Are You a SAS BI Geek Seeking Visual Analytics Answers?
SAS Global Forum 2013 is fast approaching so I realized I better plan my schedule. While I enjoy the social events the most, the other obvious thrust of the conference is to learn more about the new SAS products. At last year’s conference they were introducing the Visual Analytics, so the conference was not overall dominated by the product. However,this year I expect there to be an information overload on the product. I don’t mind- I want to know more.
Last December I had short chat with Rick Styll, a SAS product manager, who was really excited about the product and encouraged me to learn about it and write about it. I believe he brought SAS Press editor Julie Platt with him as a hint. When VA 6.1 was introduced, I grabbed the free online customer documentation to start reading it. [That’s right …when all else fails RTFM baby!] Ok, would you believe I skimmed the first few chapters – heavily?
[BTW Rick is presenting a Visual Analytics paper on Tuesday afternoon so make sure you attend and sit on the front row.]
What is Visual Analytics?
Remember the idea is that this product can handle big data quickly and allow users to easily interact with the data! Last year Dr. Goodnight said the application reduce a job that required ~18 hours to run to under a half hour. Impressive for sure – but that was a lot of hardware. I like the live demo he gave on stage of the product [see here:Link to billion records in seconds video.] It was certainly fast and the results were very pretty.
That’s an important point because some of the SAS output would not win any beauty contests -especially when Excel charts go walking down the runway. The speed was due to the fancy server SAS LASR Analytics Server, but the beauty was the Visual Analytics product.
Quick Product Overview
Visual Analytics is a web-based application that can be broken into several components:
- Visual Data Builder allows you to build queries, join tables, and create calculations from registered database tables. It’s how you prepare the data for display.
- Visual Analytics Explorer allows you to interact with the data. You can build charts, tables, maps in the workspace area or just play with the data.
- Visual Analytics Designer allows you to create reports or dashboards that can be viewed on a mobile device (using the SAS Mobile BI app) or in the viewer. This product is most similar to the existing BI Dashboard product.
- Visual Analytics Viewer allows users to view the report on a Web browser.
- Visual Analytics Administrator allows you to manage the environment.
This configuration looks similar to another SAS application that we may be more familiar with!
I downloaded the SAS Mobile BI app for my iPad from the Apple store. [Also available on Google Play.] SAS has some samples setup so you can interact with it to learn how to use the product. Just click on the Library button and you’ll see a list of items you can add. For instance, I added Mashups and Explorations.
Questions I Have
Update: Check out What I learned Over the Summer about SAS Visual Analytics for my answers to these questions.
First let me re-iterate that I like what I am seeing so far in the demos and the documentation. I’d say SAS is rockin’ it with this tool and it generates some fantastic results. I also realize every product has it’s limitations – which is not good or bad – just reality.
After skimming the documentation, here’s the questions I hope to have answered at the conference. Some questions I think I know the answer – but I want to confirm before I start blabbing to everyone else.
- What I like about the information maps is that they apply a business layer to the data making it easier to understand. Since the Visual Data Builder is inside the database, what features do I use to make the data more “user friendly”?
- What about OLAP cubes? Are those supported?
- Who is using the mobile features for this product? Most of the jobs I have done, the data was extremely confidential. I cannot imagine a bank allowing their data to be available from an iPad easily. Maybe summarized data is okay – but is that really useful? Maybe it’s meant for sales people?
- The product uses Flash. I thought Steve Jobs used his iPad to squash Flash in favor of HTML5?
- How should I think about this tool in conjunction with the SAS BI tool set Is it just part of the tool set is it replacing it?
- Looks like there is not an upgrade path to this product from my existing BI install. What suggestions does SAS have for re-using my existing work?
- Can I link to my Web Report Studio reports? Pass values through a parameter? How about a SAS Stored Process?
- Are my stored processes re-useable?
- Will Siri interact with my mobile BI app? Can I make her build charts for me?
- Oh … how much does it cost? How is it licensed? Can I purchase it without the fancy-schmancy hardware? Really I’m just looking for a price range, not a quote.
Where Can I See It?
- SAS® Business Intelligence Development Roundtable: SAS Business Intelligence Solutions Portfolio and Future Focus
- Self-Service Data Management: Visual Data Builder
- SAS® Workshop: SAS® Visual Analytics 6.1
- Whirlwind Tour Around SAS® Visual Analytics
- The Forest and the Trees: See It All with SAS® Visual Analytics Explorer
- Fast Dashboards Anywhere with SAS® Visual Analytics
Also, check the demo hall for specific product demonstrations.
Learn SAS Visual Analytics
When it comes to business intelligence and analytical capabilities, SAS® Visual Analytics is the premier solution for data discovery, visualization, and reporting. Click here to learn more about the book.
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