Two sayings I’ve heard countless times throughout my life are “Work smarter, not harder,” and “Use the best tool for the job.” If you need to drive a nail, you pick up a hammer, not a wrench or a screwdriver. In the programming world, this could mean using an existing function library instead of writing your own or using an entirely different language because it’s more applicable to your problem. While that sounds good in practice, in the workplace you don’t always have that freedom.

So, what do you do when you’re given a hammer and told to fasten a screw? Or, like in the title of this article’s case, what do you do when you have Python functions you want to use in SAS?

Recently I was tasked with documenting an exciting new feature for SAS — the ability to call Python functions from within SAS. In this article I will highlight everything I’ve learned along the way to bring you up to speed on this powerful new tool.

PROC FCMP Python Objects

Starting with May 2019 release of SAS 9.4M6, the PROC FCMP procedure added support for submitting and executing functions written in Python from within a SAS session using the new Python object. If you’re unfamiliar with PROC FCMP, I’d suggest reading the documentation. In short, FCMP, or the SAS Function Compiler, enables users to write their own functions and subroutines that can then be called from just about anywhere a SAS function can be used in SAS. Users are not restricted to using Python only inside a PROC FCMP statement. You can create an FCMP function that calls Python code, and then call that FCMP function from the DATA step. You can also use one of the products or solutions that support Python objects including SAS High Performance Risk and SAS Model Implementation Platform.

The Why and How

So, what made SAS want to include this feature in our product? The scenario in mind we imagined when creating this feature was a customer who already had resources invested in Python modeling libraries but now wanted to integrate those libraries into their SAS environment. As much fun as it sounds to convert and validate thousands of lines of Python code into SAS code, wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply call Python functions from SAS? Whether you’re in the scenario above with massive amounts of Python code, or you’re simply more comfortable coding in Python, PROC FCMP is here to help you. Your Python code is submitted to a Python interpreter of your choice. Results are packaged into a Python tuple and brought back inside SAS for you to continue programming.

Programming in Two Languages at Once

So how do you program in SAS and Python at the same time? Depending on your installation of SAS, you may be ready to start, or there could be some additional environment setup you need to complete first. In either case, I recommend pulling up the Using PROC FCMP Python Objects documentation before we continue. The documentation outlines the addition of an output string that must be made to your Python code before it can be submitted from SAS. When you call a Python function from SAS, the return value(s) is stored in a SAS dictionary. If you’re unfamiliar with SAS dictionaries, you can read more about them here Dictionaries: Referencing a New PROC FCMP Data Type.

Getting Started

There are multiple methods to load your Python code into the Python object. In the code example below, I’ll use the SUBMIT INTO statement to create an embedded Python block and show you the basic framework needed to execute Python functions in SAS.

/* A basic example of using PROC FCMP to execute a Python function */
proc fcmp;
 
/* Declare Python object */
declare object py(python);
 
/* Create an embedded Python block to write your Python function */
submit into py;
def MyPythonFunction(arg1, arg2):
	"Output: ResultKey"
	Python_Out = arg1 * arg2
	return Python_Out
endsubmit;
 
/* Publish the code to the Python interpreter */
rc = py.publish();
 
/* Call the Python function from SAS */
rc = py.call("MyPythonFunction", 5, 10);
 
/* Store the result in a SAS variable and examine the value */
SAS_Out = py.results["ResultKey"];
put SAS_Out=;
run;

You can gather from this example that there are essentially five parts to using PROC FCMP Python objects in SAS:

  1. Declaring your Python object.
  2. Loading your Python code.
  3. Publishing your Python code to the interpreter.
  4. Executing your Python Code.
  5. Retrieving your results in SAS.

From the SAS side, those are all the pieces you need to get started importing your Python code. Now what about more complicated functions? What if you have working models made using thousands of lines and a variety of Python packages? You still use the same program structure as before. This time I’ll be using the INFILE method to import my Python function library by specifying the file path to the library. You can follow along in by copying my Python code into a .py file. The file, blackscholes.py, contains this code:

def internal_black_scholes_call(stockPrice, strikePrice, timeRemaining, volatility, rate):
    import numpy
    from scipy import stats
    import math
    if ((strikePrice != 0) and (volatility != 0)):
        d1 = (math.log(stockPrice/strikePrice) + (rate + (volatility**2)\
                       /  2) * timeRemaining) / (volatility*math.sqrt(timeRemaining))
        d2 = d1 - (volatility * math.sqrt(timeRemaining))
        callPrice = (stockPrice * stats.norm.cdf(d1)) - \
        (strikePrice * math.exp( (-rate) * timeRemaining) * stats.norm.cdf(d2))
    else:
        callPrice=0
    return (callPrice)
 
def black_scholes_call(stockPrice, strikePrice, timeRemaining, volatility, rate):
    "Output: optprice"
    import numpy
    from scipy import stats
    import math
    optPrice = internal_black_scholes_call(stockPrice, strikePrice,\
                                           timeRemaining, volatility, rate)
    callPrice = float(optPrice)
    return (callPrice,)

My example isn’t quite 1000 lines, but you can see the potential of having complex functions all callable inside SAS. In the next figure, I’ll call these Python functions from SAS.

(/*Using PROC FCMP to execute Python functions from a file */
proc fcmp;
 
/* Declare Python object */
declare object py(python);
 
/* Use the INFILE method to import Python code from a file */
rc = py.infile("C:\Users\PythonFiles\blackscholes.py");
 
/* Publish the code to the Python interpreter */
rc = py.publish();
 
/* Call the Python function from SAS */
rc = py.call("black_scholes_call", 132.58, 137, 0.041095, .2882, .0222);
 
/* Store the result in a SAS variable and examine the value */
SAS_Out = py.results["optprice"];
put SAS_Out=;
run;

Calling Python Functions from the DATA step

You can take this a step further and make it useable in the DATA step-outside of a PROC FCMP statement. We can use our program from the previous example as a starting point. From there, we just need to wrap the inner Python function call in an outer FCMP function. This function within a function design may be giving you flashbacks of Inception, but I promise you this exercise won’t leave you confused and questioning reality. Even if you’ve never used FCMP before, creating the outer function is straightforward.

/* Creating a PROC FCMP function that calls a Python function  */
proc fcmp outlib=work.myfuncs.pyfuncs;
 
/* Create the outer FCMP function */
/* These arguments are passed to the inner Python function */
function FCMP_blackscholescall(stockprice, strikeprice, timeremaining, volatility, rate);
 
/* Create the inner Python function call */
/* Declare Python object */
declare object py(python);
 
/* Use the INFILE method to import Python code from a file */
rc = py.infile("C:\Users\PythonFiles\blackscholes.py");
 
/* Publish the code to the Python interpreter */
rc = py.publish();
 
/* Call the Python function from SAS */
/* Since this the inner function, instead of values in the call           */
/* you will pass the outer FCMP function arguments to the Python function */
rc = py.call("black_scholes_call", stockprice, strikeprice, timeremaining, volatility, rate);
 
/* Store the inner function Python output in a SAS variable                              */
FCMP_out = py.results["optprice"];
 
/* Return the Python output as the output for outer FCMP function                        */
return(FCMP_out);
 
/* End the FCMP function                                                                 */
endsub;
run;
 
/* Specify the function library you want to call from                                    */
options cmplib=work.myfuncs;
 
/*Use the DATA step to call your FCMP function and examine the result                    */
data _null_;
   result = FCMP_blackscholescall(132.58, 137, 0.041095, .2882, .0222);
   put result=;
run;

With your Python function neatly tucked away inside your FCMP function, you can call it from the DATA step. You also effectively reduced the statements needed for future calls to the Python function from five to one by having an FCMP function ready to call.

Looking Forward

So now that you can use Python functions in SAS just like SAS functions, how are you going to explore using these two languages together? The PROC FCMP Python object expands the capabilities of SAS and by result improves you too as a SAS user. Depending on your experience level, completing a task in Python might be easier for you than completing that same task in SAS. Or you could be in the scenario I mentioned before where you have a major investment in Python and converting to SAS is non-trivial. In either case, PROC FCMP now has the capability to help you bridge that gap.

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About Author

Mike Zizzi

Senior Associate Technical Writer

Mike Zizzi is a senior associate technical writer with Platform Programing team in SAS Publications. He graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics and completed SAS’s Technical Enablement Academy. In his free time, Mike enjoys staying active, making music, and reading books.

2 Comments

  1. Andrea Magatti on

    Hi Mike, thanks for your explanation.
    Some questions:
    1) how does SAS know where is located the Python interpreter?
    2) the M6 release had been released in November 2018. Is this a new feature introduced later?

    thanks in advance

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