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What is it?
A leader in statistical analysis, datawarehousing and business intelligence, SAS is the largest privately-held software company in the world. But it is hardly a household name. Like its UK military namesake it seems to prefer to work under cover.
Alongside Business Objects and Cognos, SAS is one of the largest supplier of business intelligence products, and quite possibly the biggest supplier of datawarehousing products. It certainly has the most comprehensive range of intelligence and analysis tools. With the release of SAS 9.1 it brought together what had previously been a disparate range of tools in an integrated platform.
Where did it originate?
In North Carolina in 1976. SAS immediately became an IBM partner, a relationship that has lasted. A partnership with Microsoft followed in 1986. In 1987, SAS was rewritten in C.
What is it for?
SAS partners with the majority of database and enterprise application companies, and can make sense of data from the most obscure old sources as well as the most up-to-date. SAS's ETLQ datawarehousing technology is a complete set of extraction, data transformation and loading and data cleansing/quality tools. SAS can also be used in conjunction with desktop productivity tools such as Microsoft Excel and Word.
SAS 9.1, released in March 2003, added a Java tier to SAS 9, and included a lot of web-based query and reporting tools. For business analysts there is the SAS Enterprise Guide, a thin-client Windows interface which is fully .net enabled.
What makes it special?
SAS invests 25% of its revenues in research and development, which it claims is twice as much as any other large software company.
The software came out top in Giga's recent survey of data mining (SAS Enterprise Miner has the most complete portfolio of algorithms for predictive modelling). Gartner Group brands SAS "visionary".
US retailers put them top for performance, return on investment and support, and Fortune magazine rates the company eighth in the top 100 best companies to work for. Yet still it languishes in obscurity.
How difficult is it to master?
Experienced programmers can take a three-day introductory course but will need a year's hands-on before being eligible to become SAS Certified Base Programmers. Statisticians will have a head start but beware: according to one user, "the software bites you like a bug".
Unlike some suppliers which treat certification and training as a captive-market revenue generator (whether the courses are relevant to what you do or not), SAS does not insist you buy its training to qualify for certification.
Where is it used?
SAS claims 3.3 million customers and 40,000 sites, including 96% of the Fortune 500: 73% are in business, 16% in education, and just under 10% in government.
Not many people know what...
SAS stands for. Statistical analysis software or system is most likely.
What systems does it run on?
The SAS Intelligence Architecture can link to almost any data source. SAS was ported to Red Hat Linux in 2000.
What is coming up?
Improved access to SAS for third-party query tools, using industry standard interfaces.
The SAS website has an education section with information on courses, their location and prices and also details of distance learning courses.
Rates of pay
SAS analysts/programmers can earn from £20,000 to £40,000 a year, depending on industry and seniority.