and Big Data as keys to SAS future success. SAS has been working with customers over the last few years to expand existing SAS technology to support multi-processor and multi-core environments as well as large in-memory computing environments. This investment in high performance analytics is ongoing and is helping customers take jobs that took more than a day (30 hour markdown optimization) or could not complete before the new work day (18 hour risk analysis) and drive them down to hours or minutes. SAS is now committed to moving all its algorithms to this high performance analytics environment.

A big part of this effort is SAS’ work with vendors like Teradata and Greenplum to get in-database scoring and in-database modeling. Another key element is the simplicity of this – simply add “hp” to a procedure to push it from the default server and push it to the in-database or other HPC environment you have available. They are also applying it to traditional BI capabilities using Visual Analytics Explorer, a new product shipping in March, that gives you visualization and query tools against an in-memory model that might contain billions of rows.

After some great demos of the new visualization products, Jim Davis came on stage to finish the executive overview. Jim reiterated the renewal model for SAS’ revenue and the importance of demonstrating continued value to existing customers. This model is important to them and they see continue strong renewal rates in 2011. New customers matter too, of course, and many regions showing 20%+ growth in new customers. Meanwhile SAS continues to invest nearly 25% back into R&D – and that translates into a lot of R&D dollars. Revenue is balanced with the US only being 40% while EMEA is 42%, for instance, with Asia Pacific coming up at 12% (renewal model makes changes take time of course). The industry picture not so balanced, with 40% Financial Services as you would expect.

SAS showed growth across the product portfolio with customer intelligence and fraud detection growing fastest backed by supply chain and retail. Of course supply chain and retail were starting from low bases but the fraud and customer intelligence numbers are impressive. SAS has also been investing in some analytic centers of excellence around the world (Cary now with Europe, Asia coming) with hosting as well as analytic expertise growing to over $100M a year now. Cloud-based solutions are clearly hot as we found in our Predictive Analytics in the Cloud study. Meanwhile SAS is expanding its channel partners as most of its revenue continue to comes direct.

Jim highlighted some of the SAS sub brands like DataFlux/baseline consulting, jmp, RiskAdvisory, vsti, Memex, IDEAS etc. Some of these businesses grew strongly last year (jmp, Memex), others (Assetlink) are rolling into the main SAS brand and others are sharing sales teams with the main SAS business (DataFlux). They just added aiMatch for ad intelligence.

Jim highlighted five themes for the rest of the event (my emphasis):

  • High Performance Analytics
  • Business Visualization
  • Information Management
  • Decision Management
  • Cloud

High Performance Analytics is a key focus area for SAS. SAS Grid Computing, SAS In-Database, SAS In-Memory Analytics make up the high performance analytics environment. This is clearly a big investment area for SAS with lots of investments. Their approach is to develop a platform that can be used across their tools, analytics (from statistics to predictive analytics and optimization) and analytic applications. The in-memory analytics product, for instance, works with Hadoop, Greenplum, Teradata or a non data server. They have launched a high performance microsite for this.

Mobile is another focus area, with lots of “fit for task” interfaces specific to applications and tasks.