Tag Archives: SAS

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.

Open Source BI

I ran across an interesting blog post the other day and thought it was worth sharing. The article, Open source BI: New kids on the block is a set of view points from Open source vendors discussing Jim Goodnight’s comment that “We haven’t noticed [open source BI] a lot. Most of our companies need industrial-strength software that has been tested; put through every possible scenario or failure to make sure everything works correctly. That’s what you’re getting from software companies like us – they’re well tested and it scales to very, very large amounts of data.”

I find it an entertaining read and agree with some of what is argued, but I think the bigger point that is missed is not whether Open source BI will continue to gain momentum and replace commercial BI products, but how Open source will become integrated into and begin working in tandem with commercial products.

Technorati Tags: BI,Open Source,SAS,SAS Replacement

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

What is in Your BI Stack?

Earlier this week, I was sitting around talking to a few friends at a place called the Tilted Kilt (not a bad place either) about what constitutes their analytics platform in regards to software that they use on a regular basis. One fellow works for a major finance house here in town, the second person works for an educational consortium, and the third works for an advertising agency of about 100 employees.

Pretty much as expected, both the finance and the education employee are stuck with what is “provided” by their employer. In other words, they’re not allowed by the IT group to add any software to the “standard” analytics desktop (for whatever that means). The software for these two folks was pretty straight forward and included an expensive stat package (SAS) and Excel.

Lynn, who works for an ad agency was fairly unique in my view because of the diversity of tools she had at her disposal. She had the standard Microsoft Office install, but also had SPSS, Stata, RapidMiner and R, as well as a data visualization package which I simply cannot remember the name of right now.

I understand that some of the tools that Lynn uses is driven by the fact that they are open source and cost effective, but she’s also one of the smartest data analysts I’ve known for the last six or seven years. It started me thinking about what I use most often and currently, my BI stack consists of:

WPS – a SAS language compatible software application

R – open source statistics and graphics

Bridge to R – interface into the R system for WPS users

Excel – spreadsheet

Ggobi – data visualization

Google Refine – data cleansing

Looking at my list, three of the six software applications are open source.

I’m curious to hear from others on what constitutes your BI stack and whether your organization allows you to augment the software with tools of your choice. I’m especially interested in hearing how your company deals with open source software and if you think that having a choice of tools allows you to think outside the box?

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

WPS and SAS Windows Server Pricing Comparison

Starting back in 2008, we started to do a Pricing Comparison between SAS and WPS on the Windows Server platform. This year, for 2010, we’ve performed our third Pricing Comparison and have just made it available on our web site.

We decided to deviate just a bit this year and we chose to price comparison two, four and eight Logical CPU (LCPU) platforms instead of the previous one, two, and four Logical CPU servers as in the past. There are two primary reasons for making this change. First, it’s almost impossible to find a single core server any longer. All the low end servers are now two LCPU servers. The trade up from a single core to a two LCPU server is also being pushed because hardware vendors are not offering maintenance on single core servers since they are so old. The second reason for the change is that we are rarely asked to provide a quote for a single core server. There just isn’t a market any longer for running analytics on a single LCPU platform.

The price differential between WPS and SAS is eye opening. As a matter of fact, you can license a WPS eight core server instead of a SAS eight core server, and have enough money left over to pay for the new server and give 10 of your analysts a 5% raise for three years.

You can view the pricing comparison by going to the MineQuest web site or by clicking on the following link: Pricing Comparisons Between WPS and SAS.

Edit note: The link above has been updated to reflect the 2012 comparisons.

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

Who is Considering a Switch to WPS from SAS?

I saw this tweet come by today and was pretty interested in the poll that it linked to on KdNuggets. The poll ask who may be interested in switching analytics packages from SAS to WPS or to R.

The results, although a small N of cases shows just how much momentum that WPS has garnered since the beginning of the year. As a reseller, I get calls everyday from companies who are wanting to leave the pain of high SAS annual license fees. When I share with consulting colleagues the amount of pent up demand to switch, they usually act like I’m over hyping what is happening.

With the new release of WPS 2.5, WPS is available as a 64-bit product for all the platforms that support 64-bit processing. Rather interesting, WPS is listed in the Microsoft 64-bit compatible catalog, but I don’t see SAS listed in the directory as being compatible.

So, take a look for yourself. You can find the poll at KDNuggets by clicking here. The full url is:

http://www.kdnuggets.com/polls/2010/switching-from-sas-to-wps.html

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

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WPS and SAS Lawsuit – the First Findings From the High Court of London

Now that we’ve heard the courts response to SAS Institute’s charges against World Programming Limited (WPL) of improperly creating an interpreter of the language of SAS, I hope a lot of companies and language developers sit back and understand what has just happened and what was just won. It has some real world ramifications and long term issues that will impact these organizations and developers who use either of these products. Finally… there’s competition in the market for companies and other organizations that use the language of SAS.

Why did SAS decide to pursue a legal challenge to World Programming? I firmly believe it’s because they were feeling the shock of lost sales and renewals to WPL. The legal challenge was, in part, an attempt to slow down WPS sales by introducing fear and uncertainty in the market place. This worked to a degree as some companies decided to wait until the court decision was announced before deciding to go forward with a WPS purchase. To reinforce that belief, it’s also my understanding that SAS attempted to push back the trial date time-and-time again to the end of the year. That was to no avail. I also doubt the reason for delaying the case was because the legal staff at the Institute and their hired London Attorney’s were unprepared to push forward with the suit. Seriously, how can you file a suit and not have the evidence ready and at hand?

One other point I want to mention. It looks to me like SAS was caught off guard by the World Programming Press Release and SAS was frantic to issue a release of their own in an attempt to save face. When they did issue a release, they didn’t state anything in Section 332 of the Courts Findings that the court found in favor of World Programming. It’s my opinion that this was not an oversight but was disingenuous and purposefully misleading. Again, the reason could very well be to try to keep the customer community in a state of confusion.

Interestingly, in the mind of many companies and individuals, the idea that SAS decided to sue WPL was an indication that the WPS software has gotten pretty darn good. The fear that WPS was becoming more feature rich and running on all the popular platforms (Mac, Linux, SUN, SPARC, z/Linux, AIX, Windows, and z/OS) had to be a great cause of concern at the Institute. Actually, some of the calls I received from companies interested in WPS learned about the product because SAS Institute issued a press release which was published in numerous trade papers back in November of 2009.

Another question many people have asked is “Why did SAS sue WPL in the UK?” I imagine it’s because WPL has no corporate presence in the United States. Hence, they were probably forced to go to court in London. Also, I’ve heard that SAS realizes as much as 40% of its revenues from the EU. WPL being across the pond has much more branding and name awareness in the EU than in the US so that may have been another reason to go to court in the UK.

So what about the decision? First, the court’s decision is that… it is legal to create a language interpreter based on published documentation and that the WPS software is legitimate (See Section 332. Part iv).

On the assumption that Pumfrey J’s interpretation of Article 1(2) of the Software Directive was correct, WPL has not infringed SAS Institute’s copyrights in the SAS Components by producing WPS (see paragraphs 245-250 above).

Reading through the courts decision, I don’t see that there is an injunction and WPS is free to continue in selling their interpreter. The court only agreed with the SAS claim that there was copyright infringement in a single WPS manual. I noticed that manual has been taken down and I assume is being rewritten.

I’m sure there are many legal specifics around the charges, it was an interesting claim that they laid forth. I like the way a friend of mine argued how difficult it is for SAS to try to argue the charges. He stated, “Just imagine if you read a book about butterflies, and because you read that book, the author claims that you cannot write a book about butterflies.”

Companies

What is the impact? It means that there’s literally thousands of companies who have not been able to justify the cost of products put forth by SAS who will now be able to leverage the language. As a reseller, the calls I receive usually start with a description of why they are looking to move away from SAS products or have been provided a quote that was too expensive for them. These are first time licensees as well as big name Fortune 100 companies. The list of organizations that license WPS truly runs the gamut of organizations who are frustrated with the pricing and the sales practices of the Institute.

Developers

For the SAS language developer working in a corporate setting, this decision possibly means more job security for many of you. Since the cost of WPS is so reasonable compared to SAS, many smaller companies can afford to bring on the language. It also means that due to the economy, companies who are being forced to aggressively control costs have a choice now to move their processing to a WPS based solution as a way of controlling licensing cost and not terminating developers.

The good news is that you can continue to leverage your training and skill sets using WPS as it relates to your SAS experience. It also means more applications on a variety of systems can be written using WPS because the cost is typically one-fifth to one-fourth the cost of SAS on a server.

Also, it’s worth noting that WPS runs natively on Mac OS X and z/Linux. Neither of these OS platforms are currently supported by SAS. I believe SAS stopped developing for Mac back with v6.2.

Consultants

For consultants, it means a new market area to apply your trade and practice. At one time I was a SAS Quality Partner and it became obvious to me (as well as to many other QP’s) that our customers were not looking to embrace SAS products any longer but instead, were looking at ways to lower cost by either dropping certain products or moving the processing to smaller and more affordable platforms. WPS will now provide consultants with a vehicle to move their consulting in directions where their training and expertise can still be used without loss or change of rates.

Also, acquiring SAS Software as a consultant is a pricey proposition. The Institute offers numerous types of consulting relationships and the cost of such associations starts at $3,000 or so. A WPS license currently costs a consultant less than one-third that much.

Going Forward

Going forward, I see nothing but great possibilities for WPL and the WPS product. I’ve kicked around scenario’s with other consultants regarding how SAS may change their approach now that WPS is a viable, legitimate and legal market choice. Will SAS lower their prices to match WPS? We all highly doubt it. Since SAS is so focused on Vertical Market Applications, will they lose interest in the foundation products and leave that market to WPS? The only way I can see that happening is if enough customers abandon SAS on those product lines. Will World Programming start to innovate by creating their own PROCS or product lines? I can’t imagine that’s not in the cards but we’ll have to see how these hands get played out.

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Wrap up on the Bridge to R Trial

Thought I would comment on the extended trial of the Bridge to R we had that started at the end of April and ran through the end of June. The trial of the Bridge to R was limited to the Windows desktop platform but was available for both SAS users as well as WPS users.

The number of downloads for both versions was just north of 70 downloads and interestingly, there were just two more downloads for the SAS version than for the WPS version. Personally, I was expecting a lot more downloads for the SAS version simply because there’s so many more SAS users out there.

After discussing this with a number of other consultants and resellers, we’ve concluded that the demand for using R from the SAS language developers is pretty anemic in spite of all the whining and complaining that it should be included for free in the SAS\Base product. I think it’s one of those things where (a) it’s nice to have if it’s free, and (b) the mental leap to using R for SAS language developers is a bigger hurdle than we originally thought.

Even if (b) is true, I think this is just a short term phenomena. R is just getting so popular and we are now seeing it made available/callable from many other popular products and database systems. For instance, we see a new R interface into Oracle for Data Mining. So, it’s just a matter of time before the R language is the most common and (perhaps) universal statistical language being used.

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

Bridge to R Preview Still Available

Just a quick reminder to those who are interested in the Bridge to R. The free trial preview of the Bridge is still available for download at: http://minequest.com/BridgePreview.html. The trial is time limited and will stop working after June 30th, 2010.

There are two versions available depending on whether you’re a WPS user or a SAS user. If you’re on the fence whether R and the Bridge to R is something you want to explore and would like to see a short web video on the Bridge, there’s additional links as well as installation instructions at the link above.

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

Bridge to R v2.4.2 Available for a 60 Day Trial

The latest Bridge to R (version 2.4.2) is now available for download on an extended 60 day trial. The Bridge to R allows you to execute R syntax from within your WPS or SAS IDE and return the log and listing files from R into the SAS or WPS log and listing window. The Bridge alleviates the need to license SAS/IML Studio to access R using SAS. Also, this version of the Bridge brings SAS back into the picture in that both platforms, WPS and SAS are supported.

Requirements

The Bridge has minimal requirements. They are:

· WPS 2.4.x or SAS 9.2.x

· Windows Desktop Operating System

· R versions 2.7.x through 2.11.0.

Note that R release 2.11.0 is fairly new and not all the R packages from CRAN have been brought forward yet. Specifically, the package Hmisc still has not been released and there are some example programs that we use that rely on the Hmisc library.

The Bridge to R has also been tested on the x64 R build (i.e. the 64-bit alpha build for Windows) and so far, seems to work fine with that release as well.

Download

You can download the Bridge to R by going to the MineQuest website at:

http://minequest.com/BridgePreview.html

From the above web page, you can download the Bridge for your specific installation (i.e. WPS or SAS) as well as watch a tortuous video of what the Bridge is able to do. At least the video is only six minutes long but it does provide the background you need to decide if this is something you want to add to your software portfolio.

Installation

Place the Bridge2R.zip file on your desktop and unzip the package. The structure and contents of the folder should be:

\Bridge2R

\Bridge2R\SASMACR.WPCCAT

\Bridge2R\Bridge to R v242.pdf

\Bridge2R\samples\

There’s also a short installation and user guide that you can read before downloading the software. The installation guide is also included in the zip file.

If you have questions on installation issues, please visit the support forum that we just setup to help answer these kinds of questions.

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

MultiCores and Software Pricing – the Paradox

The rate of computing power is increasing dramatically. A recent article in PC World that I read announced the availability of a 12 core CPU from AMD. What was interesting to me was the price point that was being announced. The story stated that the low end AMD 12 core CPU was priced at $293 per CPU. Samsung has announced that they are starting production of 4GB DDR3 modules that will produce 16GB and 32GB DIMMS in desktops. Slap three 32GB DIMMS in your desktop and you have 96GB of RAM. Perhaps that’s not surprising to you in some ways, but it did raise a lot of eyebrows from Quants who are looking to utilize more computing power.

Related to this fact, a few weeks ago J.D. Long who runs the blog Cerebral Mastication made a statement to me about the growing popularity of R. I had commented that two years ago, I rarely saw a copy of R on a Quants desktop at the clients that I consult with. But today, I see R on 50% of the desktops. J.D. stated that “I suspect R is getting adopted from the ground up, not top down.” The more I think about that statement, the more I think it’s a very astute observation.

But there’s a twist to this story and that is how software companies, especially those in the database and BI areas, price their software. Most of these companies price their software by the “logical CPU” or by the “core.” These companies can’t get away with doing such a thing on desktops but they can on the server. The cost of such software can escalate quickly on even a mid-size server. But I’m contending that pricing in such a manner is quite risky and can make your software less valuable to your customers.

Let me explain my thoughts. In a way it’s a paradox. As your software becomes more expensive (I’m talking when software cost is in the five or six figures) you move from being a “partner” to being a risk. Instead of being able to penetrate numerous departments with your software, the cost becomes a barrier to entry to these departments. Also, cost can be such a factor that it’s unrealistic to think that a single company will continue to invest in your solutions. It’s the nature of business to avoid risk and try to find the most cost effective solution.

No longer is it true that you need to spend money to make money. What I’m postulating is that many open source solutions are available that are sufficiently good enough to replace the standard bearers. Talend and Pentaho are two examples in the BI sector that sit on a server. These systems don’t have to be best of breed; they just have to be good enough to operate effectively in the corporate environment.

Is R a replacement for number crunching on the desktop? I believe it is. In the last week, I’ve been exploring graphics in R and how they could complement or replace SAS/Graph. I found out that I can do a bar chart, a histogram, a contour plot, a filled contour plot, a perspective plot, and even a 3-D plot with only two lines of code for each plot type.

So this is what I think will happen. In the short term, Quants and Developers will use R in conjunction with popular BI software. As they become more familiar and confident with their abilities and with the near term availability of six and 12 core CPU’s with 64GB to 96GB of memory, desktop workstations will replace a lot of servers performing number crunching using R. We can see this in the strategy of “if you can’t beat them, join them” by companies like SAS and SPSS which have incorporated R into their products to try to avoid the criticisms of not offering cutting edge statistical technology.

But the bottom line is that open source BI software is maturing and due to vendor software pricing on the servers that are based on logical CPU’s, these companies have effectively killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

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