WPS Beta5 Release

Well I finally got my hands on the latest WPS beta release (beta5) and see a lot of improvements and fixes. With this release, I’ve been stress testing it with large data sets and with a few exceptions (ODBC related) performance and stability is quite good.

I’ve been focusing on writing macros to implement PROC RANK and PROC STANDARD in WPS. Both of these procs are absent in the latest release but I’ve reached a point where I’m nearly done with these macros. Once I finish these macros, I can do about 95% of what I can do in SAS/Base as a consultant and developer.

I’m really getting excited about this product for a number of reasons. First, as a consultant and SAS developer, I see the opportunity to expand my client base. Many small and medium size businesses simply cannot afford to license SAS at the rates the Institute demands. WPS gives these smaller companies a shot at implementing SAS like solutions without breaking the bank. With more companies being able to afford these solutions using WPS, I believe my consulting practice will grow with this market expansion.

I’ve also read comments that WPS doesn’t have the statistical procs that SAS does. In my 20 plus years as a SAS consultant, I’m still amazed at how much of the work I do is performed in just Base and Access. Unless you’re a statistician, you will probably never miss those procs anyway.

I also like the fact that there’s competition in this arena. With competition, I feel that things will only get better. There certainly will be more improvements with an eye towards the developers (and not just the CIO and the non-stop kissing up of management) that are the guns in the trenches. That’s why I’m excited about WPS, it has placed its focus on the developer.

Watch out SAS Institute. There’s a value player in the market now!

Links: http://www.teamwpc.co.uk

A Look at the WPS IDE

I’ve received some requests asking to see what the development environment looks like for WPS on Windows. I guess that’s fair considering all the complaining I did in a previous blog posting on how terribly retro SAS’s environment is.

Below are some screen captures that show the WPS editor. Note that the IDE uses the Eclipse environment. The more I use it, the more I like it. It’s fast and fairly intuitive to use. Windows are nicely laid out and easy to find.

The first screen capture is of the IDE and the Editor. I have a SAS program in the editor that reads the SF3 Census file.

The second screen below is a browse window that has been opened onto the WPS data set that was just created.

The third screen capture shows the output window with a proc means that was just run. Note that I didn’t set up any page size or line size options.

And finally, the fourth screen capture that shows the WPS LOG window.

As you can see from the screen shots, and if you are a SAS developer, this should all look pretty familiar to you. The environment is easy to use and friendly and should be easily adapted too by any programmer.

I’ll be posting more about WPS, the SAS/Base alternative in the next few days.

Stay tuned!

Links: http://www.teamwpc.co.uk

Looking for SAS 9 BI Consultants

I was recently contacted by a recruiter who is in immediate need for SAS consultants with experience installing and configuring SAS 9 BI. This is not a permanent position; however, due to the # of projects that they have won, the consultants could work a long time on multiple back-to-back projects. The consultants can be located anywhere as long as they can travel. There are projects across various cities in the US. They are looking for several consultants since a couple of the projects are concurrent. Lastly, they are open to working with the consultants preference of a W2, 1099 or Corp-to-Corp, as long as the $ makes sense.

The client is looking for a qualified SAS 9 EBI (Enterprise Business Intelligence) Consultants who have a good mix of the following Skills and Experiences.

Specialists in SAS Institute software:

* Business Intelligence
* Statistics
* Analytics
* Data Warehouse
* Data Mining
* OLAP – MDDB
* Healthcare
* Pharmaceuticals; and
* Application Development.

In-depth experience with:

* Program Management
* Project Management
* Business Systems Analysis
* Business Process Analysis
* Software Development
* Software Quality Assurance
* Utility Deregulation; and
* Telecommunications.

If you are interested, please shoot me an e-mail (PhilRack@minequest.com) with your phone number and e-mail address and I will be happy to provide the introductions.

Phil Rack
www.minequest.com

Thoughts on Benchmarking SAS and WPS

In a previous post, I stated that I wrote some benchmarks comparing SAS to WPS to get an idea of how they stack up against each other. After giving this some additional thought, I’ve decided that this is not fair to WPS, mainly because it’s still in beta. I think a comparison should be made with the release versions of both packages.

So, with the knowledge of those at the World Programming, I will write some code that will perform some simple benchmarks between the two systems when WPS goes live (i.e. not a beta release) and will compare and contrast the times for the data step and a few PROC’s such as Means, Sort, Freq and Tabulate. I’ve also agreed to first let World Programming review the source code that will be used and will entertain comments from them about how well written the code is and if it’s a justifiable benchmark.

I will post the code and the data sets that I use on my website (www.minequest.com) so that others can review the code and can comment and critique the source code as well. This is not designed to be an exhaustive benchmarking between the two but will provide those interested a simple basis for comparison.

Links: http://www.teamwpc.co.uk
http://www.sas.com
http://www.minequest.com

SightSpeed 6.0 a Quick Review

A new version of SightSpeed recently became available and like when other SightSpeed upgrades rolled out, upgrading is mandatory. The interface is nice and modern. It is much sleeker than before. The SightSpeed site talks about better performance and better video quality. I’ve always thought the video quality was very good. I don’t see an improvement over the prior version at the same upload speed. I did notice that they have increased the maximum upload speed to 1500kbps. On my internet connection, I max out at 1100kbps and this might be the reason I don’t see the improvement.

As a user of SightSpeed, I would love to see some things added to the application. Here is a list of features that I think could offer members and organizations the additional encouragement to subscribe. Addressing these would really help to get SightSpeed into the corporate office and as well as add some functionality that is missing.

1) Offer integration into Outlook like Plaxo or Jajah. It would be nice to be able to look at a contact, see an icon that tells me if the person is available for SightSpeed Video Conferencing and then Click to Conference.  I don’t like having to switch between applications if I don’t have to. A lot of people live inside Outlook and this would be a nice feature.

2) Offer embeddable tags to Add, Call, Chat, and Video Conference with other SightSpeed members. I’m not talking about the “Call me on SightSpeed” banners but something along the lines of what MSN offers. i.e. the ability to add someone with a single click. For example, with MSN I can use msnim:add?contact=@hotmail.com — so that a user can add me to their Messenger contact list from a web page. I would love to see that functionality included.

3) Include SharePoint integration so I can click on members contact information and see an option where I can video conference with this person. Sort of a poor mans plug-in to replace Live Server.

4) Add LAN/WAN options. Different quality settings would be nice if I’m trying to talk across the LAN as opposed to across the internet. I have gigabit speed to burn on the LAN and being able to have the highest quality settings for talking to someone down the hall or a few floors down would be nice.

5) Support the Logitech PTZ controls. It’s supported on the Creative Web Cams. Logitech web cameras are pretty common if not more popular than Creative and supporting the Point, Tilt, and Zoom features of these cameras would be nice.

WPS – The World Programming System

I thought I would share with everyone my latest little time burner… beta testing the WPS (World Programming System.) I’ve only had it a day and have run about a dozen programs through it, and so far, I’m impressed. WPS is a SAS alternative that mimics SAS/BASE pretty darn close. It has a great IDE (it uses Eclipse) for interactive programming and development. You can check out the WPS website at: http://www.teamwpc.co.uk/index.html to see what they have to offer and how they are positioning the product.

So far, the only problems I’ve had running WPS has been with a few programs that use some of the random number generators that I had in the programs. That was easily taken care of by switching the syntax to use CALL RANNOR and CALL RANUNI instead. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to just copy almost all of my SAS programs that I have that read large datasets and create indexes, do some PROC FREQS and PROC MEANS to validate the load and they worked without any changes.

Performance is not on par with SAS, however. WPS is 10% to 20% slower on doing MEANS and FREQS. The data step code is hit or miss when it comes to execution times. Sometimes WPS is a few percent faster and other times, SAS will outrun it easily. I still have not found the elements that account for the discrepancies but overall, SAS is faster. Sometimes, a lot faster.

According to the WPS website, pricing for the PC version is around $600 for first year fees and half that for the renewal. The download is 60mb in size. That amazed me after being conditioned to feed CD’s to SAS over the years.

Below is a list of language elements that are supported.

Procedures
Append, Compare, Contents, Copy, Datasets, Delete, Export, Format, Freq, Import, Means, Options, Print, Printto, Sort, SQL, Summary, Tabulate, Transpose

Library Engines
DB2, DB2 (z/OS) MySql ,ODBC, SASV6, SASV8, Xport, SPSS, SPSSDIR, SqlServer, Teradata, TeraData (z/OS), WPD (z/OS) WPD1 (Wpd is the compliment of the SAS dataset)

Data Step Statements
ABORT, ARRAY, ATTRIB, BY, CALL, CARDS, CONTINUE, DATA, DATALINES, DELETE, DO,DO, iterative, DO UNTIL, DO WHILE, DROP, END, FILE, FORMAT, GO TO, IF, subsetting IF-THEN/ELSE, INFILE, INFORMAT, INPUT, KEEP, LABEL, Labels,Statement LEAVE, LENGTH, LINK, LIST, MERGE, OUTPUT, PUT, RENAME, RETAIN, RETURN, SELECT, SET, STOP, Sum, UPDATE, WHERE

Data Step Functions and CALL Routines
ABS, ARCOS,ARSIN, ARTAN, BAND, BLSHIFT, BNOT, BOR, BRSHIFT, BXOR, BYTE, CALL EXECUTE, CALL RANCAU, CALL RANNOR, CALL RANUNI, CALL SYMDEL, CALL SYMPUT, CALL SYSTEM, CEIL, CHOOSEC, CHOOSEN, COMPRESS, COS, COSH, CSS, CV, DATE, DATEJUL, DATEPART, DATETIME, DAY, DHMS, DIF, DIM, EXIST, EXP, FLOOR, GETOPTION, HBOUND, HMS, HOUR, INDEX, INPUT,INT, INTNX, JULDATE, JULDATE7, KURTOSIS, LAG, LBOUND, LEFT, LENGTH, LIBREF, LOG, LOG10, LOG2, LOWCASE, MAX, MDY, MEAN, MIN, MINUTE, MISSING, MOD, MONTH, N, NMISS, PUT, QTR, RANGE, RANCAU, RANNOR, RANUNI, REPEAT, RIGHT, ROUND, SCAN, SECOND, SIGN, SIN, SINH, SKEWNESS, SQRT, STD, SUBSTR, SUM, SYMGET, SYSPARM, SYSPROD, SYSTEM, TAN, TANH, TIME,TIMEPART, TODAY, TRANSLATE, TRIM, UPCASE, USS, VAR, VERIFY, WEEKDAY, YEAR, YYQ

Data Set Options
COMPRESS, DROP, FIRSTOBS, IN, INDEX, KEEP, LABEL, OBS, POINTOBS, RENAME, REPLACE, WHERE

Macro Processor
%BQUOTE, %* comment, %DO, %DO, (Iterative) %DO %UNTIL, %DO %WHILE, %END, %EVAL, %GLOBAL, %GOTO, %IF-%THEN/%ELSE, %INDEX, %label, %LENGTH, %LET, %LOCAL, %LOWCASE, %MACRO, %MEND, %NRBQUOTE, %NRQUOTE, %NRSTR, %PUT, %QLOWCASE, %QSCAN, %QSUBSTR, %QSYSFUNC, %QUOTE, %QUPCASE, %SCAN, %STR, %SUBSTR, %SUPERQ, %SYSCALL, %SYSEVALF, %SYSFUNC, %SYSPROD, %SYSRC, %UNQUOTE, %UPCASE

System Options
AUTOEXEC, BLKSIZE, BYLINE, CENTER, CHARCODE, COMPRESS, DATE, DB2IN, DB2SSID, DKRICOND, DKROCOND, DSNFERR, ECHOAUTO, ENGINE, ERRORABEND, ERRORS, FILEBLKSIZE(device-type), FILESPPRI, FILESPSEC, FILESYSTEM, FILEUNIT, FIRSTOBS, FMTERR, INITSTMT, _LAST_, LINESIZE, MACRO, MACROGEN, MAUTOSOURCE, MERROR, MISSING, MLOGIC, MPRINT, MRECALL, MSGLEVEL, MTRACE, NOTES, NUMBER, OBS, OLDMAC, PAGENO, PAGESIZE, REPLACE, S, S2, SASAUTOS, SERROR, SORTCUTP, SORTEQOP, SORTLIST, SORTMSG, SORTNAME, SORTOPTS, SORTPARM, SORTPGM, SORTSIZE, SORTSUMF, SOURCE, SOURCE2, STIMER, SUMSIZE, SYMBOLGEN, SYSPARM, SYSPREF, USER, VNFERR, WORK, WORKINIT, WORKTERM, WPSTRACE, XCMD, XSYNC, XWAIT, YEARCUTOFF

Vista and SAS Compatability Issues

Well Vista was released last night and so was Office 2007. I attended a seminar sponsored by Microsoft last week that highlighted the new technologies. I was really impressed with the new version of Office. If you are a knowledge worker that uses Office, Outlook is going to be your new home.

As a small business owner, I really liked the Outlook Business Contact Manager (BCM) for how well integrated it is into the other office suite products. Using the BCM in Outlook, you can manage marketing campaigns, sales campaigns, and perform many elements of project and time management.

The other feature I really like about Office 2007 is its almost seamless integration with SharePoint 3.0. I expect SharePoint’s popularity to soar because of how well integrated Office 2007 is with it. If you are currently running SharePoint 2.0, the upgrade to 3.0 is free and can be downloaded from Microsoft’s web site.

Finally, I’m surprised (if the rumors are true) that SAS is not Vista compatible and the Institute will not be releasing an update to their product line until the end of 2007 or early 2008. It’s not like anyone in the IT industry was unaware that Vista was not on the horizon for the last few years. When you are a company spending thousands of dollars a year to license SAS products, expecting a timely release to run on Vista should be taken for granted. It’s my personal opinion that SAS just doesn’t respect the SAS Developer anymore. They would rather spend their time and energy focused on developing vertical applications and loving up to those who have control over purse strings at companies that they do business with or who they want to do business with.

If you’re a SAS Developer, you know what I mean. You’re still working in an editor that was designed in the 1970’s and popularized in the 1980’s and lacks features such as intellisense and code templates. I remember using an old version (version 5.5 perhaps?) of Turbo Pascal that had some elemental code completion features back in the late 1980’s. The SAS text editors on the other hand are stuck with color coding and the bolding and italicizing of text as their only enhancements in 25 years.

Please SAS Institute, work on your editor or better yet, create an API so that third parties can come in and help us who actually have to use your editor out in the field.

New York’s Impending Financial Decline?

Fear, uncertainty and perhaps a little self doubt was raised this week with the release of a 142 page report entitled, “Sustaining New York’s and US Global Financial Services Leadership.” This report was sponsored by New York City mayor Bloomberg and New York State Senator Charles Schumer. The short synopsis is that New York, which is home to the premier financial services industry in the world, is at risk of losing its preeminent status in the next ten years if nothing is done. New York will become a regional player and not a world player if the report is true.Where is the threat coming from? It’s coming primarily from London of course, the previous financial capital of the world. Anyone who has been involved in the financial markets for the last few years has had to see this situation looming. The threats to New York’s financial dominance are also being pushed by Chicago who has taken the lead in the market of exchange-traded derivatives and commodities. The report makes a number of good points about the impending decline of New York’s financial services sector, including regulation issues (i.e. who’s on first? The SEC, the FED, the CFTC , the OCC, the OTS) and then you have to worry about state regulators as well. With Britain on the other hand, you deal with the FSA. The report also mentions issues with immigration and litigation. Personally, I think the lack of control and timely enforcement by the exchanges on stock scandal issues and reckless banking and lending has tarnished the area in the eyes of many outside of New York. As a professionally trained demographer, one would be remiss not to state some of the other underlying causes. Inevitability the loss of dominance also has also to do with worker and employee exodus. Such factors as cost of living, quality of life issues (crime, pollution and general snobbery and meanness) are also contributing issues. Let’s face it, New York has a bull’s-eye on it and smart companies want to geographically lessen their risk to terror, political and financial shenanigans. These are all issues that are quantitatively difficult to measure but are contributing to the exodus of talent and capital

SAS and SAS Consulting Predictions 2007

SAS Consultants Forum
For those of you who are SAS Consultants and are looking to connect with other SAS Consultants, consider joining the SASConsulting.google.com group. Alan Churchill of Savian (www.savian.net) and I decided to start this group about six months ago. We wanted to have a forum where people could openly discuss issues that pertain to the business of SAS Consulting. These issues include dealing with SAS Institute and getting feedback on making business decisions that impact your own business.

SASConsulting.google.com is a moderated group and you need to request membership to view and post to this group. I just checked the membership numbers and we have 129 members as of 12/31/2006. Please note, there are membership restrictions. First, if you work for SAS Institute, you will not able to join our group. Second, we ask that you be a practicing SAS Consultant and that you use your real/full name (and not an alias) when joining.

Predictions for 2007
So, without further ado, here are my “SAS and SAS Consulting Predictions for 2007.”

1. SAS will increase license fees again. DOH!!

2. Shipments of the next release of SAS will fall behind schedule and cause SAS programmers to miss an early upgrade to Vista in the 2007 time frame.

3. SAS Consulting rates will hold steady or perhaps decline in 2007.

4. Pricing pressure on younger less experienced (and less networked) consultants will be the impetus to take “real” jobs that are salary based.

5. As H1B visas and immigration reform legislation from the new Democrat controlled congress are passed, companies will begin to reevaluate their outsourcing positions (this is in combination with #4 above.)

Any one care to add to the list?

Links:

www.sasconsulting.google.com
www.savian.net

Year End 2006 Activity

This has been an interesting holiday season for us at MineQuest. It’s been my experience that things slow down considerably over the holidays and the number of contract leads slows down to a snails pace. This year, companies are on the move and are working quite hard to get contractors and their projects lined up. I’m hoping this is a foreshadowing of the amount of activity we will see in 2007.

To everyone who celebrates Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas and hope your New Year is the best.