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.

Videos

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.

Blogs

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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SAS Global Forum 2015: What's inside The Quad?

Every college and university seems to have its own unique version of “The Quad”, where folks mingle and serious (and more often less serious!) happenings are staged.

At SAS Global Forum, The Quad is the former SAS Support and Demo area, freshened up with today’s casual atmosphere, more interactive spaces and new opportunities to learn, network, eat and socialize. Here’s a quick rundown of some activities you won’t want to miss:

Take a tour.  You can take a tour of The Quad on Sunday after you arrive at the conference, every half-hour starting at 4:45 pm until 6:30 pm.  If you want to get a head start, take a peek at the Know Before You Go videos, especially How to Navigate The Quad.  Find visuals helpful?  Follow this map of The Quad as you read about the sections highlighted below.

Play the mobile app game.  When you visit The Quad, don’t forget about the mobile app game. Attendees from both SAS Global Forum and SAS Executive Conference can earn points and win prizes! You can gain points by just taking part in certain activities in the app like tweeting or completing a session survey. Better yet, as you visit different areas and activities throughout the conference, you can earn points simply by scanning the QR codes posted nearby.

Visit the App Game widget in the SAS Global Forum 2015 mobile app for the full list of ways to earn and win great prizes.

Grab breakfast or lunch before attending Theater Sessions and Table Talks.  Breakfast and lunch will be served in The Quad, close to the entrance to technical and executive-level presentations in the Theaters area. Nearly 20 new Table Talks sessions will happen in this area as well.

If you’ve ever wanted to give SAS feedback about the regional, local, special and in-house users groups, now is your chance.  Melissa Perez and Nancy Moser will be hosting the Users Group Evolution Table Talk on Monday and Tuesday.  Please stop by to share your ideas, challenges and successes.

Pick up a free T-shirt or buy discounted books.  It’s your one-stop shop to pick up your free 2015 T-shirt and other conference materials, as well as purchase SAS gear at the SAS Merchandise store. It's also the place for SAS Books, whether you’re looking to buy or learn about opportunities to write about your own SAS knowledge. View the complete list of discounted SAS books available for purchase in the store.

Build your SAS knowledge and your career.  Meet contacts from organizations that can kick-start your career. Learn how you can build your SAS skills with e-learning, SAS Global Academic and SAS Certification programs, and training. Find out more about the SAS Analytics U initiative, which provides free, web-based access to SAS for students and professors. And build knowledge with interactive e-posters and the wealth of documentation resources in SAS OnlineDoc®.

Get hands-on with SAS software.  See demos and talk to experts in administration and architecture, analytics, business intelligence, data management, data presentation, JMP®, cloud, enterprise hosting, solutions and technical support.

At the Catalyst Café, you'll see innovation in action and get hands-on experience with SAS® Visual Analytics, SAS Visual Statistics, SAS Data Loader for Hadoop and Curriculum Pathways mobile apps – and participate in an interactive survey with live results at the Sphero arena.

Or maybe you’re looking for a little help: The Code Doctors are here to identify symptoms, diagnose problems and prescribe treatment for your code, and professional services experts from SAS can help ensure successful implementation of your software.

Stay connected with the SAS support community.  Explore the wide variety of SAS users groups, communities and programs, and take the customer survey to provide feedback on various topics. You can also check out Inside SAS Global Forum special reports, which give you the inside scoop at the conference. Plus, stay connected with the SAS and the user community through social media at The Point.

We hope to see you there!

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SAS support site—not just another pretty face

Sometimes you just need a new pair of shoes or a brand new hat. Something so small can add a pep to your step and allow you to see new opportunities in the same old places. Don't believe me? Try it. We did and I can't wait for you to see what we've been up to.

We took the support.sas.com site that you use every day and spruced it up. In a way, we gave it a new pair of shoes and a hat. Visit the site any time after Thursday morning, April 16 and see for yourself. All of your favorite content, your bookmarks, and your applications are right where you left them. They just have a fresh new look. The new look brings more alignment between www.sas.com and support.sas.com, making the transition between the two sites less shocking and easier for you to explore information from SAS.

Here's a glimpse of the new top navigation on support.sas.com.

New, open look for support.sas.com header

New, open look for support.sas.com header

In addition to the fresh new look at the top of all of the pages, we've created a new footer at the bottom of all pages.  This footer provides a collection of links to commonly used content on both support.sas.com and www.sas.com. These links make it easier for you to move from one area of sas.com to another with fewer clicks and interruptions in your activities. We looked at usage numbers and listened to your comments then selected a collection that we think will be useful on your daily usage.

New multi-link footer

New multi-link footer

We've done our part to give support.sas.com a little extra pep. Now its your turn to try it out and let us know what you think. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a comment? 

  • Leave a comment on this post.
  • Look for the Feedback link in the footer and send us your comment.
  • If you are attending SAS Global Forum, visit the support.sas.com booth in The Quad. My colleagues will be there waiting to show you all the great features and to gather your feedback.

Thanks for using SAS and support.sas.com!

Note: This content has been cross-posted from the Key Happenings at support.sas.com blog.

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Deploying SAS software--save time and effort with shared configuration

SAS System software supports a wide variety architecture and deployment possibilities. It’s wild when you think about it because you can scale the analytic power of SAS from the humblest single CPU laptop machine all the way up to hundreds-of-machines clusters.

When SAS deployments involve many machines, it’s natural to look for time- and effort-saving options that simplify the initial installation as well as ongoing administration. Electing to employ a shared SAS configuration directory is one of those options. But what does that even mean?
Deploying SAS with a shared configuration directory is always optional. It’s not a technical requirement in any sense. But there are times when it’s really nice to have and SAS does support it in the proper circumstances.  Here are some tips on when to take advantage of shared configuration capabilities.

First, you need file-sharing technology

To create a shared configuration directory, we must first set up a way to share a single physical directory with multiple machines. A shared file system is one physical storage location that is

  • visible to (mounted on) multiple host machines
  • accessible to SAS on each machine by the same directory path.

There are many ways to accomplish this. The simplest place to start in UNIX (and Linux) environments is to define a shared filesystem using Network Attached Storage (or NAS) technology. An NAS-mounted filesystem essentially leverages the computer’s built-in networking ability to share one machine’s local disk such that it’s accessible to multiple machines.

This is fine for a proof-of-concept or small development/test deployment, but for a large production environment, chances are you will want to invest in a more robust and scalable technology. A Storage Area Network (or SAN) is a dedicated, resilient and highly available storage solution with faster connectivity than the standard network interfaces leveraged by NAS. There’s a lot more to shared filesystems than just NAS and SAN, but that’s a topic well covered elsewhere. Visit the SAS Support web site for Scalability and Performance Papers to view the SAS Technical Paper: A Survey of Shared File Systems.

Identify which SAS configuration directory to share

Next, we need to identify which SAS configuration directory to share. And that’s going to depend on your SAS server topology. Let’s begin with the standard SAS Enterprise Business Intelligence platform, which is a common building block for most SAS deployments. Here we’ve got three major service tiers:

  • Metadata
  • Compute (Workspace, Stored Process, OLAP, etc.)
  • Middle (Web)

For performance, efficiency, and availability purposes, we’ve elected to place each of those service tiers into their own set of host machines. That is, we’re going to physically separate those logical tiers by their function:

Diagram showing SAS deployment defined as compute tier, metadata tier and middle tier.

The graphic below shows the necessary deployment steps described by the Planning Application when we choose the topology above from the SAS Deployment Wizard (or SDW):

Output from Planning ApplicationThe takeaway here: separating the tiers in this way means that each tier will have its own configuration directory.  If you choose a multiple machine topology, then on each tier, you must:

  • run the SDW
  • select a configuration directory that is not shared with any other tier

Avoid this wrong turn!

It’s important to heed this advice:  when you’ve chosen a plan with separated tiers, then you must not allow those distinct tiers to write to the same configuration directory.

The SDW warns you if you try to do it:

Warning from SDW that configuration already exists.

But if you ignore the warning, the SDW will successfully deploy the software for the first as well as the subsequent tiers. SAS services will successfully startup and validate. Everything will appear to work – except for one major problem: the SAS Deployment Registry is overwritten with each new configuration deployment.

That means that in the future, installers for migration, hotfixes and maintenance updates will not be able to see all of the details of the full deployment – only the information for that last SDW configuration is retained. When that day comes, it will create a major headache for support purposes.

Configuring the Compute Tier on a shared directory—an example

Notice that up to this point, we’ve been talking about how the configuration directory must be deployed by tier, not by host machine. Each tier has its own considerations, but the Compute Tier is where we can share the configuration directory across multiple machines.

The Compute Tier can consist of one or more machines.  It’s very scalable both vertically and horizontally. For some deployments, there could be dozens, even hundreds, of machines in the SAS Compute Tier. In those circumstances, we don’t want to deploy a separate configuration for each one if we don’t have to, so let’s zoom in on the Compute Tier. In this diagram, we have seven different host machines of varying sizes – all run the same OS version and the same release of SAS. It will save us a lot of installation, configuration, and administration time if they all share a common configuration directory.

Compute Tier comprising seven machines of different sizes

When we run the configuration portion of the SAS Deployment Wizard for the Compute tier, we provide the shared file system’s directory path (in the diagram above, that’s /compute/config). And we only need to run the SDW configuration one time. After configuration is complete, all of the SAS configuration files you’re familiar with are visible and accessible by all machines of the Compute Tier. So with a single deployment run of the SDW, all of the machines in the Compute Tier have access to the same configuration.  So what are the benefits?

  • From a SAS installer’s perspective, it’s great not having to run the SDW for configuration on each and every host of the Compute Tier.
  • For the SAS administrator who is charged with daily operations and maintenance, a shared configuration means that making a change in one place is available to all intended machines.
  • Further, when it comes time to deploy hot fixes or maintenance updates, the installation tools also need to run only once for this shared configuration directory.

Finishing the configuration

There is some additional follow-through necessary, depending on your SAS release:

  • For SAS 9.4 M1 and earlier releases of SAS, some additional configuration work was required. Certain operational and log files were generically named and if those filenames were not changed, then there be file-locking conflicts as processes on different host machines attempted to write to the same physical file. The procedure is to modify certain scripts to insert variables into the filename references which would then ensure each host machine was writing to its own unique files on the shared filesystem.
  • Beginning with SAS 9.4 M2, these manual edits of executable files are no longer required.  Filename references now include the hostname by default so everything plays nicely in a shared configuration environment. Yay!

For any release of SAS, you must also make manual changes to the SAS metadata. At this point in the process, you have only deployed a single configuration directory, you have not yet informed the overall SAS deployment of how many server machines are participating in the Compute Tier. Follow the steps provided in the SAS® 9.4 Intelligence Platform: Application Server Administration Guide for Creating Metadata for Load-Balancing Clusters.

Configuring the Metadata Tier and Middle Tier

If you’ve decided to deploy a SAS Metadata Server cluster to ensure high-availability of your metadata services, then you must deploy at least three installations of the SAS Metadata Server. Each of those installations will have its own dedicated configuration directory – they do not share! The only thing shared between the nodes of a metadata cluster is the common network-mounted directory for metadata backups (not shown here).

Diagram of configuration files for the Metadata Tier

The same holds true if you choose to cluster the SAS Web Application Server. Let’s say you will deploy a horizontal two-node cluster of your SAS Web Application Servers that will be load-balanced by the SAS Web Server. Each node of that web app server cluster will have its own configuration directory – they do not share either!

Diagram of shared configuration for the Middle Tier

The point is, each of those cluster nodes (for meta and middle) requires their own configuration deployment. Now aren’t you glad we can perform just one configuration deployment in the Compute Tier to share the configuration directory for any number of machines participating there!

Takeaways

In this discussion, we have learned:

  • A SAS configuration directory can be shared across multiple machines in the logical Compute tier (as we have it defined separately from the Metadata and Middle tiers) – saving initial deployment effort as well as ongoing administration and maintenance effort
  • Clusters of SAS Metadata Servers should not share a configuration directory
  • Clusters of SAS middle-tier services should not share a configuration directory
  • Do not use the SAS Deployment Wizard to deploy a new configuration on top of another one in the same directory
  • Some shared filesystem technologies are better suited for supporting SAS I/O patterns than others – so choose wisely.  This list of  Scalability and Performance Papers can help.
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Turning text files into SAS data sets—6 common problems and their solutions

SAS Technical Support Problem SolversIf you’re reading this blog post, you have probably gotten a text file from someone that needs to be turned into a SAS data set so that it can be manipulated, analyzed and made into a report. It all starts with getting the data into SAS. Sometimes that requires a call or email to Technical Support because the data just won’t play nicely with PROC IMPORT or because you need to use INFILE/INPUT to make things just the way you want them. As a SAS Technical Support analyst, here are some of the common questions and issues that I see and solutions for them: Read More »

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SAS Global Forum 2015: SAS programming for newer technologies

Many experienced and novice SAS programmers take advantage of the power of a “language within a language” offered by PROC SQL, SAS/IML and the SAS Macro Facility. But how many of you are aware of recently added languages and techniques? These newer tools are designed to help SAS programmers leverage virtualization, parallel processing and related technologies.

Here’s a sampling of the presentations, workshops and Super Demos offered at SAS Global Forum 2015. You won’t want to miss these if you’re looking for ways to add more programming techniques to your toolkit! Read More »

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Headed to SAS Global Forum and searching for industry-related content?

NetworkingIf you are one of the thousands of SAS users soon to be in Dallas for SAS Global Forum, you've probably already used the online tools to help you view sessions related to your industry. It’s easy to do by filtering on your own particular industry, such as banking, or by filtering on your session topic area, such as data management. It pays to plan ahead, be prepared, and to make the most of your conference experience.

One additional opportunity that you may not know about: the SAS special-interest users groups Community Linkups, scheduled for Tuesday evening from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. The Community Linkups begin with a reception and are followed by a meeting with industry peers. Not a member of the special-interest group already? No worries, all SAS Global Forum attendees are welcome, whether you are a current member of the group or just want to check things out.

The following groups are planning to meet. Read more and register for the linkup that best meets your interests: Read More »

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SAS and Hortonworks – partnering to unlock your Hadoop data

HortonworksPic

Kim Truong, Hortonworks

Contributed by Kim Truong, Sr. Marketing Manager, Hortonworks, where she is responsible for partner marketing with SAS.

At Hortonworks, we’ve been working with SAS engineering teams since 2013, allowing our customers to leverage the inherent scale-out compute and storage capabilities of Hadoop in combination with the richness of SAS analytics. We’re going to be at SAS Global Forum 2015 in Dallas, April 26-29 and would love to show you all the innovative integrations on the SAS and Apache Hadoop front. Read More »

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Include Info Windows in your SAS Visual Analytics reports

An Info Window is a SAS Visual Analytics pop-up window that provides additional information when a user selects a report object. When designing your report, you can think of an Info Window as simply an additional report section that is defined as hidden.

Now that you know what an Info Window is, what can you put in it? The beauty of it—anything  you would a typical report section! Well, except report and section level prompts, that is.

I think one of the Info Window’s benefits is being able to provide that extra level of detail for a report object without navigating off the current report section.  Info Windows can include:

  • prompts in the report body
  • text to give your users more information on the data source refresh schedule, system maintenance schedule, or system administrator contact information
  • any additional report objects with or without hierarchies to allow access to additional pieces of information to help explain dashboard numbers.

So, if it’s hidden, how do report users access it? Since the Info Window is a hidden report section, you must define an interaction from a source object to the Info Window (aka, hidden report section), and the target object will be the pop-up Info Window. Let’s look at how to configure a report section as an Info Window. Read More »

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SAS Global Forum:  spotlight on analytical content

As always at this time of year, I like to highlight some of the related analytical content at the upcoming conference, and those readers not going can expect to benefit from the windfall of papers and online videos that will follow SAS Global Forum 2015. This year, the lineup looks especially appealing to statisticians and data scientists. Read More »

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