Frontline Solvers Brings Big Data to Excel, Links to Apache Spark Clusters, Power BI and Tableau Dashboards

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New software product line release features links to Apache Spark, Microsoft Power BI and Tableau, plus forecasting, data and text mining, simulation and risk analysis, conventional and stochastic optimization, and cloud use with Excel Online and Google Sheets.

XLMiner Platform - Apache Spark Big Data Case Study

Flight Delays by Airport

Business analysts who aren’t data science PhDs can easily access Big Data in Excel, and build analytics models to quickly answer key business questions.

The newest release of Frontline Systems' Solver products for Excel enables users, for the first time, to ‘pull’ sampled and summarized data into Excel from compute clusters running Apache Spark, the fast-growing Big Data software, and to ‘push’ the results of analytic models into Tableau, the popular data visualization tool from Tableau Software, and Power BI, Microsoft’s new online tool for data visualization. To illustrate what can be done today in Excel, Frontline has published an analysis of 20+ years of airline flight data, paralleling an analysis of the same dataset by HortonWorks using Hadoop, Pig, Python and four related tools.

Frontline's "V2015-R2 prime" release includes its flagship integrated product, Analytic Solver Platform, and its "professional entry-level" integrated product, Analytic Solver Pro. The release also includes new versions of XLMiner Platform, the leading tool for data mining and text mining in Excel; Risk Solver Platform, the leading tool for simulation / risk analysis and stochastic optimization in Excel; Premium Solver Platform, Frontline’s best-selling tool for large-scale conventional optimization; and subset "professional entry-level" products Premium Solver Pro, Risk Solver Pro, and XLMiner Pro. It also brings new power to Frontline's analytic apps for Excel Online and Google Sheets, where Frontline has over 50,000 cloud-based users.

"Now business analysts who aren’t data science PhDs can easily access Big Data in Excel,” said Daniel Fylstra, Frontline’s President and CEO, "and build analytics models to quickly answer key business questions."

Sampling and Summarizing Data from Apache Spark Big Data Clusters

The new release includes a built-in client that ‘talks to’ a Frontline-supplied server program that runs within an Apache Spark cluster, communicating with the Spark master and worker nodes. Business analysts can access Spark data through a simple point-and-click user interface, with no programming expertise in Java/Scala, Python or R required.

By drawing a representative sample of Big Data from all the nodes in the cluster, Excel users can easily train data mining and text mining models directly on their desktops. By drawing summarized data such as sums, counts and averages of certain variables, grouped by other variables, Excel users can obtain just the data they need to drive simulation and optimization models.

Visualizing Analytic Model Results in Tableau and Microsoft Power BI Dashboards

The new release also includes the ability to ‘push’ the results of analytic models -- such as final values of decision variables in an optimization model, key statistics, percentiles and risk measures from a simulation model, or predictions or robustness measures from a data mining model -- directly into either Tableau or Microsoft Power BI, with as little as one button click.

For Tableau, Frontline's software produces Tableau Data Extract (TDE) files, that Tableau Desktop, Server or Online versions can read import directly. For Power BI, Frontline's software communicates directly with the tool's REST API to create datasets in the user's Power BI account, with the user's permission.

With a few more point-and-click steps in either Tableau or Power BI, users can obtain insightful visualizations that simplify communication of results with managers and stakeholders. And it’s quick and easy -- especially with Power BI -- to ask questions, change assumptions, re-run the analytic models and update the visualizations.

Upward Compatible from Excel Solver, works with Excel 2016 Preview

Frontline’s Solvers for Excel are upward compatible from the Solver included in Excel, which Frontline developed for Microsoft. Users can solve problems hundreds to thousands of times larger than the basic Excel Solver, at speeds anywhere from several times to hundreds of times faster, and they can solve completely new types of problems. V2015-R2 prime works with Excel 2016 Preview edition, and will be updated as needed for the final release version of Excel 2016.

With powerful “plug-in” large-scale Solver Engines, including the Gurobi Solver, XPRESS Solver and KNITRO Solver, users can solve linear mixed-integer problems with millions of decision variables, nonlinear problems with hundreds of thousands of decision variables, and many of the largest risk-based stochastic optimization problems that have ever been solved, on any platform.

Publishing Optimization and Simulation Models to Web-based Spreadsheets

In this release, Frontline has further upgraded users’ ability to move from the desktop to the cloud. Since mid-2013, users of Excel Online in Office 365 have been able to use Frontline's Solver app, available free in the Office Store, to solve the same kinds of optimization models handled by the Solver in desktop Excel, that Frontline developed for Microsoft.

With the new release, users can easily publish optimization and simulation models to Excel Online or Google Sheets, and solve them in the cloud with Frontline’s Solver and Risk Solver apps / add-ons – up to the maximum size permitted by their desktop licenses. And they can store their models in Office 365 or SharePoint 2013, OneDrive or OneDrive for Business, or Google Drive.

Behind the scenes, Frontline is now using its powerful, scalable RASON Server and its REST API on Microsoft Azure to solve models for the Solver and Risk Solver apps / add-ons. The RASON Server can be used by other software developers as well – free developer accounts are available at https://rason.com.

Academic Version and Upgrades for Existing Users Available

Users of existing Frontline Solver products can upgrade to V2015-R2 prime at no cost with current Annual Support. Frontline has created a special program to enable faculty members in MBA programs to introduce their students to Big Data with realistic hands-on exercises, without requiring a big investment of money or time, by sharing use of Frontline's Apache Spark cluster on Amazon Web Services. Interested faculty may contact Frontline at academic(at)solver(dot)com.

The Tableau and Power BI clients are included in each of Frontline’s Pro and Platform products. The Apache Spark client is included in Frontline’s four Platform products; with sampling functionality in XLMiner Platform.

Frontline Systems Inc. (http://www.solver.com) is the leader in spreadsheet-based analytics software, 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).

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