SAS Steps Up Mainstream Business-Intelligence Efforts

The new BI Server release, available now for developers and consumers of business intelligence reports, now includes online analytical processing capabilities and new report linking and scheduling features. The server also now provides geographic visualization capabilities through integration with Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc.'s ArcGIS geographical information software.

Last year, SAS reported sales of more than $1.5 billion. But most of those sales are for high-end data-analysis tasks such as scientific research applications and drug discovery and sophisticated financial-data analysis. Query and reporting tools from competitors such as Cognos Inc. and Business Objects SA are more prevalent in mainstream markets.

But more businesses want to standardize on business-intelligence tools from fewer vendors and are increasingly buying broad-based suites to deploy companywide. A recent Gartner report said that CIOs consider business-intelligence technology to be their second priority in 2005, second only to security.

SAS first debuted the BI Server last year as part of the broader SAS 9 platform, of which 20,000 copies have been sold.

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In an opening keynote Sunday evening to many of the user conference's expected 3,400 attendees, CEO James Goodnight said the SAS Enterprise BI Server makes the data-analysis results generated by the vendor's high-end analytical software available to a broad range of knowledge workers. "There's no reason why a company needs low-end reporting tools like Business Objects and Cognos," he said, getting in a dig at SAS's competitors.

Briggs and Stratton Corp. is using the BI Server to consolidate its reporting and in formation assets that were previously scattered throughout the engine manufacturer's global operations, Grant Felsing, decision support manager, said in an interview before the conference. The system, which Briggs and Stratton began implementing in September, is available to about 1,400 employees. Reports are stored centrally, yet available to everyone with access to the system, he says. "It all comes together in one place. From one platform we can serve all information consumers, he says.

Oncology drug developer OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc. is also in the midst of deploying the BI Server. George Hage, statistical programming director, said in a pre-conference interview that the software would make it easier for researchers to pull up drug-development data themselves with less help from IT.

While Enterprise BI Server was the major focus at the user conference, SAS wasn't ignoring its traditional customers. The company also unveiled a new release of its drug-development software, SAS Drug Development 3.0, which works with the SAS 9 system (the previous version supported only SAS 8), better integration with desktop applications, and improved security and regulatory-compliance capabilities.