This morning, as I was writing this blog post at the kitchen table, my 5-year old daughter ran into the room from watching “Sesame Street.” She excitedly announced, “Mommy, the letter of the day is R!” Too true.
When a 30-minute interview is boiled down into a quote or two, some detail is understandably lost. I wanted to share some further thoughts and clarification.
First, SAS and I applaud the innovative contributions and passion of the R community, and users who apply R to solve problems. In a very real sense, we are grateful for R, as it provides a freely available venue for bleeding-edge and experimental data analysis methods, and underscores the increasing importance of advanced analytical and graphical methods in this age of massive data volumes.
Over the past three decades, SAS has made and continues to make many noteworthy contributions to advanced data computing. As a trusted supplier to a large and diverse set of organizations, SAS provides analysis software that has been refined over years of customer application and feedback. SAS software is fully supported and used daily in countless ways. SAS is also scalable to very large data sets (multi-threaded, grid-enabled, etc.). These issues remain very important to the organizations we serve.
The analysis community benefits from both SAS and R, and we view them as complementary. Many SAS customers use R. We can and do peacefully co-exist. Interest in analytics continues to grow. And the use of both SAS and R continue to grow as well, reflecting this trend.
As for open source and my airplane quote …
My remark reflects a key difference between R and SAS, that of support, reliability, and validation. Customers value SAS for many things, including our extensive testing, documentation, 24/7 support, and training. In contrast, the quality of proliferating R packages is varied and uneven, especially in complex analytical modules. Mistakes in these packages can lead to misleading results, even for experienced users.
The airplane comment was meant to point out this key difference. Not to condemn open source. In fact, SAS values open-source software. Our software runs on Linux. We use some open-source tools in development. And we plan to embrace open source further in the future.
The world has many complex problems. We advocate approaches based on science, on analysis to address these problems. Making more analytic methods readily available is a good thing. From SAS; from R; from the resourceful individuals who innovate with their tools of choice, regardless of the source.