With $1.34 billion in annual revenue, SAS Institute Inc., in Cary, N.C., is the largest business intelligence software company and the largest privately held software company in the world. Its founder and CEO, Jim Goodnight, sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Dennis Callaghan at the companys recent BetterManagement Live Worldwide Business Conference in Las Vegas to discuss a wide range of topics.
Why do you consider your new Financial Intelligence solution to be SAS most important product release this year, next to the SAS 9 platform release in March?
I would certainly rank it up there with our Marketing Automation solution, which we announced earlier this year. We have had a financial consolidation and reporting system for about four or five years now. This new release sits on top of version 9 and uses a very large amount of middleware sitting on the server so a lot of the softwares actually written in Java. Its is unique in that [we] have developed algorithms that allow everything that needs to be computed to be computed on the fly, so nothing is precomputed. Its just each time you ask for a value, you get a subsecond response, and that value appears. Now from a budgeting standpoint, that means that budgets are rolled up instantly and every change that somebody makes in a budget, its just instantaneously updated. Whereas, now, most budgeting systems take several hours to get everybodys stuff together and updated. So we believe that we probably have a three- or four-year advantage on any of our competitors in this space right now.
Is Hyperion the company youre targeting with this release?
Absolutely. We feel like theyve been a little bit occupied, shall we say, with the Brio [acquisition] and that theyre having a hard time trying to get that and another acquisition they did a few years ago [Arbor Software] integrated.
Whats coming next? Whats the next solution area youre going after?
We have an additional major release of our operational risk software coming up later this year. And early next year, well have a new release of our Web Report Studio, which is our query and reporting tool for the mass audience.
Would operational risk management be a component of the Financial Intelligence solution?
A lot of people think it should be. They certainly think it needs to be part of the corporate compliance area. So weve had a lot of people ask us to include operational risk as part of our Sarbanes-Oxley [Act] solution.
Do you have any plans to do that at this point?
Oh yeah, eventually itll be merged in. But since both our OpRisk and Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance software are proceeding very rapidly on totally separate tracks, its going to take us a little while to pull something together. These are all things that are underway right now. Weve got so many of these things.
So its too soon to say when that would actually happen?
A lot of business intelligence software vendors are claiming to be in the predictive analytics space these days, or to have a predictive component in their software. Do you see anybody challenging SAS in that area?
In the analytical space, SPSS of course is still out there, when we are competing in a pure statistical mode, statistics solutions, we do run into them about 9 percent of the time. But theyre the only ones who have any real analytics stuff. What makes SAS so powerful is not just the analytical piece, but the entire platform. The fact that we have the ETL [extraction, transformation and loading] capabilities already built into SAS—developing your metadata, scheduling jobs to run, pulling everything into your warehouse, doing data cleansing, doing also analysis and reporting on the warehouse. All of these things give us the depth that the other products dont have. And also most of our analytics—quite a few of the analytical procedures—have been converted to use of multiple threads. So our entire base engine is multithreaded. Basically, about a third of our procedures a year are being converted over. We did the most important ones first, things like sorting.