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Frontline Systems releases Analytic Solver V2017-R2

Frontline Systems is shipping a new product line release for desktop and cloud, Analytic Solver 2017-R2 for Excel and enhancements to, its SaaS equivalent. Building on the February V2017 release that unified and simplified Frontline’s product and introduced Analytic Solver Basic, the V2017-R2 release features major performance improvements in optimization, new distribution and correlation functionality in simulation/risk analysis, and a new, radically simple way to convert Excel analytic models into Power BI custom visuals, for distribution to “BI consumers” throughout an organization.

“We’re not only making advanced analytics power tools and learning aids accessible to every business analyst,” says Daniel Fylstra, Frontline’s president and CEO. “We’re making the fruits of their efforts — working analytic models and their insights — readily accessible to everyone who needs them.”

Microsoft’s popular Power BI business intelligence and data visualization platform now supports “custom visuals,” originally conceived as a way to broaden the range of chart types available in Power BI dashboards. Independent developers, using an array of special Web development tools such as TypeScript (a “strongly typed JavaScript” programming language) and the Node.js framework, can create custom visuals to be used in Power BI. But for Excel-literate business analysts, creating their own Power BI custom visuals has been far out of reach.

All that has changed with Analytic Solver V2017-R2. Working in Excel with this tool, a business analyst user can turn his or her Excel-based optimization or simulation model into a Power BI Custom Visual, with just a few mouse clicks. The result isn’t just a chart – it’s a fully-functional optimization or simulation model, ready to accept Power BI data, run on demand on the web, and display visual results in Power BI. Users simply need to drag and drop appropriate Power BI datasets into the “well” of inputs to match model parameters.

The secret behind the remarkable capability to turn desktop Excel models into web-based Power BI custom visuals, without any programming, is Analytic Solver’s ability to translate an Excel model into RASON (RESTful Analytic Solver Object Notation), Frontline’s powerful modeling language embedded in JSON. Analytic Solver then “wraps” Power BI custom visual code around the RASON model. The result is a radically simple way to move from traditional Excel to cloud deployment to business intelligence “consumers” — not available anywhere else.

For large optimization models with tens to hundreds of thousands of decision variables, the V2017-R2 release greatly improves the speed of “problem setup,” where a “Jacobian matrix” is built from many thousands of Excel formulas. Though individual results vary, Frontline has seen speed gains of 10 to 50 times on real customer models. These improvements benefit all of Frontline’s 12 different “Solver Engines” that handle problems ranging from linear programming and nonlinear optimization, to “arbitrary” models and stochastic optimization.

Also part of the V2017-R2 release are new, higher performance Solver Engines for optimization based on latest releases of the Gurobi Solver, FICO’s Xpress Solver and Artelys Knitro Solver, as well as Frontline’s greatly-enhanced, high-performance Evolutionary Solver, focused on challenging non-smooth, non-convex models with integer variables. Free trials of the optional large-scale Solver Engines are “built in” and available to users at any time.

The V2017-R2 release supports a new family of probability distributions, called the metalog distributions, even more general than the Pearson distributions — members of this family can be chosen based directly on historical data (even just a few observations), without a distribution fitting process. The metalog distributions allow empirical data to “speak for itself” in simulation models.

The new V2017-R2 release is available now at Frontline’s website and at its cloud version portal


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