Advanced Analytics: Excel Solver


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Industry analysts are now talking about ‘advanced analytics’ methods, such as optimization, as the next big thing: Go beyond slicing and dicing, analyzing, or even predicting from data, to making better decisions from data, and allocating resources more efficiently. But optimization is what Solver has offered Excel users for 24 years. So what’s new? How about Solver App in Excel Online? Solving huge models, with hundreds of thousands of decisions, using data pulled in via Power Query and Power Pivot? Performing risk analysis using Monte Carlo simulation in Excel, then optimizing decisions in the presence of uncertainty? Learn what Solver is good for, and what ‘advanced analytics’ is really all about, from someone who’s been doing it for many years.


Dan Fylstra was the architect of the Excel Solver, and is founder and president of Frontline Systems (, an ISV offering a complete set of data mining, optimization and simulation tools for advanced Excel users, and Windows and Web application developers. Ten years before the Excel Solver, he was deeply involved in the creation of VisiCalc, the very first spreadsheet program for the Apple II. He has an MBA from Harvard and a BS in EE/CS from M.I.T

Published in: Data & Analytics

Advanced Analytics: Excel Solver

  1. 1. Advanced Analytics Made Easy: How Excel, Power BI, and Analytic Solver are Democratizing Analytics Daniel Fylstra, President Frontline Systems Inc.
  2. 2. Analytics, Power BI, and Analytic Solver Building Predictive Analytics Models ◦ Data Visualization, Classification and Prediction Building Prescriptive Analytics Models ◦ Simulation, Optimization, Stochastic Optimization Learning How: Textbooks, Courses Online Sharing Models and Solutions Online ◦ With Office 365 and Power BI
  3. 3. • Descriptive Analytics • Predictive Analytics • Prescriptive Analytics
  4. 4. Descriptive Analytics ◦ Quantitative Assessment of Past Business Results ◦ Statistics, Exploratory Data Analysis, Visualization Predictive Analytics ◦ Quantitative Methods to Predict New Outcomes ◦ Forecasting, Prediction, Classification, Association Prescriptive Analytics ◦ Quantitative Methods to Make Better Decisions ◦ Decision Trees, Monte Carlo Simulation ◦ Conventional and Stochastic Optimization
  5. 5. To Get Business Results, You Must Build a Model ◦ Describe Business Situation in Quantitative Terms Data Mining Models (Machine Learning) ◦ What Data Do We Have? What Data Matters? ◦ What Do You Want to Predict / Classify? Simulation Models (Human-Built) ◦ What Quantities are Uncertain? How Do They Behave? Optimization Models (Human-Built) ◦ What Quantities are Under Your Control (Decisions)? ◦ What are Constraints Limiting What is Possible?
  6. 6. Learn/Use a Special Modeling Language ◦ Lots to Learn – Different Languages for Data Mining, Simulation, Optimization Modeling Use a General Programming Language ◦ R, Python, C#, VB, C++, Java … ◦ Frontline Supports This with SDK Products Use a Spreadsheet / Microsoft Excel ◦ One Familiar Language for All Analytics Models ◦ Frontline Supports This, Better Than Anyone
  7. 7. Advantage: Easier/Faster to Build Models Advantage: Familiar to Everyone, Easier to ‘Sell’ Models/Results to Management Advantage: One Tool for All Analytic Models – Unlike Most Modeling Languages Advantage: Universal Database Client – Users can Easily Get their Data into Excel Perceived Issue: Desktop-Based when Applications are Increasingly Web-Based Perceived Issue: Not Powerful Enough for Industrial Size Models and Applications
  8. 8. Microsoft Power BI Released February 2014 ◦ Power Pivot, Power View Included in Excel 2013 ◦ Power Query, Power Map Downloadable for Free ◦ Power BI Sites Extend Office 365: Publish to the Web Power Pivot: Microsoft SQL Server xVelocity Engine In-Memory with Excel ◦ 100 Million Row Datasets in Excel Power Query: Microsoft SQL Server ETL Technology In-Memory with Excel ◦ Pull Data from any Enterprise or Cloud Database
  9. 9. Analytic Solver Software Runs in Excel, on your Server, in Office 365 with Premium Solver App Our Excel Solver Platform Equals, Often Exceeds the Power of Expensive ‘Enterprise’ Tools ◦ High Performance Machine Learning Methods ◦ Super-Fast Simulation, Optimization ◦ Latest Optimizer Engines (Gurobi, Knitro) ◦ Latest Algorithms (Stochastic Decomposition) ◦ Exploits Multiple Processor Cores, GPUs, Clusters Easier to Use, Faster Path to Business Results
  10. 10. Integrated Analytics Tools: Full-Featured Optimization, Simulation, Decision Trees Runs on Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel 2007 Excel Solver Upgrade: Accepts Solver Models created in any Excel version (Windows / Mac) Ribbon-based User Interface for All Functions VBA Objects for Programmatic Control No Size Limits for Data Mining, Simulation; with Plug-in Solvers, No Size Limits for Optimization
  11. 11. Easy-to-Use, No-Compromise Analytics in Excel Analytic Solver Platform XLMiner: Data Mining Prem Solver: Optimization Risk Solver: Simulation Mining of Simulation Results ∙ Optimization with Uncertainty
  12. 12. Forecasting/Data Mining in Excel ◦ Explore, Visualize, Transform Your Data: Linked, Interactive Charts and Graphs ◦ Find Hidden Relationships (Clusters) in Data ◦ Build Time Series Forecasting Models in Excel: Past Data Time Series  New Forecast ◦ Build Prediction, Classification, Association Models in Excel: Multiple Input Variables  Output
  13. 13. Fastest Monte Carlo Simulation in Excel ◦ Uses Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter ◦ Vectorized Evaluation Using Multiple Cores Powerful Simulation Modeling Features ◦ 50 Distributions, 30 Statistics/Risk Measures ◦ Latin Hypercube, Quasi Monte Carlo Sampling ◦ Rank-Order Correlation of Dissimilar Distributions ◦ Distribution Fitting on Inputs and Outputs Multiple Simulations with Parameters ◦ Cases, Sensitivity Analysis, Reports, Charts
  14. 14. Most Powerful for Conventional Optimization ◦ Large Scale LP/MIP, Nonlinear, Non-Smooth Models Comprehensive Stochastic Optimization Support ◦ Simulation Optimization, Stochastic Programming, Robust Optimization Methods Uses Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter ◦ Automatic Model Diagnosis: Linear, Quadratic, Nonlinear ◦ Automatic Differentiation of Nonlinear Functions ◦ Vectorized, Multi-Core Function Evaluation Eight Plug-in, Large-Scale Solver Engines
  15. 15. Textbook Data Mining for Business Intelligence (Wiley, 2nd Ed) Uses XLMiner Throughout Textbook Practical Time Series Forecasting (Kindle, 2nd Ed) Uses XLMiner Throughout Websites Offer Aids for Students & Instructors
  16. 16. Cliff Ragsdale Spreadsheet Modeling 7th Ed Powell & Baker Management Science 4th Ed Camm et al Essentials of Business Analytics James Evans Business Analytics Use Analytic Solver Platform Throughout Hundreds of Courses, 50,000+ MBA Students
  17. 17. Webinar Format, Taught by Dr. Sima Maleki Data Mining Course Offered March – April Optimization Course Offered May – June Simulation Course Offered June – July Using Management Science 4th Edition Digital Version (VitalSource e-Reader) as Text Video Recordings Available for Our Users Also Available: More than 20 Short Videos
  18. 18. Deliver Results Faster, Reduce Your Costs, Get More Clients Save up to 80% on Development Tools Free Demo Licenses for Clients Personalized Consulting Support Exposure on to Two Million Visitors Annually Opportunity for Qualified Lead Referral Contact Us or Visit to Learn More
  19. 19. Office 365: Uses Excel 2013 and Excel Online ◦ Create/Solve Your Model in Desktop Excel ◦ Create an End User Worksheet or Visualization ◦ Save to Office 365, Use it with Excel Online ◦ Update and Re-Solve with Premium Solver App Power View: Excel Workbooks as Dashboards Power BI: Extends Office 365 for “Self Service Business Intelligence” ◦ 10GB Workbooks, Power Pivot Data Model Updates ◦ Refresh from SQL Server Azure, OData Sources ◦ Gateway for On-Premise Enterprise Databases
  20. 20. Learn more at
  21. 21. Creates and Solves Models in Excel Workbooks Online, in Office 365 or SharePoint 2013 Accepts Solver Models Created in All Previous Excel Versions (Windows, Mac) Solves using Solver Server on Windows Azure Solver App Premium Solver App Excel Solver Limits (200 Vars) Premium Solver / Platform Limits Excel Solver Engines Platform + Select Plug-in Engines Excel Solver Models Model Diagnosis / Transformation Free for Everyone $49.99 Per Month
  22. 22. Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter LP/QP Simplex Solver SOCP Barrier Solver GRG Nonlinear Solver Evolutionary Solver 8 Large-Scale Solver Engines Clients: PCs, Browsers, Phones Monte Carlo Simulation Solver SDK Web Service Architecture WSDL API Exposure Receive XML Workbooks Multi-Threaded Solver Job Scheduler Transmit XML Solution Files Accept Web Service Calls TCP/IP Network
  23. 23. Develop and Test Analytic Models in Excel Desktop or Excel Online Build Applications in Microsoft Visual Studio With Power BI or Solver SDK, Update your Excel Model with New Data, and Re-Solve Use our Solver SDK Web Service to Solve Your Models Anytime, Anywhere Get Results Quickly, Deploy Apps Quickly
  24. 24. Frontline Systems, Inc. Incline Village, Nevada, US Email Web Toll-Free (888) 831-0333 Tel (775) 831-0300 Fax (775) 831-0314