Welcome to Version 9.6 of Risk Solver Platform and its subset products Premium Solver Platform, Premium Solver, Risk Solver Premium and Risk Solver.  V9.6, an update of our major V9.5 release, includes a new feature called Guided Mode -- to help users understand and use the software's advanced capabilities, especially for stochastic optimization.  See also What's New in Solver Platform SDK V9.0.

Risk Solver Platform V9.5 introduces a deeply parallelized software design to exploit the multi-core processors in modern PCs to analyze and solve larger models, faster than ever before.  Version 9.5 is designed to work with Microsoft Excel 2003 and Excel 2007.  It also works with the public beta version of Excel 2010.

Exploiting Multi-Core Processors

All parallelized algorithms are available in full Risk Solver Platform, and some are also available in Premium Solver Platform.

Multi-Core Monte Carlo Simulation:  Risk Solver Platform V9.5 will exploit multiple processor cores to further speed its already-fast “vectorized” Monte Carlo simulation.

Multi-Core Simulation Optimization:  Risk Solver Platform V9.5 will also exploit multiple processor cores to speed up simulation optimization – usually the most compute-intensive method used to solve optimization problems.

Multi-Core Global Optimization:  When you use the Multistart methods for global optimization with the GRG Nonlinear Solver or with the LSGRG, LSSQP or KNITRO Solvers, Risk Solver Platform V9.5 will exploit multiple processor cores to run multiple nonlinear optimizations in parallel.

Multi-Core Nonlinear Optimization:  Even when you’re solving a single smooth nonlinear optimization with the GRG Nonlinear Solver or with the LSGRG, LSSQP or KNITRO Solvers, Risk Solver Platform V9.5 is significantly faster – it will exploit multiple processor cores to speed up gradient computations via parallelized automatic differentiation.

Multi-Core Mixed Integer Nonlinear Solutions:  Risk Solver Platform V9.5’s standard Branch & Bound algorithm, which is used by the GRG Nonlinear, LSGRG and LSSQP Solvers, has been parallelized to exploit multiple processor cores on mixed-integer nonlinear (MINLP) problems.

Multi-Core Non-Smooth Optimization:  Risk Solver Platform V9.5 provides parallelized function evaluation and parallelized local search searches to Solver Engines – and these services are exploited in a major way by our redesigned Evolutionary Solver (see below).

Faster Solver Engines

Several of the built-in Solvers and plug-in Solver Engines in Version 9.5 feature algorithmic improvements that speed solutions.  Risk Solver Platform V9.5 also removes or reduces some bottlenecks to performance that existed in V9.0 due to progress reporting in the Task Pane.  Many models will solve faster in V9.5.

LP/Quadratic Solver

The LP/Quadratic Solver in Risk Solver Platform and Premium Solver Platform includes a wide range of improvements in presolve, preprocessing, cut generation and heuristics for LP/MIP problems.  These methods are now automatically selected under overall user control – making them much easier to use.

Now you can set just three LP/Quadratic Solver options – Preprocessing, Cuts, and Heuristics – to gain the benefit of these methods.  For each of these options, you can select None, Automatic, or Aggressive.  Each choice activates specific combinations of methods that Frontline has found effective on many models.

As usual with LP/MIP problems, performance is very model-dependent – but overall, you can expect a significant speed improvement on your LP/MIP problems.  We expect many user models will solve twice as fast as in V9.0.

GRG Nonlinear Solver

The GRG algorithms and code aren’t changed at all – but solution times with the GRG Solver in Risk Solver Platform and Premium Solver Platform are significantly improved thanks to the developments cited above:  Parallelized automatic differentiation, parallelized Branch & Bound for MINLP problems, and parallelized Multistart start for global optimization problems.  On a quad-core PC, we expect many user models will solve twice as fast as in V9.0.

Evolutionary Solver

The Evolutionary Solver has been redesigned to deeply exploit the search possibilities afforded by multiple processor cores.  In addition to improvements in its algorithms, ‘balance of effort’ heuristics, and stopping rules -- which are available in all subset products for optimization -- the Evolutionary Solver in Risk Solver Platform and Premium Solver Platform now uses a parallelized (and ‘vectorized’) global search and a parallelized local search to find much better solutions in the same time.

As usual with NSP problems, performance is very model-dependent – but solution times are very significantly improved.  On a quad-core PC, we expect solutions at least twice as fast on many user models, but some models will see better solutions at speeds 10 times faster or more.

New Sensitivity Analysis Features

Risk Solver Platform V9.5 and all of its subset products includes new facilities for sensitivity analysis of your Excel model, that can be used before even starting an optimization or simulation model.  It is especially easy to identify the model parameters with the most impact on your computed results – you can simply select any formula cell, and choose Parameters – Identify from the Ribbon to quickly find the input cells with the greatest impact on this formula, ranked and shown in a Tornado chart.

You can choose some of these input cells to serve as Sensitivity Parameters, and then produce reports and charts that show the impact on computed results of varying these parameters over a range you specify.  You can also turn these parameters into (or define other cells as) Simulation Parameters or Optimization Parameters, and produce reports and charts of simulation and optimization results as your parameters are automatically varied.

New Decision Tree Features

New in Risk Solver Platform V9.5 (only) is a facility to create decision trees on your Excel spreadsheet.  Using the Ribbon, you can easily create decision nodes and branches, event nodes and branches, and terminal nodes.  The tree is drawn in graphic form on the spreadsheet; standard Excel worksheet formulas compute ‘rollback’ values at each node, and the best-choice value at the root node, based on either expected value or utility function (certainty equivalent) criteria.  With a Ribbon choice, you can graphically highlight the optimal path through the tree.

Since all computations for decision trees are performed via standard Excel worksheet formulas, you can use decision trees in your simulation and optimization models.  You must make discrete choices for decisions, and define discrete alternatives for events, but you can, for example, define distributions for event outcomes and/or costs incurred for decisions, and view the composite distribution of outcomes at the root node.

New License Manager

Risk Solver Platform V9.5 and all of its subset products incorporate a new license manager, from Reprise Software, that replaces the Sentinel license manager that Frontline has used for the last four years.  For customers with Flexible Use (“concurrent user”) licenses, we have a new License Server to work with this license manager.

The Reprise license manager offers simpler and more reliable trial licenses, plus the considerable convenience of Internet-based license activation.  With V9.5, we’ll no longer have to ask you for a lock code and email you a license code that you have to copy and paste; we can simply give you an “activation code” – about the length of a credit card number – and you can use this to activate your own license through our Internet server.

Improved Help and Examples

In all V9.5 products, you can get quick online Help for every Solver Result message and error message in the Output pane, every Platform option and Solver Engine option, and every element of your simulation model, optimization model, or sensitivity analysis or decision tree element in the Task Pane Model tab.

Instead of the V9.0 Risk Solver Platform “splash screen” that appeared every time you started Excel (until you turned it off), V9.5 has a considerably more useful startup screen that appears only when you visit the Risk Solver Platform tab on the Ribbon, and then only when you’re using a trial license.  This screen includes links to open Help or the User Guide, open a wide range of example worksheet models, or watch our video tutorials.

Using the Help - About menu choice, you can switch between Risk Solver Platform, Risk Solver Premium, Premium Solver Platform, Premium Solver, and Risk Solver.  You can run any product that equals, or is a subset of, the product for which you have a license.  This is especially useful when evaluating our software, since you can 'experience' exactly what features and performance are available in each subset product.