SAS unveils BI for the masses

SAS Institute unveiled this week an interim release of Version 9 of its BI Enterprise Server. As an upgrade from Version 9 launched last year, the enhanced Web Report Studio will offer nontechnical business users access to a deep set of predictive analytics data.

Using a Web-based interface, Report Studio will present ordinary business users with forecasting models in formats they are comfortable with, such as Excel or in a Web report environment, according to Eleanor Taylor, business intelligence technology strategist at SAS.

The updated version of BI Enterprise Server will also deliver additional OLAP storage and mapping capabilities such as OLAP cubes for multi-dimensional, relational, or hybrid viewing. These features are designed for non-technical staff.

However, one industry analyst does not believe that an OLAP cube is going to improve the analytic capability of a business.

"I am skeptical that more is better," said Josh Greenbaum, senior analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

Although Greenbaum called SAS a "venerable company" when it comes to overall intelligence and statistical analysis, he also said business users don't need another toolbox. Instead companies are now looking for more domain-specific analytics.

"They want more of an application approach that is tied deeply into specific problems in the business," Greenbaum said.

In total there are 110 new enhancements to BI Enterprise Server mainly targeted at broadening SAS's reach within the enterprise. Company CEO Jim Goodnight made it clear that SAS is targeting key competitors such as Cognos and Business Objects.

"This is BI for the masses," Goodnight said.

In order to compete with lower-cost BI vendors, Enterprise BI Server will include SAS OLAP Server and OLAP clients at no additional cost.

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