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.