Category Archives: WPS

On ErrorAbend

One issue I always had with the SAS system as a developer was when I had a job that ran in batch that had an error. The SAS System would set the number of observations to zero and go into syntax checking mode for the remainder of the program.

This had some virtues but more often than not, the error was thrown because I had misspelled a variable name in a MEANS statement or FREQ statement that was used for checking my output. This would cause SAS to go into the syntax checking mode and all the rest of my program would not execute even though it was proper.

WPS, when running in batch doesn’t do this but if you want the same effect for your batch jobs, it’s easy enough to implement. Consider the following macro – called %ErrorAbend. %ErrorAbend simply checks that the program is not running in the FOREground and checks the value of the &syserr variable after every PROC or data step and if it returns a value of 3, then issues a note and sets the number of observations to zero.

%macro onerrorabend;
  %if %eval(&syserr eq 3) and &sysenv NE FORE %then %do;
     options obs=0;
     %put NOTE: WPS has been set with OPTION OBS=0 and will continue to check statements.
  %end;
%mend;

Below is a sample program that when run in batch, puts the system into syntax checking mode and basically stops the execution of any downstream statements.

data a b;
do ii=1 to 2000;
  x=ranuni(0)* 10;
  y=Round(ranuni(0),.01)* 100;
  z=round(ranuni(0),.01)* 10000;
  

  a=ranuni(0)* 10;
  b=Round(ranuni(0),.01)* 100;
  c=round(ranuni(0),.01)* 10000;
  
  e=ranuni(0)* 10;
  f=Round(ranuni(0),.01)* 100;
  g=round(ranuni(0),.01)* 10000;
  
  i=ranuni(0)* 10;
  j=Round(ranuni(0),.01)* 100;
  k=round(ranuni(0),.01)* 10000;

  output;
end;
run;

proc freq data=a;
tables ik;
run;

%onerrorabend;


proc means data=b;
run;

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.

I’ve Grown Weary of Windows

This blog post is going to be a rant.

I’m so frustrated with Windows Server 2012 R2 that I can spit nails. Who in their right mind at Microsoft thought changing the interface on a SERVER to what is used in Windows 8 was a good idea? If you want to do any real administrative work on the server it is just a nightmare.

I’ve played with Windows 8 on a desktop and didn’t care for it and decided that Windows 7 was so much better for productivity. The mixture of a tablet OS and a desktop OS is just a disaster. In my opinion, MS not only missed the boat, but continues to ignore the market place as it centers on business users.

Going forward, I’m going to start recommending that clients use Linux on their servers and just forget about using Windows Server products. It just isn’t worth the hassle and with the number of talented Linux users and administrators growing every day, there isn’t any upside anymore to using Windows on the Server. There are incredible cost savings in both dollars and time using Linux instead of Windows.

My own thoughts on the server is that Linux is faster than Windows. You don’t have all that eye candy eating up resources. Linux is faster, more robust and has virtually the same number of databases available that you have under Windows. The exception being SQL Server. If you have to run SQL Server than put it on the smallest box possible and minimize your exposure to Windows. There are many databases that you can use on Linux that will fill the void of SQL Server. For example, DB/2, Oracle, MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Teradata, Vertica, Sybase, SAND, Netezza, Kognitio, Informix, and Greenplum all run on Linux x86. And the kicker is that all of the above DB’s are supported and accessible from WPS.

I’m also starting to review and reconsider my position of Windows on the desktop. If Windows 9 is the abortion that Windows 8 (and 8.1) continues to be, then you can bet that I will start using Linux on my desktop or (God forbid that I’m saying this…) OS X. I talk to a lot of analytics users and this is something that we all agree on. I need to be productive at work and I’m more productive with Linux and OS X than with Windows 8.

That’s the bottom line.

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.

Banking, Financial Services and WPS

As a consultant as well as a reseller, MineQuest Business Analytics often has the opportunity to see and hear about the BI Stack that our customers use. Some of these systems are incredibly complex while others are uniquely simple.

One thing that we have seen time-and-time again is how the mainframe is used in the banking and finance industry. It’s been an evolving process, but the complex statistical systems seem to have moved to less expensive servers and heavy duty analytical workstations while the mainframe has become a repository for data.

Accessing data on the mainframe whether it’s in VSAM, Oracle or DB2 is a cinch with WPS also on the mainframe. As the analytics have moved away from the mainframe, the use of expensive software like those of our competitor is being called into question. The mainframe is now typically used for MXG (computer performance analytics) and ETL work. A lot of what is being done on the mainframe is just the extraction and summarization of data that is to be downloaded to the distributed systems that almost all banks and finance houses have in place.

Putting WPS on your mainframe can save you a lot of money over our competitor’s product on the same machine. If you have not already taken a look at WPS on z/OS you owe it to your company’s bottom line to investigate this product further. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you will see.

Finally, MineQuest Business Analytics can help your organization migrate your current processing to WPS. We can provide project management services as well as consulting, assessments, code review and code migration for your organization.

 

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.

Creating a WPS Launch Icon in Ubuntu

I use Ubuntu for my WPS Linux OS and it’s pretty easy to install. However, unlike the vast majority of people out there who run it in batch mode; I like to run it in interactive mode using the Eclipse Workbench. Hence I want an icon that I can click on to start WPS. Here’s how to do it.

On the Ubuntu desktop, right mouse click on an empty part of the screen and you will get a little option menu. Click on “Create Launcher…” You will see a dialog box pop up that looks like:

clip_image002

On my Ubuntu Linux Server, I installed WPS into a folder named wps-3.0.1. The directions below use that folder name as our example. You may have installed WPS into another folder so be sure to consider that when performing the tasks below.

Name: WPS 3.01

Command: /home/minequest/wps-3.0.1/eclipse/workbench

Comment: WPS 3.0.1 Linux

Click on the icon on the upper left hand of the Create Launcher Dialog Box (the little spring) and you will get a choose icon list box. Simply go to the WPS install folder and go into the eclipse folder. There you will find a file named icon.xpm. Click on icon.xpm and then click Open and then click OK.

That’s all there is to it. You should have the WPS icon installed and available from your desktop.

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.

Building a BI Consulting Company

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been engaged in a series of conversations regarding consulting and necessary hardware and software to run a successful consulting house. In the last year we’ve seen so many references to “big data” and many of us in the consulting field just shrug our shoulders and smirk because we’ve understood that “big data” is a lot of hype for most of us. If you want to be precise about it, the term (and what we should be concerned with) is actually “big analytics.”

As a BI consultant or consulting house, you don’t have to replicate your client’s systems or data warehouse to consult on “big analytics.” As a matter of fact, some of the most successful BI consulting going on today are with companies that have outsourced a portion of their analytics to a third party. For example, loyalty cards are a driving force in retail and many organizations have outsourced this to third party analytics firms. We also see a growing opportunity in health care for fraud detection and pricing of procedures and prescriptions.

So the question comes down to what is your consulting focus? Is it providing knowledge and programming expertise to a company and perform the consulting remotely (or even onsite) or is it more encompassing and moving in the direction where you have the client’s data on your systems and perform a daily/weekly/monthly service?

I’m inclined to argue that the more financially successful firms that are offering consulting are the ones that are taking client’s data and providing the analytics services away from the client. The rates and fees are higher than when you are on site and there is limited travel time and expense to deal with.

I often see quotes for servers that they have been solicited from Dell, IBM or HP when they are sizing hardware to run WPS. I am amazed at how reasonably an organization can purchase or lease hardware that is immensely powerful for processing data sets when running WPS. I’ve seen 16 and 32 core servers that can run dozens of WPS jobs simultaneously priced between $40K and $60K.

I’m convinced that if you have a good services offering (and a decent sales staff who can find you clients) that this is the golden age in analytics for smaller firms and firms considering jumping into this space. My observations with advertising agencies and others who offer such services bears out that the supply of talent is low and the demand is high.

Of course, hardware cost is just one factor in this line of business so in a future column we will talk about how software cost and licensing can constrain you to the point where you can’t provide any services to third parties or it can set you free and allow you to make significantly more money. Software licensing is a major component to running a profitable BI/Analytics service.

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.

Complexity and Cost

This past weekend, my wife and I went to a lovely wedding. This was a Catholic wedding that was amazingly short but the priest had a very interesting sermon on complexity and cost. He talked about complexity in our lives and the cost both direct and indirect that we each experience. One example that he gave was smart phones and how expensive they are in terms of outright cost of service as well as the indirect cost, that being how much time we take playing and looking at the gadgets at the expense of others and relationships around us.

Hi sermon got me thinking. This is true for software and business intelligence in particular. The cost of non-open source software can be pretty high. And the reason for that? Support cost, sales cost, maintenance cost, legal costs, etc…

I often see how companies have purposely fragmented their products so that they can charge more for additional libraries modules. This has increased cost tremendously for the consumer. Our competitor is a prime example of this. They send out a local or regional sales person to chat up the prospect. Often, they can’t answer the questions the customer has because of the complexity of the product. So they send out a Sales Engineer or two who visits the prospect to answer these questions and chat them up a second time. Now we have three people in the mix who are making a 100 grand a year (at least) involved in the sale. The price of the software product has to increase to the customer because of all the people involved in the sale.

Here’s another example of added complexity. Different pricing for the same product depending on how you use it. Take companies that are B2B in nature. Firms such as actuarial firms, claims processing, advertising etc… are often labeled as data service providers because they want to use the software in a B2B capacity. Sometimes this is as innocuous as being a Contract Research Organization providing statistical analysis. The cost here comes from a different license (think lawyers), people to audit the customer and employees to enforce the license. It all adds up!

That above examples illustrate everything that is wrong with traditional ways of thinking in terms of software. At MineQuest Business Analytics, we’re proud that we are able to help keep cost down for the customer. We don’t have such draconian licensing for companies that are DSP’s. We don’t have an organization that is setup to milk and churn the customer for every last cent. What we do have is a company that is dedicated to providing the best service and software at an affordable price.

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.

Analytical Data Marts

Recently, there has been a conversation on what defines “Big Data”. It’s my position (among others) that Big Data is data that is so large that a single computer cannot process it in a timely manner. Hence, we have grid computing. Grid computing is not inexpensive and is overkill for many organizations.

The term “Huge Data” has been bandied about as well. In the conversations regarding what is Big Data, it was sort of agreed that Huge Data is a data set that sits somewhere between 10GB and 20GB in size. (Note: In about two years I will look back at this article and laugh about writing that a 20GB data set is huge for desktops and small servers.) The term Big Data is so abused and misused by the technical press and even many of the BI vendors that it’s almost an irrelevant term. But Huge Data has my interest and I will tell you why.

The other day I read a blog article on the failure of Big Data projects. The article talks about a failure rate of 55%. I was not surprised by that kind of failure rate. I was surprised that there were not solutions being offered. In the analytics world, especially in finance and health care, we tend to work with data that comes from a data warehouse or a specialized data mart. The specialized data mart is really an analytics data mart with the data cleaned and transformed into a form that is useful for analysis.

Analytical data marts are cost effective. This is especially true when the server that is required is modest compared to the monsters DB’s running on large iron. Departments can almost always afford a smaller server and expect and receive much better turnaround time on jobs than most data warehouses. Data marts are more easily expandable and can be tuned more effectively for analytics. Heck, I’ve yet to work on a mainframe or large data warehouse that could outrun a smaller server or desktop for most of my needs.

The cost for a WPS server license on a four, eight or even sixteen core analytics data mart is quite reasonable. With WPS on the desktop and a WPS Linux server, analyst can remotely submit code to the data mart and receive back the log, listings and graphics right back into their desktop workbench. But the biggest beauty of running WPS in your data mart platform is that WPS comes with all the database access engines as part of the package. If you have worked in a large environment with multiple database vendors, you can see how this can be very cost effective when it comes to importing data from all these different data bases into an analytical data mart.

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.

2013 WPS and SAS Server Pricing Comparison

It’s that time of the year again. We’ve updated our ever popular WPS vs. SAS Pricing Comparison document for 2013. As in previous years, we pulled data for SAS pricing from the GSA schedule. As most of you who have read previous years pricing comparisons, WPS continues to stay significantly less expensive than our competitor.

The pricing differential for even our most entry level server product in contrast with our competitor is stunning. For example, with the money you can save in the very first year in licensing WPS over SAS on just a two core server, you could:

  • Buy 5 Kia Souls.
  • Pay for food for a family of four for 7.5 years.
  • Will buy four years of in-state tuition and room and board at Ohio State University.
  • Buys 27 years worth of gasoline for the average U.S family.
  • You could add an employee to your company.
  • Buys 24 months of a high end vacation rental home that has a Jacuzzi and lap pool.

OK, you get the point! Click the following link for the updated “Pricing Comparison Document” in PDF format.

Note: We no longer provide the pricing comparison document due to the time and complexity of pulling our competitors pricing data.

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.

Taking in the Southwest

We’ve been spending some time in Tucson, trying to escape the Midwestern snows and cold. Since the time difference between Grand Rapids and Tucson is two hours, it’s also a good way to contact potential customers out west. All-in-all, Mother Nature has been a bit cooperative. We’ve had a few nice days where you could go to the pool – it’s been that warm. There was also a freak snow storm that blew through the area last week. The locals were pretty amazed and took the kids out to play in the snow and photograph the spectacle.

I found the mountains to be the best part of the snow. We are literally a short walk to Sabino Canyon which is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. As a matter of fact, the picture at the top of the blog is from a hike last year through Sabino Canyon.

Below is a picture of snow blanketing the upper elevations of the Catalina Mountains.

IMG_1149

If your business or organization is in the Tucson or Phoenix area and you are interested in a demonstration of WPS in the month of March, give us a call at (614) 457-3714. We can setup a time to demonstrate the software and discuss how you can save money each year by licensing WPS instead of SAS.

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.

Sending SMS Text via WPS

As mobile has become ubiquitous in our culture, it’s become more of the norm to utilize cell phones and tablets in both our business and personal life. There’s a seismic shift in personal computing that has impacted us in both the work place as well as at home. Our phones and tablets are basically used as a consumer device. As a consumer device, I mean a gadget that we don’t program on to do various things, but a device to alert us and to keep us informed.

One of the interesting applications that can be done with WPS is the use of email from within your WPS application. For example, you can format a report and send it via email to those folks who need to see it as opposed to having to send emails manually. One cool thing is that you can also use WPS to send a text message via the WPS application.

There could be a use for sending a SMS message via your WPS program. For example, one use could be to notify you that a long running job has run to completion or has thrown an error code.

To send a text message, you need to find your cell phone’s gateway before you can send an SMS message. Below is a table with the four largest carriers in the United States with their respective gateways.

 

Table 1. Major Carriers SMS Gateway Addresses.

AT&T

number@txt.att.net

Sprint

number@messaging.sprintpcs.com

T-Mobile

number@tmomail.net

Verizon

number@vtext.com

Here is the basic code to send a text message via email using WPS. Of course, you could enhance the functionality of the code below and wrap it in a macro to make it even easier to use.

   1: FILENAME mail EMAIL "5555555555@vtext.com"

   2:          SUBJECT="Message from WPS: ";

   3:  

   4: data _null_;

   5:   file mail;

   6:   PUT "Program DAILY-BUILD has completed. Check log file for errors.";

   7:   PUT "!EM_SEND!";

   8: Run;

One issue that you are likely to encounter is that you will receive a message from Outlook or Windows Mail confirming that YOU are trying to send an email as opposed to a rogue program attempting doing it.

You can overcome this validation by using Context Magic’s ClickYes application or alternatively MapiLabs Outlook Security application.

image

You can overcome this validation check by using Context Magic’s ClickYes application or alternatively MapiLabs Outlook Security application.

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.