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SAS sees Grids stopping 'paralysis'

Snipe at rivals and be first on the Grid

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A technology sector is starting to become serious business when the competitors in that market start sniping at each other. It can often be dismissed as just one of the regular spectator sports put on by IT vendors, but it can also raise some serious questions for users.

Some examples of this emerged last week during one of several soirees put on down at the UK headquarters of SAS Institute to celebrate its 25 years of operation in this country. The UK office, started by Art Cooke, was the first step in the company moving into international markets. The Heidelberg-based International Division, now generating over $500m in revenue a year, is still headed by Cooke.

SAS founder, president and CEO Jim Goodnight, was also present and between them he and Cooke rained gentle but pointed fire at various rivals in the Business Intelligence space. For example, companies like Cognos and Business Objects are, according to Goodnight, only providing business reporting tools rather than business intelligence, because they do not have the analytical capabilities of SAS. According to Cooke, many enterprises have fallen into what he calls the SAP trap, because reliance on the ERP giant means they then cannot analyse important data about the business fast enough, or perhaps even at all.

This, he suggests, is particularly the case if they have not yet adopted a strategy based on using analysis tools as the foundation of business management.

There is, however, a point underpinning such jibes. The rate of growth in data – which for some companies now doubles every year – is moving enterprise users closer to what is being called `analysis paralysis’. This is where there is so much data it becomes close to impossible to determine what analysis should be undertaken, let alone understand what the results might mean.

This could be taken to mean that analysis tools have already outlived their usefulness, particularly as the volume data continues to grow. For example, the international banking firm HSBC, a SAS user, is about to start using data generated by customer account transactional processes. But the right analysis will, in the view of George Lennox, the bank’s worldwide manager of Group Credit and Risk, help the business to both get a more detailed picture of customer needs and more opportunity to spot possible fraud, which is now a bigger risk than bad debt.

According to Cooke, the main cause of analysis paralysis is now the speed at which analysis can be performed. SAS has therefore made a specific move towards exploiting the potential of Grid-based compute platforms. Indeed, it claims to be the first to offer Grid capabilities for data integration and mining applications.

SAS has extended its existing partnership with Grid specialists, Platform Computing, to integrate Platform management functions into the data integration and data mining products that run on the SAS 9 system, and has become a charter member of the IBM Grid and Grow programme.

This is designed to optimise applications for IBM’s BladeCenter platform and will provide users with the option of running a single application across a large SMP environment or multiple applications across a Grid of individual Blades, with such decisions made, as the marketing jargon would have it, at `a few mouse clicks’. ®

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