We're very pleased to introduce our new "flagship" top-of-the-line product, Analytic Solver Platform. Since it includes all the functionality and performance of all our other Frontline Solvers for Excel, it starts out at V12.5.
Analytic Solver Platform is a response to the growing interest we've seen in "business analytics," from traditional users of optimization, simulation, and data mining, and from new business users who would like to take advantage of these technologies. We hope you're in one of these groups! ASP is a complete solution for both "predictive analytics" -- tools to model and make predictions from data -- and "prescriptive analytics" -- tools to model and make decisions based on data. You can read much more about its features here.
Power and Ease of Use
Our tagline for Analytic Solver Platform is "no-compromise analytics in Excel:" You should be able to leverage your spreadsheet model-building experience, but you should not have to compromise at all on functionality or performance. Analytic Solver Platform has "power" features -- such as stochastic decomposition for uncertain models, parallel multi-core automatic differentiation for nonlinear models, and GPU supoort in our Evolutionary -- that are hard (or impossible) to find in "enterprise analytics" software costing five to ten times as much.
Where Analytic Solver Platform really "excels" compared to more expensive products, though, is in ease of use, and support for the business user who is just getting started with these "rocket science" methods. With simple Wizard-like dialogs for data mining, a Constraint Wizard for optimization modeling, a Distribution Wizard for simulation modeling, and Guided Mode and new Auto-Help Mode for automatic model analysis and tranformation, automatic Solver engine selection, and the ability to "catch" and explain common user errors, Analytic Solver Platform offers a refreshing contrast to the steep learning curves of other software.
Help and Support
Of course, Analytic Solver Platform comes with a QuickStart Guide, 280-page User Guide and 300-page Reference Guide, context-sensitive Help text, and 30 example datasets and 90 example models. But Analytic Solver Platform breaks new ground with Active Support. If you have Active Support "turned on," and you encounter a problem or error condition, an explanatory dialog appears, and you can simply click a button to be immediately connected to Frontline's Tech Suppport via Live Chat. When this happens, information about the problem, you model type and size, the Excel and Windows version, etc. is sent automatically to our tech support reps, so you don't have to repeat this information, and yiou can get help more quickly.
Synergy in Analytics
We sometimes refer to Analytic Solver Platform as "Risk Solver Platform + XLMiner + synergies." The synergies come from combining predictive analytics technology and prescriptive analytics (optimization and simulation) technology. The marquee example of this in Analytic Solver Platform V12.5 is the ability to use data exploration and visualization, and data mining capabilities (from XLMiner) on Monte Carlo simulation data (created in Risk Solver Platform). For example, k-means clustering of simulation trials is available directly in the Uncertain Function chart display, with just a few mlouse clicks.
Excel and Big Data
For many years, some industry participants -- and other software vendors -- have sought to spread the idea that "Excel is OK for MBA students [where it is overwhelmingly popular], but it is too limited for real industrial problems." The nearly 7,000 companies, including a large share of Fortune 500 firms, who have actually used Frontline's Solvers for Excel know that this idea is spurious. If your optimization model is significantly larger than the 1.4 million variable user model that's included in our regular test set, you might want to consider other options. But the vast majority of real industrial problems are much smaller than this, and they can be readily solved in Excel.
We expect much the same reaction, from the same people, to data mining in Excel: "A spreadsheet can't possibly handle the datasets required for real industrial data analytics." You'll realize that this idea is spurious if you watch a demonstration of PowerPivot, the free add-in from Microsoft's SQL Server group that's now included "in the box" with Excel 2013, as it brings in and manipulates 100 million to 1 billion rows of data in Excel. (And yes, Analytic Solver Platform can sample data directly from PowerPivot.) If your problem truly requires terabyte- or petabyte-size "Big Data", you might want to consider other options. But for the vast majority of current and potential business problems, Excel (and PowerPivot) are just fine.
Analytic Solver Platform for Education
With the commercial Analytic Solver Platform V12.5, we are simultaneously releasing Analytic Solver Platform for Education V12.5 -- the size-restricted version that is aimed at MBA students, and that's 100% upward compatible from both Risk Solver Platform for Education, and XLMiner for Education. You can read more about this product here. We're very pleased that the next editions of several market-leading textbooks, covering management science and business analytics for MBA students, to be published this year, will make extensive use of Analytic Solver Platform for Education. Users in industry can expect a new crop of MBA graduates who are familiar with analytics methods, and this software.
And There's More to Come...
We're already working on the next release of Analytic Solver Platform. Frontline Systems has one of the fastest product upgrade cycles in the industry, and expect to release an even more powerful Analytic Solver Platform version before 2013 is over. And we'll do the same in 2014 and beyond. We hope you'll be as enthusiastic about Analytic Solver Platform as we are!