How to participate in SAS Global Forum 2016...even if you're not going

SAS Global ForumIs it just me, or does it feel a little bit like Christmas Eve? I think it's because SAS Global Forum 2016 is right around the corner, and for many SAS users, it's the most wonderful time of the year. If you're heading to Las Vegas, get ready for three days of learning from SAS peers, exchanging ideas, discovering new techniques for using SAS, and maybe, if you play your cards right (see what I did there?), a dash of fun as well. If only there was something exciting to do in Las Vegas...

All this sounds great if you're one of the 5,000 SAS users who will be at the event (April 18-21 @ The Venetian), right? But what if you can't make the trip to Las Vegas? Is there another way to experience some of the great content that will be shared there? I'm happy to say the answer is yes!

This year, SAS will provide dozens of hours of live video streaming from the event, so you can watch select sessions from the Users and Executive Programs from wherever you are. Live coverage will include Opening Session, all the keynote talks, select breakouts, Tech Talks, updates from The Quad, interviews with SAS executives and developers, and more. Additional videos will be available on the SAS Global Forum Video Portal. Here you'll find featured, most popular, and how-to videos, as well as episodes of Inside SAS Global Forum. You can even view videos from past events. Coverage will be available for on-demand viewing after the conference as well.

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Automatic data suppression in SAS reports

protecting-personal-identityHave you ever used SAS to produce reports for publishing? Have you ever thought of or been told about suppressing data in such reports? Why do we need to suppress (in the sense of withholding, concealing, obscuring or hiding) data in published reports?

The reason is simple - in order to protect privacy of individuals - personally identifiable information (PII) - data that could potentially identify specific individuals and their sensitive or confidential information. Such sensitive data can include health insurance and medical records, age, ethnicity, race, gender, education, political or religious believes, financial and credit information, geographical location, criminal history, student education records, etc.

In the U.S., such information is considered confidential and protected by Federal Law, e.g. HIPAA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and FERPA - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Many other countries have similar laws and regulations.

When SAS is used to generate and publish reports, we need to be on a lookout in order not to break the law since demographic component of any report has a potential of breaching privacy protection, especially when we report on a small group of people. For small reporting samples, even when we publish aggregated reports, there is still a risk of possible deducing or disaggregating personal data.

Grouping for data suppression

One way of obscuring small count numbers to protect people privacy is to lump them up into a larger group, call it “Others” and leave it there. However, while protecting PII this method distorts composition of the report group as it can put different demographic characteristics into “Other” category for different report groups thus making it impossible to compare them side by side.

Using custom formats for data suppression

Another way to suppress or mask small numbers is to use SAS custom formats. Let’s say we want to suppress all numbers in the range of 1 through 6, but show all other numbers as comma-formatted. We can create the following SAS user-defined custom format:

proc format;
	value suppress
	1-6='*'
	other=[comma12.]
	;
run;

This works just fine for a single variable (list) frequency or cross-tabulation frequency numbers as long as there are no Total column or Total row presented. If Totals by row or column are reported then the suppressed small number cell can be easily derived from those totals and the values of the other unsuppressed numbers.

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Let me help you with that! A technical SAS resource guide

A SAS technical resource guideOn the search for some SAS notes, workarounds or sample code? What you may not know is that there are a ton of SAS resources out there providing examples, tips and tricks that are great to have in your tool belt! Many of these resources provide sufficient insight and resolutions without the need for Technical Support assistance… you just have to know where to look!

That’s where I can help. Below, you’ll find a few handy technical resources that are great references, and definitely worth bookmarking if you haven’t already!

First, if you’re looking for guides, documentation, or technical papers, there are a few places you’ll want to visit:

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Places to visit while in Las Vegas for SAS Global Forum 2016

Places to visit while in Las Vegas for SAS Global Forum 2016People sometimes ask me, “What is there to do when I’m in town for SAS Global Forum when I’m NOT attending the conference? After getting over the shock of finding these people in my house, emptying out my fridge, I realize they are simply offering me positive reinforcement based on my post on the subject from last year.

With this year’s conference in Las Vegas, I could simply say “Stop by the casinos, catch a show or two, and enjoy the many dining options,” but they COULD have figured THAT out on their own. Instead, I started looking for things that are a little non-traditional, and Las Vegas does “non-traditional” so well. (For the record, unless stated otherwise, I’ve not visited the locations or been a customer of the services.)

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SAS Studio Parallel Process Flows

parallel2One of the hidden gems of SAS Studio is the ability to run process flows in parallel. This feature really shines when used in a grid environment. Let’s discuss this one step at a time.

First, what is a process flow? When working in the Visual Programmer perspective, you have access to process flows. A process flow is a graphical representation of a process, where each object, be it a SAS program, a SAS Studio task, a query, and so on, is represented by a node. Nodes are connected by links that instruct SAS Studio how to move from one node to the next.

SAS Studio Parallel Process Flows1

Display 1. SAS Studio Process Flow

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SAS Visual Analytics autoload configuration made easy

VisualAnalyticsHTML5In the past, configuring a new autoload library for SAS Visual Analytics was a manual process involving steps to create very specific folder structures and to copy and edit scripts and SAS programs. No more! Updates to the SAS Deployment Manager have added a new task that creates and configures new autoload libraries automatically, which should help SAS administrators add autoload libraries to their system while reducing the possibility of making a careless mistake.

For those unfamiliar with autoload, I am talking about a directory into which a user can drop a spreadsheet, delimited file, or SAS Data Set and have that file automatically loaded for use in a SAS Visual Analytics environment.

So let’s see how this works. For a distributed environment, we need to make sure we start the SAS Deployment Manager on the compute tier machine.  Looking through the tasks, you should see “Configure Autoload Directory for SAS Visual Analytics.”

SAS Visual Analytics autoload configuration made easy

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Opening Up the SAS Environment Manager Report Center

EnvironmentManagerThe SAS Environment Manager Report Center is a set of SAS stored processes and SAS macros which leverage the SAS Data Mart for the purpose of monitoring and auditing a SAS installation. Full documentation on the structure and functioning of the Data Mart can be found in the SAS Environment Manager 2.5 User’s Guide. This blog discusses functionality available as of the SAS 9.4 M3 release.

The intent of the Report Center is to provide most of the reporting that a SAS administrator might need “out of the box.” However, there’s lots of customization possible without doing any coding at all. You do, however, need to know something about your data, and, it helps if you’ve also got some knowledge of SAS reporting and graphing procedures. Those procedures would include PROC TABULATE, PROC TEMPLATE (for plots), PROC GPLOT, and PROC REPORT. This blog will explore a few things I’ve discovered about using the parameters to produce customized reports. In later blogs I’ll discuss using some of the reporting templates provided.

The first step is get a feel for the organization of the report center. Here’s a table to summarize what’s in it:

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Who changed my SAS Visual Analytics reports and explorations?

Visual Analytics audit data collectionIn a couple of my previous blogs I discussed how to audit who made changes to data in a SAS environment. In the last couple of weeks I have been asked how to do the same thing for SAS Visual Analytics reports and explorations.  The Visual Analytics administrator overview report doesn’t answer the question, it deals mainly with usage of LASR servers and data. The same can be said for the VALASR kit reports that are available in SAS Environment Manager.

These two assets can help answer usage questions like what in-memory tables are being used and by whom, but not who is making changes to reports and exploration.

Looking at SAS Environment Manager Service Architecture report center there is not a report that will directly answer the question either. However, the good news is, the data to answer the question is being collected and stored in the Environment manager data mart.

EV Service Architecture enables the Audit.Meta.Updates logger on the metadata server, the result is metadata server Audit logs record, for all public objects:

  • Who modified the object
  • Date and time of the modification
  • Was the object added, deleted or updated

The audit logs are located in <config>\Lev1\SASMeta\MetadataServer\AuditLogs and start with the string Audit.

Here is an example of a line from the log:

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Making Best Use of Date Formats in Visual Analytics Designer

VisualAnalyticsHTML5You may have noticed that when using date information in SAS Visual Analytics, that the date data values can be displayed in a variety of ways. You may see your dates displayed like Jan1916, 03Jun1915, or 03/12/16, for example. In this blog I’ll help you understand SAS date and time values, and review some of the features of SAS Visual Analytics relating to date and time values.

To help illustrate some of the date features in Visual Analytics Designer, I’ve created a SAS table containing multiple date columns, each containing the same data values, but having different associated formats, along with a datetime column and a time column with associated formats. For analysis purposes, there is also an amount column.

The following figure shows how the data is stored and how the data values would be represented in a simple printed report, for example.

Date Formats in Visual Analytics Designer

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Expert tips for returning attendees to SAS Global Forum 2016

SAS Global ForumIn my last post, Expert tips for first-time attendees of SAS Global Forum 2016, I asked members of the SAS Global Users Group Executive Board what advice they had for users attending SAS Global Forum for the first time. In this post, they share tips for returning attendees.

Each year, approximately 50% of SAS Global Forum attendees are first-timers. With attendance expected to exceed 5,000 for this year’s conference in Las Vegas, that means the other half – literally thousands of users – will be returning for at least their second conference experience. Some have made it a yearly ritual. Dr. Herbert Kirk, for example, will be attending his 37th SAS Global Forum in Las Vegas in April. Kirk is the former Vice President of SAS Education and currently an Executive in Residence at the NCSU Institute of Advance Analytics. He’s just one of several dozen users who have attended at least 30 conferences. Hundreds more will be attending SAS Global Forum for at least the tenth time.

HerbKirk

Herbert Kirk

“Even though I’ve used SAS for more than 40 years, I always learn something new at SAS Global Forum,” said Kirk. “It’s amazing to see the innovative ways SAS is being used around the world. Plus, I get to meet a new generation of users and learn about the impressive things they’re doing with SAS. The conference really is a must for SAS professionals.”

With so many SAS users making SAS Global Forum an annual part of their career development, I asked the SAS Users Group Executive Board why so many users return year after year.

Here are some of their responses:

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