Contact: Daniel Fylstra
INCLINE VILLAGE, NV -- March 31, 1999 -- Frontline Systems Inc., developer of the Solver in all three major spreadsheets, is now shipping Version 3.5 of its Premium Solver and Premium Solver Plus products. Version 3.5 features a new Evolutionary Solver, which complements the three other Solver 'engines' already included in the Premium Solver products. An evaluation version of the Premium Solver Plus is available for download from Frontline Systems' Web site.
The Premium Solver products are upwardly compatible, higher performance versions of the Microsoft Excel Solver, which Frontline developed for Microsoft. The Solver is a what-if analysis tool that can automatically find the best way to allocate scarce resources -- such as money, raw materials, equipment or people time -- to maximize profits or minimize costs, while operating within specified limits, called constraints, on their use.
"Our users have shown increasing interest in genetic and evolutionary algorithms," said Daniel H. Fylstra, president of Frontline Systems. "Our new Premium Solver products deliver the best performing Evolutionary Solver available for Excel, plus the best performing Solvers for 'classical' optimization -- all in one easy-to-use, integrated package, at no increase in price."
New Releases Build on the Premium Solver for Excel
The new product releases build upon the Premium Solver, which has an enthusiastic following among serious Excel Solver users. Problem solving capacity in the new releases has been increased significantly from Version 3.0: The Premium Solver now offers five times the capacity (1000 decision variables), and the Premium Solver Plus offers ten times the capacity (2000 decision variables) of the standard Excel Solver for linear problems. Both versions offer twice the capacity (400 variables) of the standard Solver for nonlinear problems. Solution times are often 3 to 10 times faster than the standard Solver.
The new Premium Solver releases work with the upcoming Excel 2000 as well as Excel 97 and Excel 95 on both Windows 95 and Windows NT systems. Also included in both releases is support for 16-bit Excel 5.0 on Windows 3.1. The Premium Solver Version 3.5 is priced at $495, and the Premium Solver Plus is priced at $750. Volume discounts are available for quantity purchases. Existing users who have maintenance subscriptions will receive the new releases free of charge.
Evolutionary Solver Complements 'Classical' Optimization
A genetic algorithm or evolutionary algorithm based solver is aimed at the same types of problems that have traditionally been solved with 'classical' optimization methods such as linear programming, nonlinear optimization and integer programming. In these problems, a calculated value such as profit or total cost is maximized or minimized, subject to limits -- called constraints -- on the values of other spreadsheet formulas.
The advantage of an evolutionary algorithm is its generality and flexibility: Unlike classical methods that restrict the formulas in an optimization model to linear or smooth nonlinear functions, an evolutionary algorithm can, in principle, handle any type of function or spreadsheet formula. The tradeoff is that an evolutionary algorithm takes much longer to find a solution, and cannot tell for certain whether the solution is truly optimal. (See the Backgrounder: Genetic and Evolutionary Algorithms Versus Classical Optimization for further details.)
Easier to Use, Faster Than Competing Products
While the Premium Solver products have long enjoyed market-leading positions as the standard spreadsheet Solvers using 'classical' optimization methods, the new Evolutionary Solver competes with other Excel add-in products based on genetic and evolutionary algorithms. The main or only feature of these products is their genetic or evolutionary algorithm based 'solver' for Excel. In contrast, the new Premium Solver products provide a full arsenal of Solver 'engines' for linear programming, nonlinear optimization, integer programming, and non-smooth problems, at prices only slightly higher than these single-function competitors.
The Evolutionary Solver included in both Premium Solver products is certainly easier to learn and use than competing products. Users need not learn any new concepts or terminology from genetic or evolutionary algorithms, nor do they have to master any complicated 'solving methods.' Nor is it necessary to learn a new user interface: Since the Premium Solver products (and the built-in Excel Solver) use a standard framework for defining problems no matter what solution algorithm is being employed, users can simply select the "standard Evolutionary Solver" from a drop-down list of Solver engines, and click the Solve button.
What's more, the Evolutionary Solver outperforms other products on a wide range of problems, even on many of the example spreadsheet models included with these products: It finds better solutions in less time, in most cases. (Because genetic and evolutionary algorithms employ random choice, performance can vary from run to run in any of these products.)
Fully Compatible with Standard Microsoft Excel Solver
The standard Microsoft Excel Solver provides a built-in, easy to use way to define optimization problems. This facility has been available in Excel since 1990, and has been featured in a wide range of trade books, in at least half a dozen business school textbooks, and in the online Help shipped with nearly 40 million copies of Microsoft Excel. The Premium Solver products are upward compatible extensions of this standard Solver.
Compatibility extends well beyond the user interface of the Premium Solver, which will be immediately familiar to Excel Solver users: Existing spreadsheet models developed for the Excel Solver can be used as-is with the Premium Solver, including the new Evolutionary Solver, without any changes. Further, macros written in VBA to control the Excel Solver will work as-is with the Premium Solver. Users can even transfer Solver models between Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3, thanks to compatibility engineered into both Solvers when they were developed by Frontline Systems.
Free 15-Day Evaluation Version Available for Download
Frontline is offering a free 15-day evaluation version of the Premium Solver Plus V3.5 on its World Wide Web site, http://www.frontsys.com. This evaluation version is fully functional, and has the full capacity and speed of the paid-license version, but is limited to 15 days of use from the date of installation. Users with questions about the Premium Solver products are invited to contact Frontline Systems' technical support at (775) 831-0300 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.