SAS Global Forum 2019 - Dallas

A Consultant's Impression of SAS Global Forum 2019


SAS were on a mission in Dallas, a mission to cut through all the hype and show us how real and very powerful analytics can be. Analytics is here, it’s not going away and it’s changing our lives right now. The theme of this year’s Global Forum was ‘Analytics in Action’. No hype and no adding to the confusion was the promise from SAS with just one goal: bringing “analytics to life”.

Mission accomplished? Absolutely! SAS are claiming this to be the best conference in the company’s history and it’s hard to disagree. We came to see Analytics in Action and that’s exactly what we got. We didn’t have to wait long to see that SAS meant business. During the Opening Ceremony SAS showcased some real-world problems being solved with analytics and machine learning with the SAS Viya platform playing a starring role. And that was just the start, the whole conference breathed analytics with the emphasis placed on demystifying analytics and explaining how to take that first step. Often the software takes all the attention but throughout the whole conference the combination of Analytics, Data and the role of the SAS user was very evident.

With over 5000 delegations from all over the world, some representing the biggest most powerful companies in the world it was very enjoyable to see the Amsterdam UMC steal the show with a very powerful presentation on how the hospital are deploying analytics in the fight against cancer – an all too real problem. A solution that is being used today to help select patients that will benefit from surgery and predict outcome in patients with liver metastases from colon and rectal cancer.

Watch the video of Geert Kazemier, Professor of Surgery and Director of Surgical Oncology at Amsterdam UMC, Cancer Center Amsterdam

We heard many stories of organisations implementing SAS analytics to make a real impact in their market place and stories from government agencies helping to improve child safety. Anyone not yet convinced could try out the software in the huge Demo area with direct help from experts or listen to any of the 700 SAS User presentations spanning a huge diversity of topics. Including administration, analytics, data management, education, programming and industry specific topics. With so many papers to choose from making a selection was very difficult if not impossible.

Fortunately all papers are now available online. Take a look at the papers.

The current direction of SAS

– by Richard Paterson

A number of topics were very popular – the Viya platform of course, but more specifically many papers about the CAS language (CASL) and CAS actions were presented. The more open nature of the SAS Viya architecture led to a large number of papers discussing integration with SAS and other open source languages, Python, Lua, Java and R. The language of choice is now definitely Python.

As a consultant working in the data management field I managed to get some hands-on experience with the new SAS Data Preparation solution. I was impressed with the ease at which data can accessed, prepared and cleansed within an intuitive web interface.  A number of important connection possibilities have also been added into the data management products including enhanced support for Apache Spark. In addition, the SAS In-Database Code Accelerator for Hadoop supports code running in Hadoop as either MapReduce or in Apache Spark. This will allow SAS processes to be run inside Spark. SAS have introduced functionality for integration with GIT and this is included directly in the new version of Data Integration Studio.

I’ve been using SAS for over 25 years and have seen some highs and some lows. What I saw in Dallas left me with a very positive feeling about the current direction SAS are taking. The Dutch Partner network was very much in evidence in Dallas and are now more than ready to help our clients take the step towards Viya. It won’t be as big as Dallas, but the SAS Analytics Forum 2019 on the 6th June in Nieuwegein, Netherlands is promising to be the best ever!

I hope to see you at the OCS Consulting stand. Be curious and orchestrate your analytics life cycle with choice and control.

Questions answered?

- by Kenneth Blokland

There were a few reasons why I was very keen on going to the SAS Global Forum 2019:

Learn new things

Learn new things regarding the current, SAS 9.4Mx, and the new, SAS VIYA 3.x, platforms and the roadmap that SAS has in mind for each of these. The reason why I think we have to gather this knowledge is the following:

  • When speaking with our (managed services) clients we often hear the question on one side; “Is the SAS VIYA platform mature enough and suitable for or beneficial to our way of working?”
  • On the other side we hear questions regarding the roadmap of the current SAS 9.4Mx platform; “Will my SAS module still be supported or further developed now that SAS Viya is launched?”

In order to answer these kinds of questions and therefore to be able to offer a High Quality of service to our clients, I feel we had to attend the sessions regarding these topics.

As also expressed by my colleague Richard Paterson, there were a large number of sessions including those regarding roadmaps of products and SAS version 9.4. This information is imperative when advising our clients on their current and future use of the SAS software.

Analytics In Action

Find out why the motto of this year’s Global Forum is: “Analytics In Action”. SAS states the following regarding “Analytics In Action”: 

Analytics informs. It inspires. It transforms the world around us. The everyday work you do with data and analytics – it drives progress and provides real-life solutions to once seemingly unsolvable problems.

Although we all work with SAS and know that the above statement is true, we tend to focus on our own part of the value chain, not seeing the complete picture and so not realising that although we’re not all using SAS for medical research, we work with software capable of solving very important issues! SAS did so by showcasing their top stories. I watched the showcases with in the back of my mind the need to bring this message across and emphasize this importance to all our consultants and members of the Managed Services team. Every SAS environment in place needs to be taken care of with the utmost care as its purpose is important, although we may not see the whole picture.

Does SAS VIYA really utilise the new things?

Does SAS VIYA really utilise some of the new things that are out there, like Cloud and Containers, Kubernetes etc?

SAS Viya is of course the new horse in the barn, requesting all attention, not only from the developers, but also from Techies that would like to experiment with things like Containers, Kubernetes etc.

I was very pleased to see that the integration with Cloud based software was on an even higher standard than it already was at the time of the previous SGF18. Just as an example, we at OCS Consulting already have done installations on AWS.

Even Containers can be used to run SAS software, not every module yet, but it is possible though to run base SAS in a Container and to use Kubernetes to manage your containers.

What does SAS do for its Users?

What does SAS do for its Users to help them with the SAS software? SAS does not see Open Source as “The Enemy”, no it is even the other way around. SAS encourages Open Source initiatives. This can be witnessed when visiting Github (Github is the online platform, used as a version control website for developers where they can upload a new version of their open source developed software) where SAS has its own link:

SAS keeps a close interest in their own User communities and answers questions from the user communities, so not only when asked to SAS Technical Support.

At the end of the SAS Global Forum none of my questions remained unanswered thanks to all the sessions and all the discussions we had either with Technical SAS people in the Quad or with other experienced SAS professionals.

If you have questions of your own regarding SAS, the SAS Global Forum 2019 or if you just would like to have an exploratory conversation regarding SAS, please let us welcome you to our OCS Consulting stand during the SAS Analytics Forum 2019 on the 6th June in Nieuwegein.

Send us an e-mail through the button below and register now for the SAS Analytics Forum.