Monday, SAS announced that it had purchased Teragram, a privately held natural language processing (NLP) company, for an undisclosed sum. Teragram is now a SAS company meaning that the Teragram brand will be maintained. Its solutions and OEM business will be retained.
A good move for SAS
This acquisition is a good move for SAS for a number of reasons. First, SAS had partnered with Inxight to supply text analytics software components for its text mining solution and, of course, Inxight has been acquired by Business Objects (and subsequently SAP). It was just a matter of time before SAS would have to replace these capabilities and Teragram is a logical choice because of its NLP technology. More importantly, in my discussion with SAS and Teragram about the acquisition, it was clear that the purchase is more than just a move to replace technology components. The purchase is actually quite strategic in nature. Teragram technology can be used to enhance rather than simply replace existing capabilities.
Structured and Unstructured Data are Not Separate Domains
SAS’s strategy is to use both structured and unstructured data in analysis and to integrate it for descriptive and predictive modeling. The company’s aim is to provide users with a seamless deployment of predictive model results and improve the consistency and accuracy of enterprise intelligence.
The folks at SAS believe that structured and unstructured data have typically been viewed as two separate silos that can be joined together and then analyzed. Traditionally, unstructured data is the realm content management systems; structured data is the realm of BI. SAS believes that both of these data sources should be brought together earlier in the analysis process and utilized as a joint asset. Unstructured information can be categorized and indexed and even extracted and integrated more intelligently. This approach makes a lot of sense to me and Teragram has technology to help make this happen.
While a primary focus of the acquisition is to more seamlessly integrate structured and unstructured data into BI, SAS also mentioned a few other exciting concepts during our discussion.
- SAS hopes to use Teragram’s NLP capabilities to make BI more pervasive. For example, by combining “SAS business intelligence, data integration and advanced analytics with Teragram’s NLP technologies to deliver answers to search queries in seconds”. This appears to be an extension of the Teragram Direct Answers solution.
- Mobile BI
- Real time alerting
And we shouldn’t forget that Teragram will also provide SAS with a much needed search capability. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more about integration and roll-out plans in the near future.