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During its Virtual SAS Global Forum 2021 event, SAS today announced an expansion for its SAS Viya platform, which is used for analyzing data and building AI models. The platform will now be available on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud, along with existing support for Microsoft Azure.

In addition, SAS pledged to support the Red Hat OpenShift platform based on Kubernetes that many organizations are starting to employ as the foundation for their hybrid cloud computing environments.

SAS also today unveiled Virtual Victim Assistance Network (ViViAN), a chatbot it built in collaboration with the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) to assist victims of fraud. Developed under a grant provided by the Office of Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), ViViAN employs natural language processing (NLP) and linguistic rules, along with machine learning and deep learning algorithms to enable ITRC to better aid victims of identity theft. ITRC is a nonprofit organization that provides both victim assistance and consumer education via a toll-free call center, a website, and social media platforms.

Greater reach

ITRC claims to have helped more than 11,000 people in the last year through its contact center alone and says its website had 1.1 million unique visitors. ViViAN was built using the low-code SAS Conversation Designer tool the company makes available via the SAS Viya platform.

The goal is to make analytics universally accessible via speech interfaces without requiring anyone to run a report, SAS CTO and COO Bryan Harris said. “Think of it as having a conversational interface to SAS,” he said.

In general, SAS has been making a case for an integrated approach to building analytics and AI models that includes the management tools organizations require to handle massive amounts of data. Those data management capabilities are particularly important as organizations begin collecting data from internet of things (IoT) environments and other sources.

Integration

Harris said this integrated approach has helped SAS drive past the $3 billion revenue mark in 2020, despite the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that a full 27% of the revenue SAS generates is plowed back into research and development. SAS also pledged last year to invest $1 billion in AI over a three-year span to advance its overall strategy.

As part of that strategy, SAS plans to extend its ability to integrate with Microsoft cloud application environments such as Microsoft 365 and Dynamic. “We’ll integrate with existing ecosystems,” Harris said.

In 2020, SAS also acquired Boemska, a provider of low-code/no-code application deployment and analytic workload management tools for the SAS Viya platform. This deal was part of an effort to accelerate AI integration in third-party applications that will be offered via a SAS online marketplace.

SAS isn’t the only provider of analytics platforms to reveal such ambitions. However, the company is betting that a composite approach to AI will prevail as organizations employ multiple data sources residing in the cloud and in on-premises IT environments.

It’s already apparent that AI requires the management of large amounts of data at a level of consistency few organizations have been able to achieve and maintain. Rather than asking organizations to integrate a separate data management platform with multiple frameworks for building analytics applications infused with AI capabilities, SAS is driving an approach that ultimately reduces the total cost of building and managing these applications.

It’s far too early to say which approach will prevail, but with a large installed base of enterprise customers, SAS is likely to be an AI force for years to come.

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