Category Archives: WPS

Cost of Porting Language of SAS to Python?

I recently had a discussion with a self-proclaimed data scientist who made a statement that was so broad, I had to challenge it. The discussion taking place is where a technical recruiter who was having difficulty finding SAS/WPS language developers for their marketing group was expressing some frustration. The young data scientist (still in college) jumped into the conversation with a statement “When you could execute the same applications on a open source tool like python it’s not surprising SAS is fading away.” [SIC]

Well first, I’m not real sure he understood that Python or R could not execute SAS language code. The other aspect, at least to me was the shocking naiveté of the statement simply because this data scientist never addressed the economics of the matter. So let’s do it for him.

Performing some back of the envelope calculations, say a programmer that is knowledgeable in both SAS and Python was given a contract to port 30 Language of SAS programs that average 3,000 lines of code. Let’s assume that on average the programmer can convert, test and document each program in two weeks. I’m going to estimate (probably on the low side) that the programmer is paid $85 an hour to do this conversion.

The programmers cost to convert all the programs would be 60 weeks x 40 hours a week x $85 = $204,000. One can procure a license for an 8 vcpu WPS server for ~$22,000 a year. Comparing the cost of a WPS license to spending $204,000 to convert it to Python, it would take more than nine years before you started to see a pay back on the conversion. Most ROI calculations I see in the tech industry are predicated on three years and not nine.

I just don’t see the ROI of converting existing Language of SAS code to Python unless you want to pay more money and be RAM constrained. However, I do see the ROI in converting your SAS Institute licenses to WPL licenses and execute the same code for much less. The pay back is almost immediate!

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

An Update on my Ubuntu Experiment

Just an update on my Ubuntu experiment that I wrote about in the last blog post.  I do have most everything installed that I want for the experiment. I’m going to use Ubuntu 16.04 as much as possible and only revert back to Windows when absolutely necessary.

So far, I’ve went back to my Windows workstation for QuickBooks to update some accounting information. I guess I could probably put QuickBooks into the cloud but at this point I’m going to hold off on that application until I get other things tested.

I have to admit this laptop is on the heavy side but it has a really decent battery. On a full-charge I get around 7 hours. My 17” I7 Toshiba laptop gets maybe three hours and that’s if I put it into Eco Mode. The Dell e6420 also has an NFC hotspot and a finger print reader. I’m not using either one of those and don’t think there’s a driver for those hardware elements either.

I do have WPS, R, Python and R Studio all working well. I’m using Thunderbird for my email application and LibreOffice (using it to write this post) for my writing and documentation chores. I’m looking for a OneDrive connector that works seamlessly but so far, I’m still searching.

Just for kicks, I did try using Microsoft Office Online. This is the web version of office. It seems that I tend to skip letters in words or Office online would randomly adds spaces between words in my text. I’m not sure why but it seems to be constantly saving whatever I’ve entered. Meaning not saving in say 5 minute intervals or something similar. Could be something with Firefox too.

One thing I need to mention is that the performance is good. I have run dozens of WPS programs and they all have executed in a reasonable amount of time. I live in a world where the processing I do is measured in data sets of 10 million or less for my development. Using WPS on this laptop is a good experience and processes these datasets quickly.

I did get two emails over the week asking about WPS on Ubuntu. WPS does run fine on Ubuntu and I have no complaints on that. One emailer asked about the price of WPS on Linux and whether it was really cost effective as a workstation product.

WPL licenses WPS on Linux as a server product. You don’t get workstation pricing on Linux. Workstation pricing is only for Windows and Macintosh products. If you are expecting a Linux Workstation to be as cost effective (i.e. priced the same) as a Windows or Macintosh Workstation, then you will be disappointed.

I suppose that one could always license a small WPS Linux Server (2LCPU and say 8GB of RAM) and run it in a virtual machine using Xen or Virtual Box and still be less expensive than our competitor’s Windows workstation pricing. But if you’re a developer, you probably need to think about development and test platforms quite a bit.

Here’s a suggestion. Say you are a developer and are looking to develop a vertical market application. You could easily license both Macintosh and Windows workstation products and still be under $2500 a year. Of course, you have the cost of a MacBook or Mac Workstation to add on to that, but it is still very doable and capable as a development machine. Actually, a Mac Mini could work nicely for an Apple development machine. Just make sure you don’t buy the newer model that is not upgradeable since they soldered the RAM in place enforcing planned obsolescence.

The Macintosh product license could suffice for developing and testing code that is to be executed on Linux/Unix computing platforms. Of course, the Windows product license would do the same for Workstation and Server products.

I have taken a set of macro’s that I have in a library and compiled them under OS X. I’ve then copied them over to the Linux machine and it executes flawlessly. This is not an exhaustive test by any means but it does demonstrate what can be accomplished using a Macintosh Workstation. Perhaps a more complete Proof-of-Concept should be attempted and we could certainly arrange an evaluation for those products if you desire.

And finally, one more thought. If you are a developer creating a vertical market application and your target platforms are Windows, Linux and OS X and you need to have WPS Link and WPS Communicate for connecting to a remote server, then you will need a Linux Server or a Windows Server for test and development. If your product does not require pushing code that’s to be executed on the remote server, then just the Mac and Windows Workstations will likely suffice.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Technical Document – Post Installation Steps for WPS Workstations

We just finished updating a document for WPS users, specifically those on the Windows Platforms entitled, “Configuring Your WPS Workstation after Installing WPS v3.3.” This document helps those who are evaluating the WPS product on Windows learn about and install some features that is specific to WPS.

The document is short, only 14 pages but touches on modifying the WPS.CFG file as well as installing R and Python to get the greatest amount of utility out of WPS. If you have installed WPS on a Windows Workstation and are looking to get additional utility out of your WPS software, this document is for you.

To download the file, click here or download at:

http://minequest.com/downloads/Post-Installation-Steps-for-WPS-Workstations.pdf (1008KB)

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

The Application Economy

I pretty much finished up my Christmas shopping two weeks early this year. Even the wrapping and delivery completed thanks to Amazon this year. I’ve never had my shopping done so early in December and I’m darn happy about that!

That gave me time to watch some TV this weekend and since much of College Football is over for the season I ended up cruising over to Bloomberg TV. I watched a program called “Hello World” on the Russian Tech scene and it was fascinating to learn about what was being created in Russia.

The sponsor of the show was CA (aka Computer Associates) and they had an interesting and entertaining commercial titled “The Front Porch” which is about the Application Economy. We as analytical developers rarely think about software as an application the same way as consumers do. Our customers are often different departments or divisions in the corporation we work at. We don’t work at creating an application product that meets the needs of tens-of-thousands of users, or even millions. We mostly develop products used for tens of people or if we are lucky, hundreds.

A lot of the reason for that is that many of us don’t see what we do as developing an application that is consumed by users outside of our organization. The cost of commercial software is often so high that it makes it cost prohibitive to invest the hundreds of hours needed to create the application. The other issue many run into is the availability of data that can meet the needs of the consumer and is not protected by agreements.

The market has responded with software such as Python and R. However, the problem with both is the amount of data that can be processed. We live in a Big Data world and expecting data to fit into available memory is often not practical. Many of us are also dependent on using the Language of SAS for processing and displaying of data.

Obviously, WPS is a better choice than SAS when it compares to pricing, especially on the desktop. If you create an application that requires, say, WPS on a workstation, it is much easier to make a sale (your application and a WPS license) when the first-year cost is one-tenth the cost of the SAS system.

In future articles, I want to touch on creating applications for resale using WPS. I want to talk about “applications” for such things as Smart Cities, Marketing, Credit Scoring and Fraud Analytics.

We truly live in an era where we as analysts and statistical developers can contribute our skills starting a business, providing a product and doing it all with minimal cash outlay. The internet is a money pipe into the home and business. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

CleanWork for Windows

Recently, we decided to go back through some of our older programs and take a look at them and see if they could be updated and/or made open source. We wrote Cleanwork years ago and we often provided it to organizations that used our consulting services as a freebie and a way to say “Thank You.”

CleanWork does pretty much what the name says. It is a WPS program that when run, will clean out the work folders of old and orphaned directories that are no longer used. WPS comes with a cleanwork program for Linux and Mac but not for Windows. The version written by MineQuest will run on Windows Workstations running Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10. It will also run on Windows Servers such as Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2, 2012 and 2012 R2. Basically, it will run on all Windows Servers except 2003 and before. It also runs on all Windows Workstations except XP and before.

Cleanwork is packaged in a zip file that contains the source code, the Usage Document, License and a sample program. Cleanwork has been tested to execute only on the WPS platform.

If you are running WPS on a Windows Server you may want to set cleanwork to run on a schedule. This is a perfect utility to automate and run on a regular schedule. For busy server installations, I could see setting a scheduler to run cleanwork every few hours.

The zip file contains five files. These are:

clean.sas – a sample program for running the cleanwork utility.

cleanwork_source.sas – the actual source code that implements the utility.

CleanWorkUsage.docx – a Microsoft Word document that explain how to use cleanwork.

SASMACR.wpccat – a compiled version of the macro that  is ready to run.

license.txt – The license agreement for use of the source code and user document.

You can find the download by going to the bottom of the page here.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

 

 

 

Why WPS needs to be part of your Corporate BI Stack

Recently, I’ve been talking to a few customers about why they decided to bring WPS into the company. After all, these firms have lots of money and talent. They can pretty much license any software they feel they need as long as it gets the job done. Of course, there are constraints due to pricing and training, but for the most part, these companies have free reign.

Below are the four major topics that everyone has touched on. Remember, these are large firms that are stalwarts in the analytics field offering products and services that are dependent on their IT and business staffs to generate revenue.

Innovation

WPS is rapidly growing and introducing additional procedures to the product. The customers that I have spoken with have all stated that WPS contains all the PROCS that they need to access, analyze and report on the data. Remember, we are talking about Fortune 500 companies here so that says a lot about how fleshed out the product is at this point.

Efficiency in Licensing

If you are a large corporation, it is likely that you have offices overseas. Licensing WPS is a dream compared to our competitors. There’s no multiple sales teams to have to work with and no differentiated licensing.

Also mentioned was that ALL the library modules are included in the price. There is no longer any confusion on what is part of the product.

Cost Reductions

It’s well known that WPS is a high value low cost alternative to the SAS System. Whether considering expanding the footprint with workstations or servers, WPS is an extremely competitive proposition. This is especially true on the server side. Since WPS is priced so competitively, even small workgroups can easily afford a server for their department.

Sole Source provider

One of the most interesting responses I received, and one that caught my attention (especially from a risk mitigation perspective) was that they didn’t want to find themselves beholden to a single source supplier of the language. I asked why they were concerned about that issue specifically. The three major points brought up are:

  1. They lacked flexibility in how they could use the product to deliver data, analytics and reports to their customers.
  2. They could take advantage of new concepts and features as they are introduced across two platforms.
  3. Fear that they would be held hostage in pricing negotiations. With a multiple providers, they felt they had leverage if they chose to not expand their footprint with the sole source provider.

 

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

WPS on a Dell Tablet

One of the things I believe we all see is the tremendous emergence of mobile hardware and software. We see it on phones the most but we also see it on tablets. I’m very intrigued at the moment on tablets that can run Windows applications and has enough connectivity options to be able to use it in an office for taking notes, making presentations, etc..

About a year ago, I bought a Dell Venue 8 Pro running Windows 8 (now 8.1) with 2GB of RAM and internal storage of 32GB. I slipped in a 64GB Micro SDHC card for some additional storage. Today I would buy a 128GB card since prices have fallen so much instead of the 64GB card. I also bought a Dell Bluetooth keyboard for it as an accessory. The keyboard makes it much easier to use for any serious work rather than use the virtual or software keyboard.

IMG_2034

The Dell Venue 8 PRO has an Atom 1.8GHZ Quad Core processor. It does amazingly well for the most part. The only issues I tend to notice is that sometimes there’s a slight hesitation using the browser and loading web pages. I’m not sure if it is the internet connection or the processor but it doesn’t happen enough to be too bothersome.

One of the really cool things is that it has Miracast technology built into the tablet. With Miracast, I can “beam” my screen to another screen, such as a TV or Workstation Monitor so others can see what is on the tablet. This is very convenient and Miracast works well. Especially if you are using Microsoft’s Miracast dongle.

Since I bought this as a Christmas present for myself (I needed a toy) I decided to load WPS on the tablet to see if I could actually get it to work and see if it is useable. I’m happy to report that it works quite well. Of course, the primary issue that prevents serious work on a large dataset is the small memory footprint. But that too can be overcome.

I like to take my tablet out on to the patio or to the pool early in the morning or in the late afternoons. At both places I have WiFi access so I can check email and browse the web. But using WPS Link (software that comes with WPS that allows you to connect to a server running WPS) I can submit my jobs to the server and run extremely large jobs. With WPS Link, I submit my code to the remote server and get the log and listing right back into the WPS Workbench.

Since the WPS installation package is relatively compact, taking only 342MB on my tablet, it is great that it takes so little space and Note that Windows 8.1 on the Dell Tablet is 32-bit so you need to install WPS 32-bit. I can still run and monitor any jobs or tasks that I have submitted. One nice thing with WPS Link is that I have the option of storing my WPS source programs either on the tablet or on the remote server.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

WPS Release 3.1.1 now Available

For those who are unaware, World Programming had a small release this month, version 3.1.1. This is mostly a maintenance release but it does include PROC CORRESP.

A few other things of interest, is that v3.1.1 includes the NOSPARSE and OUTEXPECT options in PROC FREQ as well as the RAND function. Finally, PROC LOGISTIC also includes the LINK-GLOGIT parameter.

MineQuest Business Analytics strongly suggests that you upgrade your existing version of WPS to version 3.1.1 to make sure you have all the maintenance and stability enhancements of the current release.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

High Performance Workstations for BI

There’s one thing I really enjoy and that’s powerful workstations for performing analytics. It’s fun to play around with and can be insightful to speculate on the design and then build a custom higher-end workstation for running BI applications like WPS and R.

ARS Builds

Every quarter, ARS Technica goes through an exercise where they build three PC’s mainly to assess gaming performance and then do a price vs. performance comparison. There’s a trend that you will soon see after reading a few of these quarterly builds and that is, the graphics card plays a major role in their performance assessment. The CPU, number of cores and fixed storage tend to be minimal when comparing the machines.

This if course will be in contrast to what we want to do for our performance benchmarks. We are looking at a holistic approach of CPU throughput, DISK I/O and graphics for getting the most for the dollar on a workstation build. But ARS does have a lot to recommend when it comes to benchmarking and I think it’s worthwhile including some of their ideas.

What Constitutes a High End Analytics Workstation?

This is an interesting question and one that I will throw out for debate. It’s so easy to get caught up in spending thousands of dollars, if not ten thousand dollars (see the next section) for a work station. One thing that even the casual observer will soon notice is that being on the bleeding edge is a very expensive proposition. It’s an old adage that you are only as good as your tools. There’s also the adage that it’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools. In the BI world, especially when speed means success, it’s important to have good tools.

As a basis for what constitutes a high end workstation, I will offer the following as a point of entry.

  • At least 4 Logical CPU’s.
  • At least 8GB of RAM, preferably 16GB to 32GB.
  • Multiple hard drives for OS, temporary workspace and permanent data set storage.
  • A graphics card that can be used for more than displaying graphics, i.e. parallel computing.
  • A large display – 24” capable of at least 1920×1080.

As a mid-tier solution, I would think that a workstation comprised of the following components would be ideal.

  • At least 8 Logical CPU’s.
  • A minimum of 16GB of RAM.
  • Multiple hard drives for OS, temporary workspace and permanent data set storage with emphasis on RAID storage solutions and SSD Caching.
  • A graphics card that can be used for more than displaying graphics, i.e. parallel computing.
  • A large display – 24” capable of at least 1920×1080.

As a high end solution, I would think that a workstation built with the following hardware would be close to ultimate for many (if not most) analysts.

  • Eight to 16 Logical CPU’s – Xeon Class (or possible step down to an Intel I7).
  • A minimum of 32GB of RAM and up to 64GB.
  • Multiple hard drives for OS, temporary workspace and permanent data set storage with emphasis on RAID storage solutions and SSD Caching.
  • A graphics card that can be used for more than displaying graphics, i.e. parallel computing.
  • Multiple 24” displays capable of at least 1920×1200 each.

I do have a bias towards hardware that is upgradeable. All-in-one solutions tend to be one shot deals and thus expensive. I like upgradability for graphics cards, memory, hard drives and even CPU’s. Expandability can save you thousands of dollars over a period of a few years.

The New Mac Pro – a Game Changer?

The new Mac Pro is pretty radical from a number of perspectives. It’s obviously built for video editing but its small size is radical in my opinion. As a Business Analytics computer it offers some intriguing prospects. You have multiple cores, lots of RAM, high end graphics but limited internal storage. That’s the main criticism that I have about the new Mac Pro. The base machine comes with 256GB of storage and that’s not much for handling large data sets. You are forced to go to external storage solutions to be able to process large data sets. Although I’ve not priced out the cost of adding external storage, I’m sure it’s not inexpensive.

Benchmarks

This is a tough one for me because so many organizations have such an array of hardware and some benchmarks are going to require hardware that has specific capabilities. For example, Graphics Cards that are CUDA enabled to do parallel processing in R. Or the fact that we use the Bridge to R for invoking R code and the Bridge to R only runs on WPS (and not SAS).

I did write a benchmark a while ago that I like a lot. It provides information on the hardware platform (i.e. amount of memory and the number of LCPU’s available) and just runs the basic suite of PROCS that I know is available in both WPS and SAS. Moving to more statistically oriented PROC’s such as Logistic and GLM may be difficult because SAS license holders may not have the statistical libraries necessary to run the tests. That’s a major drawback to licensing the SAS System. You are nickel and dimed to death all the time. The alternative to this is to have a Workstation benchmark that is specific to WPS.

Perhaps the benchmark can be written where it tests if certain PROCS and Libraries are available and also determine if the hardware required is present (such as CUDA processors) to run that specific benchmark. Really, the idea is to determine the performance of the specific software for a specific set of hardware and not a comparison between R, WPS and SAS.

Price and Performance Metrics

One aspect of ARS that I really like is when they do their benchmarks, they calculate out the cost comparison for each build. They often base this on hardware pricing at the time of the benchmark. What they don’t do is price in the cost of the software for such things as video editing, etc… I think it’s important to show the cost with both hardware and software as a performance metric benchmark.

Moving Forward

I’m going to take some time and modify the WPS Workstation Benchmark Program that I wrote so that it doesn’t spew out so much unnecessary output into the listing window. I would like it to just show the output from the benchmark report. I think it would also be prudent to see if some R code could be included in the benchmark and compare and contrast the performance if there are some CUDA cores available for assisting in the computations.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Some Newer Articles and Blog Posts on the SAS v WPL Legal Case

For those of you who have been following the SAS Institute v WPL legal case, there’s been some interesting commentary. The first one up is a blog article from “The IPKat” entitled “Lengthy litigation, short shrift: Court of Appeal unmoved by SAS appeal.”  The blog post basically identifies the major arguments that SAS lost and WPL won in the court case.

The second article is on Forbes and is entitled “SAS v WPL Case Shows That Software Functionality Is Not Copyrightable.” This was published on December 8, 2013. This is really a layman’s view of the copyright case and is a good read for a quick understanding of what was decided by the appeals court.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.