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Ramping up cloud partnerships around analytics

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Bryan Harris, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, SAS, shares with Enterprise IT News about their latest developments with cloud partnerships and analytics solutions.


EITN: What are the top outcomes of your 2019 investment of USD1 billion into artificial intelligence?

Bryan: From a R&D perspective, we are working on next generation capabilities in analytics, including: reinforcement learning, synthetic data creation, discrete simulation, explainability, bias detection, automated hyper parameter tuning and testing of deep learning models, and next generation forecasting.  

With regard to intelligent automation and transparency, SAS is the first vendor to release an Automated Machine Learning offering that allows experts to intervene if needed. We continue to add natural language generation features to many of our products, in order to explain results in plain English. And we also provide a wide range of model interpretability options, and will continue to invest in this area to promote transparency and reduce bias.   

Another area we’re investing in is composite AI, which combines multiple analytic techniques into the same platform. This helps organizations make better decisions across diverse data sets that include structured, unstructured, streaming, images, audio, video and more.

Furthermore, we added conversational AI capabilities to SAS Viya. Chatbots enable humans to interact with machines using natural language processing and instantly receive a human-like, intelligent response tailored to the user. 

EITN: Can you share the key takeaways from your recently ended Global Forum, especially from the perspective of cloud partners?

Bryan: Industry analysts cite significant market growth for public cloud deployments of big data and analytics. For example, in its Worldwide Big Data and Analytics Software Forecast 2020–2024 report, IDC says public cloud deployments represented 30.5% of the overall BDA software market in 2019 and are expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.2% through 2024, compared with a CAGR of -1.2% for on-premise/other software deployment methods.

Building on our strategic partnership with Microsoft (SAS Viya was released last fall on Microsoft Azure), SAS is expanding cloud-native support for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), with support for Red Hat OpenShift coming later this year. By integrating with these cloud services, we provide our customers with the choice and control to run SAS wherever they need – in the cloud, on premises, or on the edge.

EITN: What is your approach towards cloud partnerships, and did it have to change/adapt due to the pandemic situation?

Bryan: The rate of change is accelerating due to the pandemic. Companies that are embracing digital transformation and adapting to the fast-changing market have a distinct competitive advantage. This includes the increasing adoption of cloud strategies.  

Last year, we announced that Microsoft is our preferred cloud partner. But, we also recognize that our customers have many options, and we’re committed to ensuring a seamless integration with our software. Therefore, we’re releasing SAS Viya on additional cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Red Hat OpenShift. By integrating with these cloud services, we provide flexibility to run SAS wherever our customers need – on premises, in the cloud, or on the edge.

EITN: Noting that Microsoft is a cloud partner, which other cloud players do you also partner with?

Bryan: SAS has now expanded our cloud-native support for Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, with Red Hat OpenShift coming later this year.

EITN: Please share the industries where SAS solutions are very prevalent, and also the industries which you would like to intensify focus upon. Any reason why these particular industries?

Bryan: A large portion of our business is focused on banking, government, insurance, retail, and life science industries. Given disruptions in the last 15 months, we are also seeing a significant opportunity to help companies across industries like manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, energy and utilities, and precision agriculture. Using data and analytics, we can help them make the best decisions for their organizations as they adapt to a post-COVID world.

EITN: Please share your business and tech roadmap for the next 3 to 5 years.

Bryan: SAS has in its roadmap plans to provide analytics and data management capabilities to customers via an “as-a-service” model. These plans provide new channel opportunities, including major integrations with Microsoft technologies as part of the SAS/Microsoft partnership. 

As we evolve our solutions to be cloud-native, that requires us to think broadly about how we can make SAS more pervasive as the number of applications in this marketplace multiply over the next several years. Our recent acquisition of Boemska will accelerate customer migration to the cloud and further our integration with non-SAS applications. Boemska provides SAS customers with applications that not only facilitate an expedient migration to the cloud, but also a mechanism to reach the ‘Last Mile of Analytics’. 

SAS is also investing in composite AI, which combines multiple analytic techniques into the same platform. This helps organizations make better decisions across diverse data sets that include structured, unstructured, streaming, images, audio, video and more.