How to test PROC HTTP and the JSON library engine


Using SAS with REST APIs is fun and rewarding, but it's also complicated. When you're dealing with web services, credentials, data parsing and security, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. It's useful to have a simple program that verifies that the "basic plumbing" is working before you try to push a lot of complex coding through it.

I'm gratified that many of my readers are able to adapt my API examples and achieve similar results. When I receive a message from a frustrated user who can't get things to work, the cause is almost always one of the following:

The following SAS program is a simple plumbing test. It uses a free HTTP test service ( to verify your Internet connectivity from SAS and your ability to use SSL. The endpoint returns a JSON-formatted collection of timestamps in various formats, which the program parses using the JSON library engine. I have successfully run this program from my local SAS on Windows, from SAS University Edition (Dec 2017 release), and from SAS OnDemand for Academics (using SAS Studio).

If you can run this program successfully from your SAS session, then you're ready to attempt the more complex REST API calls. If you encounter any errors while running this simple test, then you will need to resolve these before moving on to the really useful APIs. (Like maybe checking on who is in space right now...)

/* PROC HTTP and JSON libname test          */
/* Requires SAS 9.4m4 or later to run       */
/* SAS University Edition Dec 2017 or later */
/* utility macro to echo the JSON out */
%macro echoFile(fn=);
  data _null_;
   infile &fn end=_eof;
   put _infile_;
filename resp "%sysfunc(getoption(WORK))/now.json";
proc http
/* Supported with SAS 9.4 Maint 5 */
/* Tell SAS to parse the JSON response */
libname time JSON fileref=resp;
title "JSON library structure";
proc datasets lib=time;
/* interpret the various datetime vals and convert to SAS */
data values (keep=from:);
 length from_epoch 8
        from_iso8601 8
        from_rfc2822 8
        from_rfc3339 8;
 /* Apply the DT format to a range of vars */
 format from: datetime20.;
 /* epoch = # seconds since 01Jan1970        */
 /* SAS datetime is based on 01Jan1960, so   */
 /* add the offset here for a SAS value      */
 from_epoch = epoch + '01Jan1970:0:0:0'dt;
 /* straight conversion to ISO8061           */
 from_iso8601 = input(iso8601,is8601dt.);
 /* trim the leading "day of week"      */
 from_rfc2822 = input(substr(rfc2822,5),anydtdtm21.);
 /* allow SAS to figure it out */
 from_rfc3339 = input(rfc3339,anydtdtm.);
title "Raw values from the JSON response";
proc print (drop=ord:);
title "Formatted values as SAS datetime";
proc print data=values;
libname time clear;
filename resp clear;

About Author

Chris Hemedinger

Senior Manager, SAS Online Communities

+Chris Hemedinger is the manager of SAS Online Communities. Since 1993, Chris has worked for SAS as an author, a software developer, an R&D manager and a consultant. Inexplicably, Chris is still coasting on the limited fame he earned as an author of SAS For Dummies.  He also hosts the SAS Tech Talk webcasts each year from SAS Global Forum, connecting viewers with smart people from SAS R&D and the impressive work that they do.

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  1. Thanks Chris, very helpful to have a simple test case for inspiration. Not surprisingly, my test from PC SAS on 9.4M4 failed with a bunch of "ERROR: Unable to connect to Web server" messages from the PROC HTTP step. I assume because I'm trying from a corporate network, behind a whole bunch of firewalls that keep me from being productive. I assume that means I need to specify some of the proxy-related settings that you linked to, but no clue what to ask of our IT folks. Can you let me know what question I should send to Mordac? I don't want to mention SAS in the question, since they won't know what that is. So can I ask something more generic like "what proxy settings do I need to use to make REST API calls from inside our network?" I confirmed that I can access the site from the a browser, and download the JSON file.

    • Chris Hemedinger
      Chris Hemedinger on


      In more general terms, you want to know if there is a proxy server host and port (and potentially credentials) that you can specify so that you can create scripts to automate access to external web resources. cURL, Python, and pretty much any other non-browser tool would need the same. Your web browser is likely configured with a proxy script that your IT folks can administer. You can specify the proxy in PROXYHOST/PROXYPORT options on PROC HTTP, or via a macro variable called PROCHTTP_PROXY.

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