Category Archives: MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC

Banking, Financial Services and WPS

As a consultant as well as a reseller, MineQuest Business Analytics often has the opportunity to see and hear about the BI Stack that our customers use. Some of these systems are incredibly complex while others are uniquely simple.

One thing that we have seen time-and-time again is how the mainframe is used in the banking and finance industry. It’s been an evolving process, but the complex statistical systems seem to have moved to less expensive servers and heavy duty analytical workstations while the mainframe has become a repository for data.

Accessing data on the mainframe whether it’s in VSAM, Oracle or DB2 is a cinch with WPS also on the mainframe. As the analytics have moved away from the mainframe, the use of expensive software like those of our competitor is being called into question. The mainframe is now typically used for MXG (computer performance analytics) and ETL work. A lot of what is being done on the mainframe is just the extraction and summarization of data that is to be downloaded to the distributed systems that almost all banks and finance houses have in place.

Putting WPS on your mainframe can save you a lot of money over our competitor’s product on the same machine. If you have not already taken a look at WPS on z/OS you owe it to your company’s bottom line to investigate this product further. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you will see.

Finally, MineQuest Business Analytics can help your organization migrate your current processing to WPS. We can provide project management services as well as consulting, assessments, code review and code migration for your organization.

 

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Building a BI Consulting Company Part II

In the previous post I mentioned that software costs and licensing can be a major impediment to offering a competitive consulting business. I’ve written numerous times demonstrating the cost between a WPS license and our competitor licensed product. You can see those articles here and here.

If you’re a small business and/or just starting an analytics business then cash flow is a major issue. You expect that there will be some significant startup costs but wisely choosing your products can have a major impact on whether you will be successful or not.

The same goes for what you can do with the license. For example, some software companies put the screws to you when you want to use their licensed software in a B2B fashion. This can be innocuous as creating reports and data sets for your customer. The vendor, if they realize it will then dramatically increase your license fees.

How about licensing issues between your company and the software vendor where they have a vested interest in a software solution and you want to offer a competing product? Or perhaps (and more likely) what if they develop a competing product to your solution and decide that they no longer want to provide your organization with a software license? This is a very possible scenario where software companies want to create or move into vertical market applications at the expense of their license holders.

So those are a few things to consider in regards to software costs and licensing. Do your research and ask questions of the vendor. It never hurts to be informed.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Building a BI Consulting Company

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been engaged in a series of conversations regarding consulting and necessary hardware and software to run a successful consulting house. In the last year we’ve seen so many references to “big data” and many of us in the consulting field just shrug our shoulders and smirk because we’ve understood that “big data” is a lot of hype for most of us. If you want to be precise about it, the term (and what we should be concerned with) is actually “big analytics.”

As a BI consultant or consulting house, you don’t have to replicate your client’s systems or data warehouse to consult on “big analytics.” As a matter of fact, some of the most successful BI consulting going on today are with companies that have outsourced a portion of their analytics to a third party. For example, loyalty cards are a driving force in retail and many organizations have outsourced this to third party analytics firms. We also see a growing opportunity in health care for fraud detection and pricing of procedures and prescriptions.

So the question comes down to what is your consulting focus? Is it providing knowledge and programming expertise to a company and perform the consulting remotely (or even onsite) or is it more encompassing and moving in the direction where you have the client’s data on your systems and perform a daily/weekly/monthly service?

I’m inclined to argue that the more financially successful firms that are offering consulting are the ones that are taking client’s data and providing the analytics services away from the client. The rates and fees are higher than when you are on site and there is limited travel time and expense to deal with.

I often see quotes for servers that they have been solicited from Dell, IBM or HP when they are sizing hardware to run WPS. I am amazed at how reasonably an organization can purchase or lease hardware that is immensely powerful for processing data sets when running WPS. I’ve seen 16 and 32 core servers that can run dozens of WPS jobs simultaneously priced between $40K and $60K.

I’m convinced that if you have a good services offering (and a decent sales staff who can find you clients) that this is the golden age in analytics for smaller firms and firms considering jumping into this space. My observations with advertising agencies and others who offer such services bears out that the supply of talent is low and the demand is high.

Of course, hardware cost is just one factor in this line of business so in a future column we will talk about how software cost and licensing can constrain you to the point where you can’t provide any services to third parties or it can set you free and allow you to make significantly more money. Software licensing is a major component to running a profitable BI/Analytics service.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

What are the benefits when buying from MineQuest?

I’m often asked what are the benefits of buying a WPS license from MineQuest Business Analytics?

There are many, but I will touch on three of them in this post. First, when you purchase your server licenses from MineQuest, we provide a means of protecting your license investment. If you find that you need to scale up your server from say four to eight cores in the middle of your license period, we can upgrade your license so that you don’t lose money in the transition. We do require that you stay on the same operating system, but other than that, you get full credit for the time remaining on your license when you trade up.

The second benefit is that you automatically get a copy of the Bridge to R. The Bridge to R allows you to interface WPS into the R system for running more advanced statistical routines and enhanced graphics.

Third, we offer a first line of support for our customers. We have a few years of WPS experience under our belt and have developed products based on WPS. We know the product relatively well and we provide consulting services to companies needing it. We can implement WPS Link (i.e. submit programs from a desktop to a WPS Server) for customers who want a client server environment on any x86 architecture and help with installation and product overviews to users.

 About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

test, Test and TEST

I’m always amazed and somewhat peeved about how much error checking one has to have in their SAS language program. Even for the simplest things. So today’s mantra is test, Test, and TEST!

I was writing some code the other day to copy a WPS data set from my PC to a server share. The basic code is really quite simple, only three lines using PROC COPY. But what if the user has misidentified the source libname or the destination libname? Do you just let it blow up and hope the user looks at the logs? And then you have the data sets to be copied if you are using the SELECT statement. Do you check if the data set already exist and if so, just overwrite the file?

Although it was trivial, albeit time consuming to write the code to check for these conditions, it is well worth it. I purposely decided not to automatically overwrite an existing data set on the server. And that is good for two reasons. First, I want the user to be forced to make the decision to overwrite the data set by use of a PROC DATASETS or PROC DELETE before the copy takes place. That makes it their responsibility to delete the data set.

Secondly, I found out that writing the data set with the same name can sometimes create problems under Windows when the server folder is shared. I have had some experiences where Windows locks the file on the server and the copy never takes place. The copy procedure just hangs with a .lck extension on the file. So something is going on where it’s just not reliable.

One interesting thing to note, I don’t seem to have the problem with a lock on Linux. The copy takes place without issue every single time.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

 

New WPS vs SAS Pricing Comparisons on a Windows Server

We updated our server pricing comparison of WPS on a two, four and eight core server with SAS on the same hardware. We included the cost of the SAS/Toolkit (it’s included with WPS) in the comparison, but for many, it might not be something that is important for them.

At any rate, the figures are there so that an individual or an organization can subtract out the price if they so choose and see for themselves the pricing difference for the two products for the first year and a three year window. It’s pretty amazing how cost effective WPS is on a server in comparison to SAS.

You can view the document by clicking: Pricing_Comparisons_Between_WPS_and_SAS. (pdf ~467kb)

Don’t forget there’s still time to get into the action to win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet. If you register to take out a WPS evaluation before September 30th, 2012, you will automatically be registered in the drawing for the tablet. Certain conditions apply so read the the earlier blog post for all the details. You can request a WPS evaluation by going to the MineQuest Business Analytics website at the WPS evaluation page.