SAS Global Forum 2015 – a glimpse into upcoming SAS releases

Hadoop, in-memory analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, data visualization— topics that are dominating the analytics airwaves. SAS is innovating in all these areas, rapidly developing new products and functionality to meet the needs of today’s analytic environment.

During this year’s Technology Connection session, SAS Global Forum 2015 attendees got a glimpse into SAS R&D’s 18-month plan, which is driven in large part by initiatives like Hadoop and IoT that are changing the way you can manage and share data.  Here are just a few of the new and enhanced products slated for upcoming SAS releases.

For those wanting to leverage their investment in both SAS and Hadoop investments, look especially for:

The next scheduled release of SAS 9.4 will include:

You can see these products in action by selecting General Sessions from the SAS Global Forum Video Home.

During Chris Hemedinger’s interviews on SAS Tech Talk, SAS product  developers have a chance to share insights the SAS Visual Statistics, SAS Cybersecurity, SAS Studio and other technical directions.

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Converting variable types—use PUT() or INPUT()?

How many times have you had a need to convert between variable types such as converting character to numeric or numeric to character?  For example, what if you have a character variable with numeric values but you need to perform some calculations?  Or, if you have a numeric variable but you need to concatenate it to a character variable?  If you are like most SAS programmers, you need to use PUT() and INPUT() at least once to complete these tasks.

The answer to the question "Do I use PUT() or INPUT()?" depends on what your target variable type is and what your source variable type and data are. Below are three questions to consider:

  1. Is your target variable character or numeric?
  2. Is your source variable character or numeric?
  3. If your source variable is character, is your data value character or numeric?

Based on your answers to the three questions above, you can identify whether PUT() or INPUT() comes first. Keep these four rules in mind when writing your SAS statements:

  • PUT() always creates character variables
  • INPUT() can create character or numeric variables based on the informat
  • The source format must match the source variable type in PUT()
  • The source variable type for INPUT() must always be character variables

The following examples show how to use these rules to convert from character/numeric or  numeric/character:

A  PUT() converts character variable to another character variable.

B  PUT() converts numeric variable to a character variable with numeric value.

C  PUT() converts character variable with a user defined format to another character variable.

D  INPUT() converts character variable with numeric value and informat to a numeric variable.

E  INPUT() converts character variable with numeric value and informat to a character variable.

F  INPUT() converts character variable with numeric value and informat to a numeric variable.


 Function Call  Raw Type  Raw Value  Returned Type  Returned Value
A  PUT(name, $10.); char, char format ‘Richard’ char always ‘Richard   ’
B  PUT(age, 4.); num, num format 30 char always ‘  30’
C  PUT(name, $nickname.); char, char format ‘Richard’ char always ‘Rick’
D  INPUT(agechar, 4.); char always ‘30’ num, num informat 30
E  INPUT(agechar, $4.); char always ‘30’ char, char informat ‘  30’
F  INPUT(cost,comma7.); char always ‘100,541’ num, num informat 100541



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New changes for SAS users group leaders

IMG_1696SAS Global Forum provides a perfect opportunity for SAS users group leaders from across the country to meet in-person to share best practices and new ideas.

This year’s SAS users group leaders link-up event was led by Melissa Perez – the new users group programs manager at SAS. She talked about her new team and how they are dedicated to coming up with better ways to provide resources and support to users group leaders.

Perez also led a discussion with two special leaders - Elizabeth Axelrod, President, Boston Area SAS Users Group and Joseph “Joe” Guido, Chair, Genesee Valley SAS Users Group (Greater Rochester, NY area). These leaders were chosen to speak because they are doing unique things to get users group members engaged in their respective areas.

Axelrod explained that she’s been fortunate enough to find a great meeting space at no cost. She also includes special SAS training at each of her events so attendees can get pick up some new tips and tricks.

Guido takes a social approach to his meetings. “They are not just standard meetings,” said Guido. He has something called “SAS in suds” where members go to a local pub to continue their networking after the users group meetings. They also hold picnics and other socials events throughout the year.

“We’re always trying different things,” said Guido. And that was the biggest take away from both Axelrod and Guido – be unique.

Perez ended the link up by announcing some big news – the creation of a private users group leader’s community group on “We want you to be able to connect and get the support from SAS, but we also want you to be able to connect with each other.”

If you’re a 2015 registered SAS users group leader or member of a committee in your area, look out for an email from Perez very soon for your invite into the community. You can also send an email to to be added to the email list if you are a registered users group leader.

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You react so quickly! Do you have ESP?

SAS Event Stream Processing that is! The latest release of SAS Event Stream Processing will launch May 12, and numerous customers around the globe are already using it. So what’s the big deal?

Why event streams are important to business

SAS Event Stream Processing allows organizations to react to events virtually instantaneously. Consider the following scenarios. Imagine if:

  • An online retailer creates custom offers as customers click around the web
  • An oil company automatically vents a pipeline to a reservoir when sensors detect an increase in pressure
  • A financial regulator reverses predatory trading immediately after it occurred

These are all extremely high value scenarios, and the reason is the rapid reaction time. If the retailer markets to the customer after he or she has already ended their session, it’s less effective. If the oil pipeline breaks, it is a disaster. If the predatory trading isn’t reversed for months, markets and peoples’ lives are negatively affected.

The point is that the value of information decreases dramatically over time. While it’s often helpful to analyze historical data, the faster you can use that analysis to react to actual events, the more valuable it can be to the bottom line. As the graphic below shows, the quicker you take action following a business event, the more that action will be worth in money earned or saved.


Developing event stream models

The recommended path for executing SAS Event Stream Processing models is through the XML Factory Server. To support faster model development, SAS recently added a visual development environment called the SAS Event Stream Processing Studio. Using this graphical interface, model designers can drag and drop windows onto the workspace area to create the appropriate data-centric flow and apply processing rules to address any kind of business need. Simple and intuitive.

SAS Event Stream Processing Studio showing code and associated process flow.

Once the project is designed it can be tested directly within SAS Event Stream Processing Studio, and if everything is fine, the XML model that’s automatically generated from the interface and published to the appropriate server for execution.

SAS Event Stream Studio supports faster analysis and detection of events with:

  • an intuitive environment for developing and testing projects (aka models)
  • a palette of windows and connectors that can be used to design even the most complex event streaming models
  • a definition and testing environment that reduces the need for programming in XML or C++
  • ability to easily instantiate visually-defined models to the XML factory server, connecting to live data streams for model validation
  • full visibility into the automatically generated XML code, which can be further customized with edits and additions

For more information

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Top 5 reasons to attend PharmaSUG 2015

PharmaSUG 2015 logo with sea turtle image and Orlando 2015For more than 25 years, PharmaSUG has been the premier educational experience for SAS users in the pharmaceutical industry. Whether you're new to using SAS or a seasoned veteran, this year's event in Orlando, May 17-20, has something for you!

1. Hear keynote speaker Lilliam Rosario, PhD, of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Rosario is the director of the Office of Computational Science within the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). She will be speaking on the topic of "Modernizing CDER Drug Review - OCS Technology & Support".

2. Get a discount on registration. Register by May 4 and save $100 on the on-site registration rate.

3. Expand your current skill set. Or get up to speed quickly if you're new to the pharma industry by attending sections that range from Industry Basics to Career Planning.

4.  Get more industry-specific knowledge. Attend any of these great sections:

  • Beyond the Basics
  • Data Standards
  • Data Visualization and Graphics
  • Healthcare Analytics
  • Submission Standards
  • Statistics and Pharmacokinetics

5.  Learn by doing. The conference offers lots of opportunity with free hands-on training sessions. Visual learners especially won't want to miss the popular Posters sessions.

Don't miss this once-a-year opportunity to learn, network and have fun at the annual PharmaSUG conference. See you in Orlando!

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“Think and Do” approach to educating big data students

IMG_1657One of the big topics at SAS Global Forum 2015 is the analytics skills gap. Tonya Etchison Balan of the Poole College of Management at NC State University presented a case study approach for teaching analytical skills.

The motto at NC State is “Think and Do.” What that means is the university wants students to not only learn to think critically, but also to gain hands-on-experience with the tools that will enable them to be successful in their careers.

What does an analytics MBA need to know?

Balan believes an MBA student needs to be able to understand the entire analytics process, but they don’t need to be experts in every aspect.

She highlighted these four areas of the analytics process that students need to know:

  • Data (What data do I need to answer this question?)
  • Insight (Are there any obvious trends or issues with the data?)
  • Decision (How do I interpret the results of the analysis?)
  • Action (What changes need to be made to the business process?)

How do you create an analytics case study course?

When designing a course, Balan said one approach is to break the course up into modules based on a particular analytical method.

She said the toughest challenges is finding data. “It makes it easier to write a case study when you have real data,” explained Balan.

Her suggestions for finding “real” data include:

You also need the right software and methods. Balan uses the following:


  • Linear regression with real (messy) data
  • Classification Methods
    • Logistic Regression
    • Decision Trees
  • Clustering and Segmentation


  • JMP
  • SAS Enterprise Miner
  • SAS Visual Analytics (and Visual Statistics)
  • SAS University Edition
  • Excel

“The idea of a case study is to give the students some business concepts,” said Balan. “It gives them a sense of what the real business problems is.”

The result is a business leader who can “think and do” -- which goes back to the motto at NC State.

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Can I run SAS Grid Manager in the AWS cloud?

SAS recently performed testing using the Intel Cloud Edition for Lustre* Software - Global Support (HVM) available on AWS marketplace to determine how well a standard workload mix using SAS Grid Manager performs on AWS.  Our testing demonstrates that with the right design choices you can run demanding compute and I/O applications on AWS. You can find the detailed results in the technical paper, SAS® Grid Manager 9.4 Testing on AWS using Intel® Lustre.

In addition to the paper, Amazon will be publishing a post on the AWS Big Data Blog that will take a look at the approach to scaling the underlying AWS infrastructure to run SAS Grid Manager to meet the demands of SAS applications with demanding I/O requirements.  We will add the exact URL to the blog as a comment once it is published.

System design overview – network, instance sizes, topology, performance

For our testing, we set up the following AWS infrastructure to support the compute and IO needs for these two components of the system:

  • the SAS workload that was submitted using SAS Grid Manager
  • the underlying Lustre file system required to meet the clustered file system requirement of SAS Grid Manager.

SAS Grid Manager and Lustre shared file configuration on AWS clour

The SAS Grid nodes in the cluster are i2.8xlarge instances.  The 8xlarge instance size provides proportionally the best network performance to shared storage of any instance size, assuming minimal EBS traffic.  The i2 instance also provides high performance local storage, which is covered in more detail in the following section.

The use of an 8xlarge size for the Lustre cluster is less impactful since there is significant traffic to both EBS and the file system clients, although an 8xlarge is still is more optimal.  The Lustre file system has a caching strategy, and you will see higher throughput to clients in the case of frequent cache hits which effectively reduces the network traffic to EBS.

Steps to maximize storage I/O performance

The shared storage for SAS applications needs to be high speed temporary storage.  Typically temporary storage has the most demanding load.  The high I/O instance family, I2, and the recently released dense storage instance, D2, provide high aggregate throughput to ephemeral (local) storage.  For the SAS workload tested, the i2.8xlarge has 6.4 TB of local SSD storage, while the D2 has 48 TB of HDD.

Throughput testing and results

We wanted to achieve a throughput of least 100 MB/sec/core to temporary storage, and 50-75 MB/sec/core to shared storage.  The i2.8xlarge has 16 cores (32 virtual CPUs, each virtual CPU is a hyperthread on a core, and a core has two hyperthreads).  Testing done with lower level testing tools (fio and a SAS tool,  showed a throughput of about 3 GB/sec to ephemeral (temporary) storage and about 1.5 GB/sec to shared storage.  The shared storage performance does not take into account file system caching, which Lustre does well.

This testing demonstrates that with the right design choices you can run demanding compute and I/O applications on AWS. For full details of the testing configuration and results, please see the SAS® Grid Manager 9.4 Testing on AWS using Intel® Lustre technical white paper.


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The future of analytics

Before kicking off SAS Global Forum in Dallas, SAS held an academic summit to recognize faculty and students who are making a difference in analytics. They also shined a light on 15 student ambassadors whose papers were selected for their innovative approach to solving problems using SAS.

Inside SAS Global Forum host, Anna Brown, interviewed two of the 2015 ambassador winners.

Filling the analytics gap

SAS CEO Dr. Jim Goodnight spoke at the summit about the importance of developing students with deep analytical skills to fill the shortage of talent in the industry. “Today you can be confident you made a good decision to study analytics,” said Goodnight. “The field is exploding, and the demand for talent is growing faster than the number of students entering the field.”

One year ago, here at SAS Global Forum, Goodnight unveiled SAS Analytics U. The program offers free software to university students, faculty and researchers. Since its launch, SAS University Edition has been downloaded more than 250,000 times. To make it even easier to learn SAS, you can now access the University Edition on Amazon's AWS Marketplace.

Dr. Jim Goodnight

Dr. Jim Goodnight

Announcing the Analytics Symposium

The future analytics leaders will have even more opportunities to showcase their skills at SAS Global Forum 2016.

Ken Koonce, Professor of Experimental Statistics at Louisiana State University, announced the first-ever Analytics Symposium. He explained that it will be a competition where teams of students have an opportunity to solve a real-world analytics problem using public data. “This will be an opportunity for you to get to know what others are doing and sell yourself for a potential job,” said Koonce.

SAS will be providing the teams with a special version of Analytics U to use in their research. The top eight teams will be selected to attend the conference in Las Vegas next year to compete.

More information on the Analytics Symposium is coming in July. In the meantime, get your team together!

2015 Student Ambassadors

2015 Student Ambassadors

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Ode to a SAS Global Forum attendee

SAS Global Forum has just begun.
Attendees are excited to see everything and everyone.

A team of volunteers works hard with one goal in mind.
To make sure it’s perfect to have you return time over time.

There are definitely quite a few changes and I know for some past attendees that may pain us.

Printed materials are one for the ages.
Although a crazy few may still want to carry around all those pages.

We will still have those printed daily schedules and maps, but to find the most current information you’ll need to download the app!

An event this size is not without its glitches, but the biggest positive this year is NO DRINK TICKETS.


Past attendees may wonder how can this be?
Newbies may question what do I mean?

For all just understand that drinks are free - no tickets, no cash.
And just for curiosity sake ask to see Art Carpenter’s old ticket stash.


Please provide lots of feedback or at least provide some.
It means more improvements for many years to come.

Four days of seeing, doing, and learning a ton.
Most of all the 2015 conference will be lots of fun.

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SAS Global Forum is live in 3, 2, 1…

There’s a common aphorism that everything is bigger in Texas. So when SAS decided to host SAS Global Forum and SAS Global Forum Executive Conference in Dallas - it had to go big.

Both conferences will kick off Sunday evening with a Texas-sized crowd of more than 4,500 attendees. But if you’re not there, you can still tap into the valuable information being shared.


New this year, you can watch live video from both conferences happening April 26-29. Everything from opening session, keynotes, Tech Talks and live reports will be streaming live online. Missed something? No worries. The videos will also be available on-demand.

You can also watch the Inside SAS Global Forum video series. Co-hosts Anna Brown and Chris Hemedinger will take you “inside” the event to give you an idea of what people are talking about. The videos will cover the latest technologies and areas of focus, as well as interviews from customers who are getting a handle on big data through analytics.

Here’s Anna and Chris with a preview on what you can expect at the conference.

All the videos can be found on the SAS Global Forum video portal.


I’ll be attending about a dozen sessions and events at the conference, and blogging right here on SAS Users. You can also find even more content on the entire SAS family of blogs.

Social media

If you’re not liking or following us yet – now’s the time. The hashtags are #SASGF15 (SAS Global Forum) and #SASEC15 (SAS Global Forum Executive Conference). Join the conversation or just follow along to find great information to watch, read and share.

Safe travels to everyone heading to Dallas. #SASGF15orBust

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