Tag Archives: MineQuest Business Analytics

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.

Calculating Driving Distances with WPS and the Bridge to R

A few weeks ago, there was a posting on SAS-L where the poster was attempting to get the driving distance between two cities using google’s mapping services. I found that a rather interesting question and decided to see what I could do using WPS and the Bridge to R.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Bridge to R, it is a product from MineQuest Business Analytics that allows you to execute R statements from within the WPS environment. You can pass WPS datasets to R and return R frames to WPS quite easily. You also get the R log and list files returned to your WPS session in the corresponding log and list windows.

Here is the code that we used to create a driving distance matrix between three cities. The output is printed using the PROC Print statement in WPS. 

*--> data set for drive distances;
data rdset;
input fromdest $1-17 todest $ 20-36;
cards;
Grand Rapids, MI   State College, PA
Columbus, OH       Grand Rapids, MI
Chicago, IL        Grand Rapids, MI
;;;;
run;


%Rstart(dataformat=csv,data=rdset,rGraphicsFile=);
datalines4;

    attach(rdset)
    library(ggmap)

    from <- as.character(fromdest)
    to  <- as.character(todest)

    mydist <- mapdist(from,to)

;;;;
%rstop(import=mydist);

proc print data=mydist(drop=var2);
format m comma10. km comma 8.2 miles 8.2 seconds comma7. minutes comma8.2 hours 6.2;
run;

And this is the output:

      Obs    from                  to                              m          km       miles    seconds     minutes     hours       
                                                                                                                                    
       1     Grand Rapids, MI      State College, PA         843,978      843.98      524.45     28,256      470.93      7.85       
       2     Columbus, OH          Grand Rapids, MI          521,289      521.29      323.93     17,543      292.38      4.87       
       3     Chicago, IL           Grand Rapids, MI          285,836      285.84      177.62      9,695      161.58      2.69       
                                                                                                                             

So you can see how handy WPS and the Bridge2 to R can be as a resource – kind of a Swiss Army knife if you like.

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.

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.

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.

New WPS vs SAS Pricing Comparisons on a Windows Server

We updated our server pricing comparison of WPS on a two, four and eight core server with SAS on the same hardware. We included the cost of the SAS/Toolkit (it’s included with WPS) in the comparison, but for many, it might not be something that is important for them.

At any rate, the figures are there so that an individual or an organization can subtract out the price if they so choose and see for themselves the pricing difference for the two products for the first year and a three year window. It’s pretty amazing how cost effective WPS is on a server in comparison to SAS.

You can view the document by clicking: Pricing_Comparisons_Between_WPS_and_SAS. (pdf ~467kb)

Don’t forget there’s still time to get into the action to win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet. If you register to take out a WPS evaluation before September 30th, 2012, you will automatically be registered in the drawing for the tablet. Certain conditions apply so read the the earlier blog post for all the details. You can request a WPS evaluation by going to the MineQuest Business Analytics website at the WPS evaluation page.

Taking WPS 3.01 for a Quick Spin

I’m writing this today from the testing facilities at MineQuest Business Analytics, the center of the BI Universe. Haha! I’ve always wanted to write that as an opening line.

Anyway, I finally installed the latest GA release of WPS v3.01 on all the machines here. It took me a little while to setup all the configuration files so that WPS will use the optimal disk array for work among other things. Just thinking about this, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever had the exact same release on all the desktops and servers.

I wanted to test out the WPS Link technology more thoroughly. For those folks who are unfamiliar with WPS Link, it allows your workstation version of WPS to link to a Linux server for the purposes of submitting WPS code. So, basically you need WPS on both the desktop and on the Linux server. I have WPS on a Mac, a desktop, laptop and a VM running XP. My desktop host is running Vista x64.

One thing that I do like when I’m on the Mac is that the fonts just seem nicer than on Windows. It’s just a bit more aesthetically pleasing to me. The Eclipse Workbench is available across all the platforms except for z/OS as far as I can tell. On Linux, the fonts are similar to the Mac in style but seem a bit heavier. I imagine a lot of that has to do with the platform and font support from Apple on OS X versus the Linux Open Source Community.

Interestingly, I can submit my code on to the Linux Server from all these clients and it works amazingly well. The server is a small box with four cores and only 8GB of RAM but lots of disk space. I ended up setting some options such as setting MAXMEM and SORTSIZE to a reasonable level so that everyone will play well together. Small jobs are almost instant. I’ll start testing with some large jobs next week.

I’ve stated before that sizing a server for a workgroup isn’t always easy. But with 16GB of RAM and four cores of compute power, you can run four to eight simultaneous users quite readily. When you think about the compute power you get with WPS on a server, factoring in the price versus our competition, it’s just so small business friendly and startup friendly.

Don’t forget there’s still time to get into the action to win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet. If you register to take out a WPS evaluation before September 30th, 2012, you will automatically be registered in the drawing for the tablet. Certain conditions apply so read the the earlier blog post for all the details. You can request a WPS evaluation by going to the MineQuest Business Analytics website at the WPS evaluation page.