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The Grill: SAS CEO, Dr Jim Goodnight

Goodnight discusses analytics and big data hype

SAS founder and CEO, Doctor Jim Goodnight.

SAS founder and CEO, Doctor Jim Goodnight.

Investing in high performance analytics is a focus for SAS founder and CEO Doctor Jim Goodnight.

Goodnight, who was in Australia for the company’s Sydney forum, spoke with CIO Australia about the future of analytics and technology disruptors.

CIO: Where do you see the future of predictive analytics going?

Goodnight: With predictive analytics we are seeing more and more data that is becoming available.

If you are a thief and have stolen a credit card, we are able to use predictive analytics to predict that the card is not being used by the rightful owner. We know the buying patterns and history of the customer so if we see something out of the ordinary we can issue an alert on the credit card.

Is big data just vendor hype?

There are a lot of companies that do have large amounts of data but a lot of others don’t. I don’t think big data is something that every IT department needs to be concerned about.

The thing is that big data is today’s topic. Every two years the topic has to change because the consultants have made all the money they can off the old topic. I think everyone got tired of talking about the cloud; we went through three years of it.

After 36 years in charge, what has been the greatest technology disruptor and why?

For SAS it was the realisation that we needed to support everything from the new PCs through to mainframes back in the mid-1980s.

The second revolution has been working to reduce the time it takes to complete risk computations. You have to use more processors because even though these are getting faster, it is still not enough when you have to do 200 trillion computations for a particular problem. This is what we call high performance analytics and it has been a turning point for the company.

We use processors to do computations which used to take 30 hours and bring them down to a number of minutes.

How is your High Performance Analytics offering being received in the marketplace?

This has been very well received by our biggest customers, especially the banks that make large amounts of computations. Banks are the most data driven organisations out there because they need to know if it is acceptable to offer someone a credit card or if someone will default on a loan.

In which vertical markets are you strongest and in which others do you see room to gain greater share?

Banking makes up 42 per cent of our business. We are also very strong in the pharmaceutical industry because almost all of them use SAS to analyse drug data that they submit to the US Food and Drug Administration.

In terms of growing markets, electrical utility companies are using our offerings to forecast the demand for electricity. We have also developed fraud detection software for use by the public sector. It’s about time because the public sector has been getting ripped off for years by fraudsters.

SAS has made a number of acquisitions in the past. Is there scope to go broader?

As far as I know we are not looking at any companies right now. We acquired a [software appliance] company last year called rPath which helps companies create virtualized packages to run on clouds.

We have a major security project underway and have hired some people who are interested in working in that area.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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