When I started using SAS back in 1995, every SAS user was a SAS programmer. We wrote code, and we were proud of it! We accessed our data via the DATA step, PROC IMPORT and SAS access engine code. If you had asked me back then what metadata is, I’m quite sure I would have had no idea.
Fast forward to today and SAS users take on many different roles and perform various activities. Whether you are a SAS programmer, a SAS administrator or a SAS business analyst, there are a myriad of reasons to work with SAS via metadata.
Today I still write SAS code, but I am also working within the metadata infrastructure. Some of the benefits of utilizing the SAS metadata layer include system security, data integrity and an easy way to work with multiple data sources.
If you are new to SAS metadata, I hope our blog series can help you love SAS metadata, too. While BASE SAS is the brains behind SAS, the SAS Open Metadata Architecture (as it is officially called) is the heart of SAS 9. Let's begin with five things anyone new to SAS metadata should know:
- Metadata is “data about data”. This means it is not a physical data file, but rather literally just information. The SAS server then utilizes that information to complete requested tasks. Some of the information captured includes:
All SAS Data Integration and SAS Business Intelligence tools read and use metadata from the SAS Metadata Repository. This is the name for the SAS common metadata layer that stores logical data representation all of your information assets, such as tables and cubes. The repository also stores information about system resources such as servers and users. It is possible to have multiple SAS Metadata Repositories.
Multiple data sources are supported through a common metadata layer. This means whether you are bringing in data from a SQL database, an Oracle database, or an Excel file- you can work with those data sources through the SAS metadata layer without having to rely on DATA steps, PROC IMPORT, or SAS access engine code. The SAS access to these data sources can be defined in the SAS metadata- and that includes security permissions.
The SAS Management Console allows administrators to easily complete metadata tasks like server configuration, user permissions, and SAS libraries. My favorite feature of SAS Management Console is being able to set all of the authorization controls quickly and easily. As an administrator, I can set which users are allowed to work with which applications, libraries, tables, etc. These security settings are consistent across your SAS platform. System security is a benefit for everyone in your organization. If your organization also answers to regulators or compliance officers, you have an extra incentive to make use of the SAS system security.
Data and physical servers can change location without causing your SAS jobs to fail! There is no disruption to the business users. Because the location definitions are stored in SAS metadata, it is as simple as updating the metadata entry with the new data location. This one is a favorite of mine- having been an IT administrator for an older version of SAS, migrating to a new server and moving data to a new location meant meticulous recreation of data folders on the new server and updating thousands of SAS programs. With SAS metadata, that becomes a thing of the past!
- The source of the data
- The format of the data
- Changes the data has undergone
- How the data should be used
- Who has authorization to access the data
Next time, we’ll dive in deeper to show how to work with the SAS metadata to complete tasks such as setting up user permissions and configuring a server definition. In the meantime, please download our whitepaper The Value of Integrated Metadata: SAS Open Metadata Architecture for more on SAS Metadata.
I’d appreciate hearing from you in the comments if there are more areas of metadata you’d like to read about in the blog series. If you are already working with SAS metadata, that’s great! I hope you have found and enjoyed many of the benefits that I have grown to know and love.