PROS, a provider of pricing and revenue management software, wanted to enhance its business intelligence (BI) capabilities. To improve query performance, the company implemented a tabular data model based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis
Services and the new xVelocity in-memory analytics engine. As a result, PROS customers can produce complex reports six times faster. And some queries, cut from 40 minutes to less than a second, run 2,400 times faster. Customers can also reduce the total cost
of ownership (TCO) while improving performance. Ultimately, PROS is strengthening its competitive advantage as more customers choose a Microsoft solution.
PROS pricing software helps companies worldwide forecast demand and execute the most profitable pricing strategies. By deploying an easily configured solution, companies can speed deployment and realize a rapid return on investment. In its next software
release, PROS also wanted to help customers improve performance.
||Customers can enter the world of big data by using SQL Server 2012 and xVelocity. The in-memory analytics will result in impressive performance improvements.
| John Tyler
The PROS Pricing Solution Suite includes analytics software that companies use to model pricing data and monitor performance and market trends. Working with transactional data from multiple sources, users were producing charts and graphs based on prebuilt aggregate
tables. “Our solutions focus on pricing and sales transactions that can involve terabytes of data and hundreds of millions of table rows,” says John Tyler, Development Manager at PROS. “So performance, in terms of analyzing and visualizing information, was
one of our biggest challenges.”
In extreme cases, it could take 40 minutes to run a query against a multidimensional model, and more than half an hour to produce a complex report. The company wanted to deliver results in near-real time and also offer new capabilities. Tyler says, “There
were features that we always wanted to implement but never could because performance was a barrier.”
A Microsoft partner with gold and silver competencies, PROS was already using Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services for online analytical processing (OLAP). It decided to implement Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise data management software to take advantage
of features such as the new xVelocity in-memory analytics engine. “We support a couple of OLAP engines, but SQL Server Analysis Services is our best option,” says Tyler. “It’s what we recommend to our customers for performance and scalability.”
PROS began implementing the new solution in November 2011. By deploying SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services in tabular mode, PROS customers can pull data from multiple sources and cache it in an in-memory columnstore index. The xVelocity engine, which also
includes data compression algorithms, increases query speed and reduces or eliminates the need for prebuilt aggregate solutions.
PROS is also using data analysis expressions (DAX) to create business logic. Another component of the xVelocity engine, DAX is an expression language based on Microsoft Excel formulas that operates against an in-memory relational data store. PROS reports
that business logic is easier to create with DAX than it is with multidimensional expressions (MDX), and DAX also returns results faster. Tyler explains, “We can define custom calculations in DAX, extract them to our own configuration file, and generate the
appropriate model within SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services that we then interact with as a running application.”
PROS introduced the solution to customers with its latest software release in April 2012, and are already working on enhancements such as new search filters.
By designing a BI solution based on Microsoft technology, PROS is helping customers improve performance and cut costs while strengthening its own competitive advantage.
Improved Insight and Performance
Now, PROS can enhance its BI solutions more easily while improving performance. For example, MDX expressions that presented a highly restricted view of underlying data were time-consuming to write and execute. Tyler says, “With a multidimensional model,
it could take up to 40 minutes to return data. But with SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services and DAX, it’s much simpler to create expressions, and because the queries run in-memory, they can return data in less than a second.”
PROS customers can run both routine and specialized reports faster and improve business insight. In addition to improving efficiency, faster performance means that users can ask more challenging questions. “A power user might want to run a query that scans
three years of transaction data at a very detailed level, and it could take 30 minutes for a report like that to come back,” says Tyler. “But with SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services, we can provide answers in less than 5 minutes.”
Cost of Ownership
Businesses can also cut TCO by running PROS software on a Microsoft platform. In addition to reducing licensing costs with SQL Server 2012, most PROS customers gain better performance while using existing server hardware.
The company recently tested 340 million rows of transaction data, which occupied 400 gigabytes (GB) of disk space. When cached in the tabular model, the compressed data used just 21 GB of RAM. “Now, we can tell our customers that they can process a lot more
data on their existing servers,” says Tyler. “Customers can enter the world of big data by using SQL Server 2012 and xVelocity. The in-memory analytics will result in impressive performance improvements.”
Stronger Competitive Advantage
Both PROS and its customers benefit from the Microsoft solution. “We can integrate our software better with SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services than we can with products like Oracle Essbase,” says Tyler. “The ability to programmatically generate a data model
based on DAX calculations is something that we haven’t been able to do before, and it’s one of the key competitive advantages that we’ve gained with Microsoft technology.”
The company anticipates a growing demand for SQL Server 2012 in its customer base. “In the last three years, we’ve observed a significant ramp-up in the percentage of customers who choose a Microsoft platform,” says Tyler. “We see a lot of airline and travel
customers, who have formerly been Oracle-only shops starting to implement our software with Microsoft technology because of the performance and cost savings it provides.”
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