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SAS, Microsoft make Viya available on Azure Marketplace

The vendors aim to market the analytics platform to a new audience of self-service customers that will be able to quickly deploy Viya and pay only for the compute power they use.

SAS and Microsoft on Tuesday expanded their partnership by making Viya available on the Azure Marketplace.

Viya is SAS' cloud-native analytics platform.

The vendor, founded in 1976 as part of North Carolina State University and now based in Cary, N.C., first introduced Viya in 2016 and re-architected the platform in 2020 to make it fully cloud native. In addition, the vendor offers SAS 9.4 for its on-premises customers.

In June 2020, SAS and Microsoft formed a partnership under which Microsoft became the preferred cloud provider for SAS' analytics tools, and the vendors unveiled a joint go-to-market strategy. The partnership does not, however, prevent SAS customers from running on the cloud of their choice, so while Azure is now SAS' preferred cloud, SAS tools also integrate with other clouds such as AWS and Google Cloud.

About six months after the start of the partnership, SAS and Microsoft launched an integration between Viya and Azure that enables SAS customers to more easily run their analytics operations in Microsoft's cloud.

New availability

Now, in concert with the start of SAS Explore, a virtual conference hosted by the analytics vendor, SAS and Microsoft are making Viya available on the Azure Marketplace, where customers can buy it for self-service BI use on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Historically, SAS deployments have been on an enterprise scale and at a substantial cost; the vendor does not make public the cost of an enterprise deployment. However, on the Azure Marketplace, potential customers as small as a single end user can now buy and download Viya with a single click, and subsequently pay 55 cents per hour of use based on virtual CPU clusters.

That quick and easy deployment makes the availability of any platform, whether from SAS or another vendor, on a major cloud provider's marketplace a significant development, according to Doug Henschen, analyst at Constellation Research.

"The expectation is that you can deploy the product quickly and easily, that you don't have to go through a third party, that the product is delivered as a service -- with minimal management requirements -- and that you can pay for usage through your cloud account," he said. "That's not always the case, but this SAS offering delivers on all these fronts."

As a result of its quick and easy deployment, the availability of Viya on the Azure Marketplace should enable SAS to reach a new audience of non-enterprise customers -- primarily groups of three to five users, Henschen continued.

"This offering is primarily a way to reach out to net-new customers who want the ease and convenience of cloud deployment and vendor-managed services," he said.

We had been built for 46 years to service the global enterprise market. That's great for the big guys like governments and banks. This offer ... puts Viya down to the level of an individual user.
Jay UpchurchExecutive vice president and CIO, SAS

Similarly, Jay Upchurch, executive vice president and CIO of SAS, said that making Viya available on the Azure Marketplace goes beyond just the exposure such availability gives any analytics platform, whether one from SAS or competitors like Qlik and Tableau.

It has to do with the ease with which it enables potential new customers to onboard Viya and the access it gives to non-enterprise users.

Rather than go through the weeks and months of a traditional enterprise deployment, which generally includes a sales experience with SAS, as well as vetting by the organization's IT department and upper management, users can now deploy Viya for self-service use in a matter of minutes, Upchurch said.

"We had been built for 46 years to service the global enterprise market," he said. "That's great for the big guys like governments and banks. This offer ... puts Viya down to the level of an individual user. It's vastly different than a procurement cycle an enterprise would go through that's months in duration and kills business momentum."

He added that SAS has been working in recent years to improve Viya to make the enterprise experience faster and make analytics accessible to more users. Putting Viya on the Azure Marketplace is likewise aimed at expanding the reach of SAS to more users.

Meanwhile, just as SAS' partnership with Microsoft makes Azure the preferred cloud for its analytics products, but does not limit users to Azure, SAS plans to make Viya similarly available on other cloud marketplaces, according to Upchurch.

Viya is already available on the AWS and Google Cloud marketplaces, but it can't be fully deployed with just a few clicks as it can from the Azure Marketplace. Running Viya on those cloud platforms requires potential customers to go through the sales process with SAS.

A sample SAS dashboard
A sample SAS dashboard shows how an organization is using the vendor's tools to analyze scientific data.

Future plans

Over the past three years, SAS has made a concerted effort to advance its cloud-native capabilities.

While newer vendors like Domo were cloud native from the start, others -- including SAS, Qlik and MicroStrategy -- whose platforms were geared toward on-premises customers had to overhaul their tools to make them viable as more users migrate to the cloud.

Following the re-architecture that began in 2019, SAS' push toward future viability included a new sales strategy to prioritize the cloud, the formation of its partnership with Microsoft and now a new self-service opportunity for users with the availability of Viya on Azure.

As a result, SAS' cloud products were the fastest-growing segment of its business in 2021, with sales increasing 19% year over year, according to Upchurch.

Future products will continue to focus on the cloud, he continued. That will include new SaaS offerings as well as making SAS' many industry-specific tools cloud native. In addition, SAS is focused on developing technologies such as digital twins with partners including Cosmo Tech.

Henschen, meanwhile, said he'd like to see SAS add even more deployment options. With the addition of Viya on Azure Marketplace, it now can cater to small groups of three to five users with 100 GB of data held in memory, as well as the large enterprises it has historically served. But it lacks offerings that serve the middle ground between the two.

"If you think of it in terms of T-shirt sizing, I hope SAS will add medium and large steps up to go with this initial small-sized offering," Henschen said. "That may come over time if the initial offering gains traction and customers want to do more in the cloud without having to self-manage or turn to SAS to host a larger deployment."

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