We're pleased to introduce Version 2014-R2 of Frontline Solvers for Excel, including a new release of our "super-product," Analytic Solver Platform. The biggest news in our V2014-R2 release is the introduction of XLMiner Platform, a completely rewritten and far more powerful data mining tool, and its subset XLMiner Pro (still more powerful than the former XLMiner Professional). But that's not all...
Analytic Solver Pro -- Integrated "Pro" Tool
In this release, we're introducing Analytic Solver Pro, as a new product you can license. It includes all the features of Premium Solver Pro -- our first professional-level Excel Solver upgrade, Risk Solver Pro -- our full-power tool for Monte Carlo simulation and decision trees, and new XLMiner Pro, the new product mentioned above. With this combination, you get a wide range of capabilities, including Excel Solver VBA macro compatibility, simulation optimization using the GRG Solver and Evolutionary Solver from Premium Solver Pro, and new "scoring" options (including "time series simulation") with our new Psi functions.
Simply put, our Pro level products are designed to compete, in power and price, with "Professional" level products from other Excel add-in vendors; our Platform level products are designed to compete, in functionality and performance, with the best "enterprise software" tools available from any vendor, on any platform. So, you might compare Risk Solver Pro to Crystal Ball or @RISK, and you'd find a subset of XLMiner Pro's capabilities in StatTools + NeuralTools. But Premium Solver Platform can handle huge problems with up to millions of decision variables; Risk Solver Platform has rich stochastic programming and robust optimization features you can find (if at all) only in far more expensive software; and for new XLMiner Platform, we've been benchmarking against tools from SAS and IBM.
Analytic Solver Platform + Microsoft Power BI
How can we compete with far more expensive analytics tools from SAS, IBM and others? Thanks to Microsoft's investment in "self-service business intelligence," which has made Excel far more than a simple spreadsheet, you can access and work with large amounts of data, from a variety of sources, far more easily than with other analytic software packages. Microsoft's Power BI plus Analytic Solver Platform is a very potent alternative to those other enterprise tools.
- With Power Pivot – the free Excel add-in based on SQL Server Analysis Services’ xVelocity database engine – Excel functions as a modern, in-memory, multidimensional database, easily capable of holding 100 million rows of data.
- With Power Query – the free Excel add-in based on SQL Server Integration Services, you have an exceptionally powerful and easy to use ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) capability for your in-memory database. It can draw data from a huge range of sources, from enterprise on-premise databases to cloud-based public data stores on Windows Azure Data Marketplace.
- You can easily summarize, and "slice and dice" data from this in-memory database into Pivot Tables on the spreadsheet, but Analytic Solver Platform can draw representative samples of the data directly from Power Pivot, and use this data to ‘train‘ a data mining or predictive analytics model.
This is a powerful and flexible "stack" of business intelligence and analytics tools. We believe it's literally better than anything you can get from competitors, not matter how much you pay (and some companies are paying a lot, even millions of dollars, for analytic software). So what's missing, that those competitors offer? A few things:
- A big (often six-figure) financial commitment just to get started.
- A huge learning curve. Some vendors have libraries of hundreds of manuals for you to read.
- The need (rather than the option) to employ expensive consultants to get anything done.
- The requirement to pay high annual fees, that seem to go higher every year, to keep using the software.
Business Intelligence and Analytics on the Web
When you build an analytics solution -- from a simple data visualization to a more complex analytics model you can use for decision-making -- you often want to share it with others, which usually means publishing it to a website. A key feature of Microsoft Power BI is its extension of Office 365 to enable you to publish larger Excel workbooks to the web, which include the in-memory, multidimensional database you can create with Power Pivot, and use with Analytic Solver Platform. You can refresh your data from a variety external data sources, and with Microsoft's Data Management Gateway, you can even refresh your Excel workbook on Office 365 with data from your on-premises enterprise database. What then?
That's where Frontline's Solver App and Premium Solver App come in. After refreshing your data, you can re-optimize your model to find new "best" decisions. Our Solver App (released one year ago) is free, and equivalent in power to the Solver in desktop Excel, which Frontline Systems developed for Microsoft. Our Premium Solver App is very inexpensive (under $50 per month), and offers solving power similar to our Premium Solver Pro desktop tool. But it gets better: If you own a license for desktop Premium Solver Platform and use it to create your model, you can solve models much larger models in the cloud using the Premium Solver App.
If you're new to Frontline Solvers, you might be surprised at this point, and wanting to learn more and confirm our claims. If you've been with us for a while, you probably aren't surprised, since you've seen us release major enhancements year after year, at a much higher frequency than most software vendors. In any case, we are really looking forward to seeing the remarkable things you'll accomplish with our software!