Frontline Systems Releases Solver SDK™ Platform V2015, REST API with New RASON™ Modeling Language

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Popular analytics Software Development Kit plus RASON modeling language, desktop and Web-based Interactive Development Environment, and REST API accelerate analytic model development, enable use of powerful optimization and simulation methods in “thin client” apps written in JavaScript.

Solver SDK Platform V2015 includes an IDE that can be used to edit, test and run RASON models.

RASON Desktop IDE with Simulation Model

Solver SDK V2015 and the RASON API make the use of analytics radically simple, in almost any app.

Frontline Systems is shipping Solver SDK™ Platform V2015, a major new release of its popular analytics Software Development Kit, and releasing a “production” version of its new RASON™ modeling language and REST API at https://rason.com. Application developers can use these tools to extend any server-based, browser-based or mobile application to deliver analytic results, using the full range of optimization and simulation methods.

Three Ways to Build Analytic Models

The new tools make it easy to create and deploy optimization and simulation models in three forms:

  • Created in a programming language, such as C/C++, C# or Java, and run on a server
  • Created in Microsoft Excel, and run on a Windows or Linux server without Excel
  • Created in the RASON language, and run ‘in’ a web or mobile app using a REST API

And it’s easy to combine these approaches: For example, a Java-based server application can load an Excel workbook, update parameters in the workbook model, and solve it. Or JavaScript in a web page can create or modify a RASON model and solve that model with AJAX calls.

“Deployment of advanced analytics for web and mobile applications has been difficult in the past,” said Daniel Fylstra, Frontline's CEO. “Solver SDK V2015 and the RASON API make the use of analytics radically simple, in almost any app.” Applications that can use advanced analytics ‘behind the scenes’ in domains ranging from finance, logistics and energy to consumer services are now much easier to build.

RESTful Analytic Solver™ Object Notation

RASON, an acronym for RESTful Analytic Solver™ Object Notation, denotes a high-level, declarative modeling language that is embedded in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), the popular structured format widely used to pass data between Web clients and servers. A REST API at https://rason.net enables applications to submit RASON models to Frontline’s servers, solve them, and obtain results in JSON.

The RASON language is simple enough so its essential features can be grasped through a single-page example, shown at https://rason.com/Home/About. But it packs a lot of power, with arithmetic, logical and string operators, 650 built-in functions, array and vector-matrix operations, and “slicing and dicing” of multi-dimensional tables. RASON model parameters may be bound to data in external files, Excel spreadsheets, SQL databases, and soon in several Web-based common formats.

RASON models can express linear and mixed-integer programming, quadratic and second-order cone, nonlinear and global optimization, and ‘arbitrary’ problems solved via genetic algorithms and tabu search methods. They can express Monte Carlo simulation / risk analysis, simulation optimization, robust optimization, and stochastic programming problems with recourse decisions and chance constraints.

Microsoft Excel and RASON Models

The RASON Interpreter is a powerful extension of Frontline’s Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter (PSI Interpreter) for Excel, which has been in development for nearly 15 years. Thanks to this heritage, it starts its life with features such as parallelized ‘automatic differentiation’ of linear and nonlinear expressions, and parallelized execution of Monte Carlo trials. Though many RASON users will likely use the language without any thought of Excel, users who are coming from Excel will find that it’s straightforward to convert Excel formulas into RASON notation. Indeed, the RASON Interpreter can specially recognize names such as "a1:b10" as cell references, and give them the properties of cell ranges.

Five Bundled Solvers for Optimization, Plus a Monte Carlo Simulation Engine

Solver SDK Platform features five bundled Solver Engines, including a Simplex Solver, Barrier Solver, GRG Nonlinear Solver and Evolutionary Solver, plus a high-performance Monte Carlo simulation engine with multiple random number generators, sampling and correlation from 50 probability distributions, and a wide range of automatically computed statistics for results. It can load and run any of eight different plug-in, large-scale Solver Engines, such as the Gurobi, Xpress and KNITRO solvers. The SDK exploits multi-core processors in both simulation and optimization, without any programming effort by the user.

Object-Oriented API in Multiple Languages, Plus Support for Excel and RASON Models

Developers can define models in a high level, object-oriented API that simplifies and speeds application development – working with ‘objects’ such as a Problem, Solver, Model, Variable, and Function, and writing statements such as problem.VarDecision.NonNegative and problem.Solver.Optimize.

Or, a Solver SDK application can open an Excel workbook containing an optimization/simulation model – created using the standard Excel Solver or any of Frontline’s Solvers for Excel – modify its parameters, solve it on a server without using Excel, and save the Excel workbook, updated to contain the final solution. It can also open a RASON model – possibly created by analyst who isn’t a programmer – modify elements of the model from C++, C# or Java, solve it, and access results. This makes it easy for analysts and developers to work together to deliver great solutions for end users.

Desktop and Web-based Interactive Development Environment (IDE)

With Solver SDK Platform V2015, Frontline is including a Windows-based Interactive Development Environment (IDE) for RASON models that features a powerful text editor, syntax coloring and keyword completion, model diagnosis, error messages, and results from solving RASON models locally – even multiple models in parallel. And on https://rason.com, Frontline is offering a Web-based IDE with most of the same features, the ability to run model diagnoses, optimizations and simulations through the REST API, and a one-click option to convert a RASON model into a working single-page Web application.

Free Tier, Monthly Subscriptions, Annual and Runtime License Options

Frontline is offering pricing and licensing options designed for a range of users, from solo app developers, to corporate developers creating “in-house” applications, to ISVs who want to build analytics into their own desktop, server or cloud-based applications. The RASON REST API, built as a horizontally scalable service on Microsoft Azure, includes a free tier for small models, and a monthly subscription plan for larger models or intensively-used applications. Solver SDK Platform is licensed on an annual basis for development purposes, and via flexible runtime licenses for deployment purposes.

Frontline Systems Inc. (http://www.solver.com) is the leader in analytics for spreadsheets and the web, helping managers gain insights and make better decisions for an uncertain future. Its products integrate forecasting and data mining for "predictive analytics," Monte Carlo simulation and risk analysis, and conventional and stochastic optimization for "prescriptive analytics." Frontline developed the solvers/optimizers in Microsoft Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro, distributed to more than 1 billion spreadsheet users. Founded in 1987, Frontline is based in Incline Village, Nevada (775-831-0300). RASON™, Analytic Solver™ and Solver SDK™ are trademarks of Frontline Systems Inc.

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