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New SAS Visual Analytics helps organisations analyse, visualise big data

Super-fast, in-memory solution offers high performance, deep insights

A new in-memory business intelligence (BI) solution from SAS uses a highly visual interface to bring powerful analytics to a broader class of users than ever before. SAS Visual Analytics, the newest product in the SAS High-Performance Analytics family from the leader in business analytics, provides a fast, simple and cost-effective path to business insight and better decisions.

With SAS Visual Analytics, organisations can:

  • Apply the power of SAS Analytics to massive amounts of data
  • Visually explore data at the speed of sight
  • Share fresh insights with everyone, everywhere, via the Web or iPad

SAS Visual Analytics combines the industry's leading analytics, unique in-memory architecture, intuitive data exploration, Hadoop support and information-delivery options, including the iPad. It is the only in-memory engine designed specifically for business visualisation of big data on inexpensive, non-proprietary hardware.

"The speed of in-memory architecture offers tremendous benefit. Organisations can explore huge data volumes and get answers to critical questions in near-real time," said Dan Vesset, program vice president of IDC's business analytics research. "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."


"SAS Visual Analytics helps business users to visually explore data on their own," said SAS CEO Jim Goodnight. "But it goes well beyond traditional query and reporting. Running on low-cost, industry-standard blade servers, its high-performance in-memory architecture delivers answers in seconds or minutes instead of hours or days.

"The core of SAS Visual Analytics – our innovative SAS LASR Analytic Server – speeds data exploration and visualisation. This in-memory analytic engine will extend across our software product portfolio, seamlessly applying 35 years of SAS analytics innovation to big data assets," said Goodnight. "Add its publish-to-mobile capability and graphic visualisation, and there’s nothing that compares to SAS Visual Analytics."

Enterprises that have seen early demonstrations of SAS Visual Analytics clearly see the business value of visual data exploration with incredibly fast results.

"I could immediately recognise 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," said Antoine Georges, vice president of analytics at Virgin Mobile USA, a Sprint prepaid company. "SAS Visual Analytics will let us quickly dig into our big data to uncover opportunities, and in time, to fully exploit them."


A core component of SAS Visual Analytics, the SAS LASR Analytic Server, uses Hadoop (embedded Hadoop Distributed File System) as local storage at the server for fault tolerance. SAS LASR Analytic Server has been tested on billions of rows of data and is extremely scalable, bypassing the known column limitations of many relational database management systems (RDBMS).

The more data used in an analysis, the more accurate the results. This is especially attractive when accuracy is critical in problem solving across big data environments, including both structured and unstructured data.

SAS Visual Analytics can solve many business problems. For example, a marketing campaign manager at a retailer with hundreds of stores and a thriving online sales channel needs faster, more sophisticated next-best-offer recommendations for customers. SAS Visual Analytics allows analysts to look at all data from online sales, stores, external demographic information and social media. Entire populations can be analysed to determine the best offer or interaction rather than using a sample, moving quickly and directly to robust, precise recommendations. This information can then be distributed easily.

Banks and capital markets firms can also use the power of SAS Visual Analytics to help retail branch staff, commercial bankers and financial advisors cut through the clutter of big data to improve customer interactions and financial advice in a timely way.

SAS Visual Analytics includes:

  • SAS LASR Analytic Server - clients communicate with SAS LASR Analytic Server for calculations on the data resident in-memory, producing remarkably fast results
  • The Hub - a central location to launch the various elements of SAS Visual Analytics
  • Mobile - a tool for viewing reports, connecting to servers and downloading information on the go
  • Explorer - an ad hoc data discovery and visualisation tool to explore and analyse data
  • Designer - used to create standard and custom reports and dashboards
  • Environment Administration - used by administrators to manage users, security and data

Server components run on Red Hat or SUSE Linux, and the mobile client is available for the iPad from the iTunes App Store. Other mobile devices will be supported in the future.

While the high end is not limited, SAS LASR Analytic Server reference configurations begin with an eight-blade server with 96 processor cores, 768 gigabytes memory and 4.8 terabytes (TB) of disk storage. The upper end of the reference configurations is 96 blades with 1,152 cores, 9.2 TB memory and 57.6 TB of disk storage, enough disk space to store the entire Library of Congress six times.