We're pleased to introduce Version 2015 of Frontline Solvers for Excel, including a new release of our "super-product," Analytic Solver Platform. This release includes:
- Powerful data mining / predictive analytics enhancements in XLMiner Platform and XLMiner Pro
- Wide-ranging simulation / risk analysis enhancements in Risk Solver Platform and Risk Solver Pro
- Significant optimization enhancements to the Gurobi, XPRESS and KNITRO plug-in Solver Engines.
- An easy way to publish optimization/simulation models from Excel to Excel Online or Google Sheets.
Analytic Solver Pro includes all the features of Premium Solver Pro -- our professional-level Excel Solver upgrade, Risk Solver Pro -- our full-power tool for Monte Carlo simulation and decision trees, and XLMiner Pro -- our popular data mining software, so it benefits from many of the data mining and simulation enhancements in V2015. If you own one of our Pro products, we highly recommend an upgrade to Analytic Solver Pro.
- New Text Mining and Predictive Analytics Power
- Wide-Ranging Simulation/Risk Analysis Enhancements
- The Bigger Picture: Our Pro and Platform Products
- Analytic Solver Platform + Microsoft Power BI
- Publish Button: BI and Analytics on the Web
Two highlights of the V2015 release are a powerful new text mining facility, and ensemble methods for prediction and classification -- available in XLMiner Platform and Analytic Solver Platform (only). Text mining is deeply integrated with data mining -- unlike some other products: This means you can "mine" text in comment fields in web forms, support or maintenance tickets, and the like -- and use the results, along with structured data, in any of XLMiner's prediction and classification algorithms -- from regression methods to neural networks. Ensemble methods enhance the power of classification trees, regression trees, and neural networks for classification and prediction -- automatically combining the "votes" of scores of trees or networks using boosting, bagging or "random forests" methods.
Feature selection methods, new in both XLMiner Pro and Platform, are a powerful aid in what's often the most challenging task of data mining: Deciding which data to "feed" into the classification and prediction algorithms. Of all the scores or hundreds of variables or columns of data you have, feature selection helps you identify the right variables that have predictive power for your problem. In multiple linear regression and logistic regression, new variable screening automatically identifies variables causing multicollinearity, rank deficiencies and other problems. Other enhancements in both XLMiner Pro and Platform include "partition-on-the-fly" for all classification/ and prediction functions, ROC/RROC curves in classification and prediction reports, and confidence intervals and prediction intervals in reports.
In Monte Carlo simulation, V2015 adds 20 new Psi functions computing Six Sigma metrics, that you can easily drag and drop into cells from the Results gallery, or check quickly in a new side panel of the Uncertain Function chart display. Chart enhancments for both Uncertain Variables and Uncertain Functions include a new, clean look, more revealing multiple overlaid charts, new easily-applied color schemes, automatic re-sizing, editable confidence intervals, and summary statistics on the chart itself. The Sensitivity (Tornado) chart now includes a third option, a “Conditional Mean” presentation which is often more useful for decision-makers. Distribution fitting offers a new AIC/BIC criterion, and extensive Help text is available for Psi functions and each of their arguments.
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 small 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 $10,000+ tools; and XLMiner Platform has text mining, ensemble methods and advanced regression capabilities matching -- and sometimes exceeding -- far more expensive products from SAS and IBM.
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 that can hold 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.
- Analytic models typically use the data you summarize, and "slice and dice" data from this in-memory database into Pivot Tables on the spreadsheet. Or, Analytic Solver Pro/Platform can draw representative samples of the data directly from Power Pivot, and use this data to ‘train‘ a 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, no 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.
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 Risk Solver App for Excel Online and Office 365 come in. After refreshing your data, you can re-optimize your model to find new "best" decisions, or re-run a Monte Carlo simulation to assess your current risks. Our Solver App is free, and equivalent in power to the Solver in desktop Excel, which Frontline Systems developed for Microsoft. Our Risk Solver App is also free, and powerful enough to handle many risk analysis models.
But it gets better: If you own a license for desktop Premium Solver Platform, Risk Solver Platform or Analytic Solver Platform, and use your desktop software to create your model, with an appropriate license you can run optimizations or simulations of much larger models in the cloud -- using our Solver App and Risk Solver App.
But what if you're using Google Sheets instead of Excel Online and Office 365? Just use the Add-ons - Get Add-ons menu to install our free Solver Add-on and Risk Solver Add-on! They are equivalent in power to our Solver App and Risk Solver App, but they work in the "other popular web-based spreadsheet." Our Solver Pro and Platform V2015 desktop products include a new Publish button on the Ribbon, to make it easy to move your model from desktop Excel to either Excel Online or Google Sheets.
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!