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Cloud Analytics a Winner for SAS

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Posted October 24, 2014 By Drew Robb     Feedback

Its cloud analytics business is booming, revealed SAS this week, also announcing increased support for Hadoop and strategies for addressing the data science skills gap.

Cloud analytics was the big news at this week's annual Premier Business Leadership Series (PBLS) event held by SAS. Other announcements concerned educational partnerships to bridge the data science skills gap and expanded Hadoop support.

According to SAS, the triple whammy of Big Data, analytics and the cloud have led to an explosion in demand for cloud analytics.

"SAS Cloud Analytics experienced 20 percent revenue growth in 2013 and is at 35 percent growth so far this year," said Robby Powell, principal product marketing manager at SAS. While cloud analytics currently accounts for less than 10 percent of the company's total revenue, it expects the percentage to "rise significantly in the coming years," he added.

As a result, SAS just added a new building at its Cary, North Carolina campus to house 600 people dedicated to the delivery of cloud services based on SAS Solutions OnDemand, with the focus being on SAS Cloud Analytics. This service offers fast access to analytics for three different use cases, according to Powell: analytics in a public cloud, analytics within a private cloud or to install SAS as software-as-a-service (SaaS) to bring the analytics to where data resides.

"Companies like Lenovo are using Amazon Redshift as a data warehouse and running SAS on that data," said Powell. "If a company doesn't have sufficient analytical talent in-house or has decided not to invest in it, we can offer to host their data warehouse, handle data integration and data quality, then run SAS and provide them with analytical insight."

Data Science Skills Gap

Powell also addressed the data science skills gap. One reason he expects demand for SAS cloud services to be robust is due to the shortfall of analytics and data science personnel. "There just is not enough analytics staff to do rich BI on data assets," he said.

According to some studies, demand for analytical talent will outpace supply by 60 percent in the next few years. One way SAS is addressing this shortfall is through a partnership with Capella University, which now offers a bachelor of science in Information Technology minor in data analytics and a bachelor of science in Business minor in business intelligence. These students can receive some of their tuition from SAS eLearning courses as part of earning SAS Certified Base Programmer certification.

"Partnering with Capella University will help adult learners combine workforce experience with new analytics skills to seize lucrative jobs," said Emily Baranello, director of the SAS Education Practice.

In testament to the demand, she cited 111,000 downloads of free SAS University Edition training since May, as well as the delivery of half a million free YouTube tutorials.

SAS CEO Jim Goodnight gave further emphasis to the skills shortage. His said that by 2018, we will be 1.5 million data analysts short worldwide.

"Other countries have moved ahead of us in the training of scientists and engineers," said Goodnight. "We need to be graduating at least 10 percent more people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

As an additional strategy for raising the profile of analytics and data science in the enterprise, Cindi Howson, founder of BI Scorecard, called for more companies to appoint a chief analytics officer. According to a survey by her organization, only 28 percent of business leaders said they had derived significant business benefits from business intelligence and analytics.

"Those with a chief analytics officer have a 48 percent score; they report directly to the CEO," said Howson.

Hadoop Support

At PBLS, SAS also announced enhancement to SAS Visual Analytics which included greater support for the Hadoop open source Big Data infrastructure, including expanded data sources and visualization, as well as better mobile, reporting and management capabilities. On the Hadoop front, this SAS product supports the Cloudera Impala and Pivotal HD Hadoop distributions.

According to Powell, the SAS Visual Analytics business intelligence and data visualization product was launched two years ago. "We now have 2,600 site licenses worldwide," he said. "With Version 7.1, we have also included an add-on for modeling."

Goal seeking is another enhancement aimed at improving forecasting. When the user defines a goal for unit sales or profitability, SAS adjusts other variables such as advertising spending or material cost to graphically show what needs to occur to achieve that goal.

In addition, SAS has improved the means of tracking how a transaction moves through a system, enhanced sentiment analysis to detect marketplace perception, and added better mobile support and high-speed loading from SAP HANA into SAS Visual Analytics' in-memory analytic engine.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in Florida, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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