Lite version of SAS suite will be free for students as a way of getting more people into analytics

When there’s an IT skills shortage in a particular area organizations have only a few options: Hope a person with the needed qualifications shows up at the door, pay for talent or send them for training.

The SAS Institute is trying to meet the need for data analysts who can handle its software by expanding its online training resources under what it calls Analytics U in May, which will include free SAS software for students and teachers, university partnerships and online user communities to support “the next generation of SAS users.”

New in May will be the SAS University Edition for educators, which includes free use of a lite version of SAS for data and statistical analysis in teaching, research and self-paced learning. The version doesn’t include a number of modules such as SAS Graph, ETS, OR, or Enterprises Miner. It works on PCs or Macs.

It joins the existing free SAS OnDemand for Academics version for teachers, which has many of the modules, as well as suggested course material for teachers that connects to an SAS server in the cloud for students and professors to use.

Beginning in late July, anyone can use the no-cost, online, hosted service for teaching and academic research, which includes Enterprise Guide and Enterprise Miner

“So many of our customers are having a hard time hiring the talent that the need for this advance analytics work that’s going on right now with big data,” explained company CEO and co-founder Jim Goodnight.

“If you do a master’s degree in statistics half the time is spent on theory. You really don’t need it to analyze data. It really comes down to understanding what models you need to understand your data. It can be taught without the theory.”

The company has for years given training materials to universities for creating courses, he said.

In the U.S. alone there’s expected to be a shortage of 1.5 million people needed in the science and technology fields in the next decade, he said. What’s needed is to get younger people interested, “especially women … Women watch all these Hollywood movies about the geek, propeller-head guy breaking into computers. So the problem is the whole computer field has been stereotyped by Hollywood as a bunch of young hackers, so women don’t want to go into it.”

SAS is trying to provide more tools to make data analysis easer for office workers, he said.

The announcement was made in Washington, D. C. at the company’s annual user conference.

Also announced were several new products:

–SAS In-Memory Statistics for Hadoop, which it says enables multiple users to simultaneously and interactively explore and analyze data, build and compare models, and score massive amounts of data in Hadoop.  The application supports numerous statistical and machine learning modeling techniques, including: clustering, regression, generalized linear models, analysis of variance, decision trees, random decision forests, text analytics and recommendation systems;

–Visual Analytics has been upgraded to include text analytics for analyzing explore customer comments or Twitter streams, word cloud and network diagram visualizations to quickly show influences and trends, enhanced mobile features for Apple iOS7 and Android devices, self-service data import and improved data preparation to bring in data from 17 sources, parallel loading includes data from Cloudera, Greenplum, Hortonworks, Oracle and Teradata,  and KPI and metric-based alerts that can be  triggered by user-defined business thresholds.

–Visual Statistics will be released in July. It’s a drag-and-drop environment for quickly building predictive models and presenting results
through data visualization. Data scientists will be able to identify the predictive drivers among explanatory variables, and interactively discover outliers and data discrepancies, said the company.

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