We're pleased to introduce Version 2015-R2 of Frontline Solvers for Excel, including a new release of our "super-product," Analytic Solver Platform.  This new release enables you, for the first time, to ‘pull’ sampled and summarized data into Excel from compute clusters running Apache Spark, the fastest-growing Big Data software on the planet, and to ‘push’ the results of analytic models into Tableau, the popular data visualization tool from Tableau Software, and into Power BI, Microsoft’s new online tool for data visualization and reporting.

V2015-R2 is a free upgrade for users with V2015 licenses and Annual Support.  Just login (or register for free, if you're new) and download it here.

If you're a business analyst, don't let anyone tell you that you need a data science PhD, or R or Python programming skills to get insights from Big Data.  You can do it all in Excel, right now -- with the most advanced analytic models.  If you aren't sure about this, read our analysis of 20+ years of airline flight data, paralleling an analysis of the same dataset by Big Data vendor HortonWorks using Hadoop, Pig, Python and four related tools.

Sample and Summarize Data in Apache Spark Big Data Clusters

This release includes a built-in client that ‘talks to’ a Frontline-supplied server program that runs within an Apache Spark cluster, communicating with the Spark master and worker nodes.  This means you can access Spark data through a simple point-and-click user interface, with no programming expertise in Java/Scala, Python or R required.

By drawing a representative sample of Big Data from a Spark cluster, you can easily train data mining and text mining models directly on your desktop.  By drawing summarized data such as sums, counts and averages of certain variables, grouped by other variables, you can obtain just the data you need to drive simulation and optimization models.

Visualize Analytic Model Results in Tableau and Microsoft Power BI Dashboards

This release also includes the ability to ‘push’ the results of analytic models -- such as final values of decision variables in your optimization model, key statistics, percentiles and risk measures from your simulation model, or predictions or robustness measures from your data mining model -- directly into either Tableau or Microsoft Power BI, with as little as one button click.

For Tableau, we produce Tableau Data Extract (TDE) files, that Tableau Desktop, Server or Online versions can import directly.  For Power BI, we can create datasets directly in your online account, with your permission, through the Power BI REST API.  The new Power BI, in public preview since January, will be officially released on July 24.

With a few more point-and-click steps in either Tableau or Power BI, you can obtain insightful visualizations that simplify communication of results with managers and stakeholders.  And it’s quick and easy -- especially with Power BI -- to ask questions, change assumptions, re-run the analytic models and update the visualizations.

Excel Solver Upgrade, Works with Excel 2016 Preview

As always, this release is upward compatible from the Solver included in Excel, which we developed for Microsoft, and improved in 2010 and 2011.  You can solve problems hundreds to thousands of times larger than the basic Excel Solver, at speeds anywhere from several times to hundreds of times faster, and can solve completely new types of problems.  The V2015-R2 release works with Excel 2016 Preview edition, and will be updated as needed for the final release version of Excel 2016.

With powerful “plug-in” large-scale Solver Engines, including the Gurobi Solver, XPRESS Solver and KNITRO Solver, you can solve linear mixed-integer problems with millions of decision variables, nonlinear problems with hundreds of thousands of decision variables, and many of the largest risk-based stochastic optimization problems that have ever been solved, on any platform.

Publish Analytic Models to Web-based Spreadsheets

In this release, we've further upgraded your ability to move from the desktop to the cloud.  You can easily publish optimization and simulation models to Excel Online or Google Sheets, and solve them in the cloud with our Solver app and Risk Solver app – but where other users can solve only limited-size models, you can solve models up to the maximum size permitted by your desktop software license.  And now you can store your models online in Office 365 or SharePoint 2013, OneDrive or OneDrive for Business, or Google Drive.

Behind the scenes, we're now using our powerful, scalable RASON Server and its REST API on Microsoft Azure to solve models for the Solver and Risk Solver apps / add-ons.  The RASON Server can be used by others -- including you -- for your own applications. Free developer accounts are available at https://rason.com.

Our new Tableau and Power BI clients are included in all of our Pro and Platform products.  Access to Apache Spark Big Data clusters is included in our four Platform products: Analytic Solver Platform; Risk Solver Platform for simulation / risk analysis, conventional and stochastic optimization; Premium Solver Platform, our best-selling tool for large-scale conventional optimization; and XLMiner Platform, our powerful tool for data mining and predictive analytics Excel.

Special Program to Introduce MBA Students to Big Data, Hands-on

With the V2015-R2 release, we've created a special program to enable faculty members in MBA programs to introduce their students to Big Data with realistic hands-on exercises, without requiring a big investment of money or time, by sharing use of Frontline's Apache Spark cluster on Amazon Web Services. If you're a faculty member teaching analytics and you'd like to know more, please contact us.

V2015-R2 is just the latest value enhancement for your Frontline Solvers software license.  And with Windows 10 imminent, and Office 2016 coming later this year, we have more exciting enhancements in store -- stay in touch!