Advanced Analytics for Everyone

For everyone that I have told to stand out from the crowd by stretching your analytical brain and learning prescriptive modeling, check out the fantastic news. Frontline Systems now offers software to anyone that previously was only available for university MBA programs. For $250 per year, you can get the latest Analytic Solver Basic desktop and access to AnalyticSolver.com. Combined with Solver Academy, Frontline’s new Open edX-based online learning platform, you can truly gain elite advanced analytics skills on a minimal budget.

Frontline Systems for Advanced Analytics

AnalyticSolver_DataMining

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Frontline Systems. I have written about Analytic Solver before. I teach the Excel variation in my advanced analytics class. This group also has a solution for Google Sheets. The entire Frontline Systems team is world class, brilliant yet humble and enjoyably fun to talk to about various analytics topics. (Yes, I do have a few favorites.)

Founded in 1987, Frontline Systems Inc. (www.solver.com) is the leader in analytics for spreadsheets and the web, helping managers gain insights and make better decisions for an uncertain future. Its products integrate forecasting and data mining for “predictive analytics,” Monte Carlo simulation and risk analysis, and conventional and stochastic optimization for “prescriptive analytics.” You may recognize the them – they built the original solver in Excel.

Today Frontline Systems is shipping a new product line release for desktop and cloud, Version 2017 of its Solvers for Excel and AnalyticSolver.com, its SaaS equivalent. The new release unifies and simplifies Frontline’s offerings while also making learning predictive and prescriptive analytics more affordable for everyone.

“We’re making advanced analytics power tools and learning aids accessible to every business analyst,” said Daniel Fylstra, Frontline’s President and CEO. “Our users can build models with point-and-click ease of use, while taking advantage of the most advanced analytic algorithms and methods.”

Advanced Analytics for Learning

V2017WelcomeScreen

In this release, Frontline is making available to all users Analytic Solver Basic V2017, a new version of its Analytic Solver Platform for Education product, formerly offered only for university MBA programs. Analytic Solver Basic includes every feature of Frontline’s analytics software, but handles only limited-size models and datasets, suitable for learning. All of the 100+ example models and datasets included with the software can be used.

In my classes, I tell students the free examples alone are invaluable for learning the art of prescriptive modeling.

The Ongoing Free Trial

V2017RegressionTree

Where many vendors offer a 15- to 30-day free trial, Analytic Solver Basic gives the user an ongoing “free trial” opportunity for all the large-capacity products that Frontline offers. Users can simply create or open models or datasets larger than Analytic Solver Basic’s limits – and run them. The software enters “Test Run Summary Only” mode, and actually runs the problem, but delivers only summary information such as the final objective in optimization, or key statistics in simulation/risk analysis, then recommends the best upgrade option. After a simple, point-and-click upgrade step, the user has both the large-capacity product and Analytic Solver Basic, with its ongoing “free trial” of other functions.

New ‘Adobe-Like’ Software Licensing

Much like other vendors shifting to subscription models, Frontline has implemented a new cloud-based software licensing system. Users can now install and use Frontline’s software on multiple computers, such as a desktop, laptop, home PC, or virtual machine – but only one of these at a time. A multi-user license option enables organizations to share a license among multiple users and multiple machines, without having to run a special ‘license server’. Licenses can be used while disconnected from the Internet, for lengths of time specific to the license.

High Performance Evolutionary Solver

The V2017 release features further significant enhancements to Frontline’s popular Evolutionary Solver for optimization, focusing on the most difficult non-smooth, non-convex models with integer variables. For problems of this nature, Frontline believes that its Evolutionary Solver performs in the very top tier of research and commercial software, available at any price on any single-machine platform.

PMML Support and Other Enhancements

V2017PMMLModel

The new release features support for industry-standard PMML (Predictive Model Markup Language) for Analytic Solver’s full range of classification, prediction, and time series forecasting methods, as well as PMML extensions for text mining.

 

Other data mining enhancements include:

  • Ability to create ensembles of any combination of six different classification methods or four different prediction methods
  • Direct use of categorical variables in many predictive algorithms that, in other analytics software, can use only continuous variables
    • Ability to “fit,” store and apply to new data a wide range of data transformation and unsupervised learning tools, such as PCA and clustering
    • Enhanced neural networks with any number of layers, and better scaling, training, and activation function options
  • Enhanced reports and charts, especially for model evaluation, and simplified functions to apply predictive models in Excel worksheets

Nicer Tableau Integration

Tableau Web Data Connector

For Tableau fans, a Frontline has added even better support with a new version of Tableau Software’s Web Data Connector. They already support export of analytic model results to Tableau, the popular data visualization software, complementing support first introduced in Frontline Solvers V2015.  Results can be sent to Tableau Data Extract (TDE) files via an HTML/CSS/JavaScript form that can be consumed directly by the Tableau Web Data Connector.

Fun fact: I requested the Frontline Systems Tableau integration back in 2014…and they delivered it!

Simplified Product Line

For existing users, Frontline has simplified its product line.

Frontline continues to offer eight plug-in large-scale Solver Engines for optimization, upgraded in the new release, that work with Analytic Solver Optimization and Analytic Solver Comprehensive.

The new V2017 release is available now at Frontline’s website Solver.com and at its cloud version portal AnalyticSolver.com.

Other Solutions by Frontline Systems

In addition to the Analytic Solver offering, this group also has a nice array of other products including software development kits SDKs, analytic engines for OEM and a fascinating REST API called RASON. I have yet to find time to play with RASON myself but I do see a lot of potential in using with a variety of dashboard solutions that don’t yet have any kind of prescriptive analytics functionality.

If you do try RASON, I’d like to see and hear about your experience. I envision it being used for basic solver, as well as optimization or simulation models, in web apps and/or web-based reporting solutions.