SAS administrators: Providing maximum benefit

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There are people who claim that an IT expert professional with no knowledge of SAS can get the SAS Administrator job done. That's probably true. It also depends on your definition of getting the job done. At some SAS sites, it can be that the administrator's role in supporting SAS is to install it and apply patches, and, if a BI or EBI installation is involved, to also do the metadata administration; but otherwise, the users are on their own.

What can SAS administration and support entail?

Let me describe the real working life of one SAS Administrator, stationed in a business functional area, who had a variety of experience both in SAS application development and in IT infrastructure support. It was an environment where control of the SAS BI server was in the hands of IT. The server was used not only by the SAS Administrator’s departmental colleagues, but also by users throughout the enterprise.

Here is what the job can be like, particularly if you have a bias for maximizing benefit to the SAS users and you believe in attentive support of them and the environment—not simply creating and maintaining the SAS environment.

Platform-oriented support

  • Serve as the go-to subject matter expert for IT personnel on all day-to-day problems involving the SAS server, including performance, tuning, troubleshooting, gathering and interpretation of diagnostics, and decisions about configuration
  • Coordinate installation of upgrades, enhancements, and changes to SAS software
  • Perform testing and quality assurance for all upgrades, enhancements, and changes to SAS software, including new releases, hot fixes, and service packs
  • Perform SAS testing and SAS quality assurance for any upgrades, enhancements, and changes to non-SAS-software aspects of the hardware, software, and network that affect or involve the SAS server
  • Coordinate and monitor progress of testing by users and professional programmers
  • Schedule and coordinate all planned outages on the SAS server
  • Alert users affected by unplanned outages on the SAS server, notifying them if there is to be an emergency reboot, and keeping them informed as to status and progress during the outages
  • Review, evaluate, and select all SAS software fixes for relevance
  • Serve as liaison to SAS Institute on all aspects of the SAS software, licensing, and cost matters
  • Review and advise on annual renewal of licensing for SAS software portfolio
  • Develop a monitor to track who is using the SAS server, when, and with what impact on CPU and memory resources
  • Develop a monitor with email alerts to notify users whenever their SAS process have consumed a threshold amount of CPU time, with follow-up alerts upon further consumption of each threshold increment, with email alert copies to Server Administrator
  • Develop tools to capture, parse, and analyze SAS-related records from the Windows Event Log
  • Develop disk space usage reporting for permanent data, with emails to users of shared disks that reach or exceed a threshold
  • Develop a monitor to detect old data not cleaned up from critical shared disk used for SAS work data sets, sending email alert to owning user, with copy to Server Administrator—if the shared disk fills up, an entire group of users is immediately denied access to SAS
  • Perform disk space planning and allocate disk space for applications and users support
  • Administer SAS BI server user access definition and controls
  • Define the BI server user groups and corresponding logical servers
  • Design and implement scheduled backups of the metadata database

User-oriented support

  • Support users of client tools SAS Enterprise Guide and SAS Add-in for Microsoft Office
  • Support professional programmer users of SAS in Batch
  • Provide internal SAS consulting for users on matters of how-to, performance, or malfunction
  • Serve as user liaison/educator for upgrades to the SAS server and SAS client software
  • Develop, administer, and analyze results from surveys of SAS user satisfaction and SAS user needs
  • Organize and host internal SAS users meetings for user mutual education and networking
  • Serve as coordinator for all SAS-provided on-site training
  • Perform SAS training
  • Develop tools so that users can monitor, control, and audit their processing
  • Build and maintain custom macros
  • Prepare, disseminate, and web-post documentation on SAS facilities and matters of interest
  • Design, create, and maintain a web-based User Documentation and Tools environment for access to local documentation and resources, as well as those hosted at SAS or elsewhere on the internet
  • Provide web-based guidance to users so that they can get immediate phone help from or submit problems to SAS Technical Support when the SAS Admin is unavailable

Data-oriented support

  • Support all SAS-server-hosted data, regardless of type
  • Define and administer Windows security to control access to SAS-server-hosted data
  • Implement routine downloads to the SAS analytical database from enterprise-internal production non-SAS databases (Oracle, etc.)
  • Handle ad hoc imports of purchased data in a variety of non-SAS formats (often packaged for provider ease in distribution, but needing work to make it maximally usable for analytics)
  • Provide documentation, code samples, and assistance for users who access data from non-SAS sources
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About Author

LeRoy Bessler, PhD

IT professional and SAS user

A long-time IT professional and SAS user, Dr. LeRoy Bessler has been a frequent speaker at software user conferences in the US, Canada, and Europe. He has shared his ideas and experience in the areas of communication-effective graphs and reports, communication-effective use of color, web information delivery, highly formatted Excel reporting from SAS, custom-developed tools to support users, administrators, and managers of SAS servers, and Software-Intelligent Application Development methods to maximize reliability, reusability, maintainability, flexibility, and extendibility.

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6 Comments

  1. Great post! I'm a SAS BI administrator in the same situation you described and you pretty much covered my responsibilities - and they might all occur in a given day! It is so different from traditional IT, where DBAs do database stuff, systems admins keep the hardware/software running, developers create applications, and report writers do their thing, with crossover into the other areas. We definitely have to be jacks-of-all-trades!

    • Waynette Tubbs
      Waynette Tubbs on

      Fred,

      I believe LeRoy's post will resonate with a lot of SAS Admins who also consider themselves jack-of-all-trades. We're hoping this SAS Administrator series will help you all in the work that you do everyday. I hope you'll follow along. (Maybe even write your own post?) ~Waynette

  2. Avinash Ginjupalli on

    Hi LeRoy, this is a super post which describes all our duties and responsibilities in maintaining SAS Application in our environments.

  3. Hi Leroy,

    Thanks for this great summary of the attention fields of an SAS administrator. I myself have a so called 'Technical Application Administer' job within the company I work for and am very much struggling between technical issues and the part where this becomes functional. I will use your list to make my job description more clear between all the involved parties.

    Matthieu

  4. Pingback: IT skills or SAS skills--what's more important? - SAS Users Groups

  5. Pingback: SAS administrator roles and responsibilities: a recap - SAS Users Groups

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