Altair Provides Legacy SAS Code a New Place to Run

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(ArtemisDiana/Shutterstock)

American firms which have relied on SAS-based knowledge analytics routines for many years however wish to separate themselves from the SAS Institute and its maintenece charges could also be all in favour of one other SAS runtime possibility that not too long ago turned out there from Altair.

For many years, SAS Institute was the dominant supplier of analytics software program, based mostly on the widespread use of the Statistical Evaluation System (SAS) language that its co-founders, together with SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, created within the late Sixties at North Carolina State College. The SAS code and SAS Institute’s instruments and runtime engines unfold into all industries, cementing themselves because the undisputable customary for company analytics within the US and overseas.

However that analytic hegemony has been examined lately due to the rise of open languages like Python and R. The meteoric rise of Python, particularly, has many firms casting their analytic bets with the uber widespread scripting language, which can be utilized to program a slew of data-related duties, together with knowledge engineering, analytics, and AI.

SAS–the Cary, North Carolina firm–has made inroads with the open analytic neighborhood. The corporate, which boasted 83,000 prospects in 147 international locations helps just some years in the past, has supported Python in AI and analytic libraries in Viya, its fashionable flagship providing that it’s encouraging its big put in base emigrate to.

SAS is taken into account to be the world’s largest privately held software program firm, with 2019 revenues of $3.1 billion (JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock)

Nonetheless, by all accounts, there stays a large group of SAS prospects with massive quantities of SAS code that has not been moved into Viya. A lot of this SAS code has run reliably for many years on platforms starting from Home windows desktops to large IBM System Z mainframes and Energy servers. In lots of circumstances, the unique SAS builders have lengthy since left the businesses, leaving environment friendly and dependable SAS code as their legacy.

Whereas many of those prospects would favor to have their routines in a extra “fashionable” setting like Python, that’s not a simple journey. The shortage of fine code converters implies that a transfer from SAS to Python is virtually a rewrite, which raises purple flags for risk-averse firms. Consequently, many of those firms are detest to the touch the SAS code, they usually proceed to pay licensing charges to the SAS firm for the best to execute it.

It’s a basic case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t repair it,” in accordance with Mark Do Couto, senior vice chairman of information analytics at Altair Engineering.

“For probably the most half, a number of the organizations are simply leaving that element of the enterprise as-is,” Do Couto stated. “They simply proceed to hit the run button, so that they know it really works, they usually know they’ll get the output. And so they proceed to work with SAS to maintain issues established order.”

Compiler and Runtime Various

About 20 years in the past, a UK firm named World Programming determined to go head-to-head with the analytics big SAS. The corporate devised a compiler and a runtime for SAS code, known as WPS Analytics, and commenced promoting it to SAS prospects within the UK’s finance, telecommunications, and healthcare industries.

Ultimately, World Programming started promoting to firms in Asia who wished a substitute for the official runtime from SAS. Tons of of firms in Europe and Asia ultimately had been customers of the SAS runtime various.

SAS didn’t take the problem sitting down. The corporate sued World Programming in Europe and the US. All the lawsuits in Europe had been resolved in World Programming’s favor, in accordance with Do Couto, whereas SAS gained one authorized problem within the US (which hinged on the copying of SAS Institute help supplies into WPS help documentation). That case resulted in an injunction in opposition to the corporate working within the massive US market, which World Programming had by no means efficiently penetrated.

When Altair acquired World Programming for an undisclosed sum in December 2021, it was totally conscious of the corporate’s authorized scenario. Earlier this 12 months, Altair paid the rest of the stability due on the US authorized settlement, and a decide in March cleared the best way for gross sales to renew, in accordance with Do Couto. “So Now Altair has inexperienced mild to promote it to all of our prospects and potential buyer internationally,” he stated.

The WPS setting is remarkably good at compiling and working SAS supply code with out many adjustments, in accordance with Do Couto.

“It’s not 100%. It’s within the 90s–92% to 93%,” he instructed Datanami in a current interview. “The issues that don’t run are both syntax errors, a problem in the best way the code was initially written, or a really small quantity of procedures that SAS has of their language which are very not often used.”

When prospects do run into unsupported procedures, the WPS staff sometimes will work to help it within the compiler and runtime, Do Couto stated. That has been the World Programming enterprise mannequin for years.

The financial savings that prospects can get by shifting to the WPS setting and eliminating the SAS upkeep charges is one factor. However such a transfer also can release SAS code to run on greater, newer machines that prospects have been hesitant to put in for worry of triggering even greater worth will increase, in accordance with Do Couto.

“Their annual license charge might be going up 2% to three% or no matter CPI is likely to be for them,” Do Couto stated. “However they know in the event that they improve their {hardware}, there’s in all probability going to be a software program price will increase due to the {hardware} element. So this offers our prospects the chance to lastly improve that {hardware} and never do it on the detriment of a possible license charge improve.”

Opening SAS

Altair helps the WPS SAS runtime on trade customary servers, in addition to IBM mainframes and Energy bins working IBM i, AIX, and Linux working methods. These “large iron” platforms have their very own legacy utility challenges that prospects are coping with, so it’s not stunning that SAS code that has efficiently run OLAP routines for patrons for many years are grouped in with legacy ERP and OLTP methods that firms are desirous to modernize and refresh.

Prospects can work with SAS code inthe WPS Analytics Workbench (Picture courtesy Altair)

“A few of the largest logos on the market, we all know they’ve run SAS for years,” Do Couto stated. “They’ve SAS of their setting. Quite a lot of it’s legacy code that’s caught into their ETL, their reporting, their dashboarding. And it’s principally by itself inner run cycle.  No person is admittedly doing something with the code. They’re simply working it.”

The power to basically copy and paste that getting older SAS code into a brand new runtime and get out from underneath the duty of paying SAS upkeep charges is prone to be one thing that SAS prospects give some thought. Many will seemingly stick with SAS, which has made some enhancements to the language however is admittedly targeted on getting prospects to maneuver to Viya. For others, a transfer away from SAS often is the proper one.

“For us, it’s an enormous alternative,” Do Couto stated. “We don’t know the precise price of each single renewal and contract that these organizations have with SAS. However we are able to think about it’s pretty massive.  And giving prospects a alternative of the place they’ll run the code with out redoing it–it’s thrilling for us and it’s exiting for our prospects.”

The New Legacy

With the authorized points behind it, Altair is raring to start promoting into the large SAS put in base, notably within the US, which has by no means actually been touched by World Programming’s providing. The Troy, Michigan, firm is touting its licensing mannequin that revolves round Altair Models–which permits prospects to make use of any of the Altair knowledge analytics merchandise–as one other profit that may convey worth to former SAS prospects.

“So not solely do they get entry to the code engine, if you’ll, however additionally they get entry to our knowledge preparation instrument, knowledge science instruments, our visible dashboarding instrument, and our SmartWorks instrument that’s cloud native,” Do Couto stated. “It’s not solely giving them the pliability to run that code, nevertheless it’s the pliability of taking a look at a complete platform and product portfolio.”

Python could also be the usual for present knowledge initiatives, however the put in base of SAS code is immense and gained’t seemingly be transformed anytime quickly (dTosh/Shutterstock)

Altair has began to extra deeply combine the SAS code into its present setting. Firms can already work with SAS code in Data Studio, the corporate’s knowledge science platform, which provides prospects the power to work in SAS and even export predictive fashions within the SAS language that may subsequently be executed on the WPS package. And it’s at the moment working to combine the SAS language extra deeply with SmartWorks.

Considerably sarcastically, the entire World Programming train has resulted in Do Couto gaining a higher diploma of respect for the SAS language setting. Do Couto, who was already accustomed to the WPS setting whereas working at Agnoss (which was acquired by Datawatch in 2018 simply earlier than Altair purchased Datawatch), has a brand new perspective on SAS’s continued relevance within the fashionable Pythonic age.

“I’ll be sincere. Initially once I was going via this, [I thought] Python was the best way of the longer term,” he stated. “Python was the code that was higher. Everybody you discuss to has stated that. It makes a number of sense. It’s regularly being enhanced with the neighborhood. Clearly it’s nice….[But] there are issues that simply run higher and extra effectively in SAS than Python.”

Contemplating how large a raise shifting from SAS to Python will likely be for many firms–particularly the massive American firms with lots of of hundreds of traces of SAS code which have run reliably, day in and time out, for many years–Altair will likely be fairly joyful to proceed to offer prospects the help they should transfer to Python or to simply maintain working the present SAS code.

“We’re giving them an setting the place they’ll see, is [Python] going to carry out higher than what they’re already doing in that already-written SAS language code that they’ve?” he stated. “There could also be some issues that don’t make sense to maneuver or transition over.”

At a current Gartner occasion that Do Couto attended, analysts urged warning in shifting too rapidly from SAS to an all-Python setting.

“If you happen to do a full transition to Python and also you’re in an all-Python setting, what’s 15 to twenty years from now going to seem like?” he stated. “Is there going to be one other code language, and is their Python code setting going to be the identical problem that prospects have now with their SAS language?”

On the finish of the day, the SAS legacy will stand as one of many best within the historical past of information analytics. However as Dr. Goodnight nears retirement, there are questions about what is going to develop into of the corporate that he has efficiently led for therefore a few years. Irrespective of how strong the SAS merchandise are, the tide of open supply analytics, and Python particularly, are pulling in opposition to the corporate. How lengthy will that final? Solely time will inform.

However due to its acquisition of World Programming, Altair is positioned to let prospects proceed to run their SAS code, or transition to newer coding environments. Giving prospects a alternative in analytics setting makes good enterprise sense for Altair and its prospects, Do Couto stated.

“We don’t need our prospects to really feel like they must be siloed in a single code setting. We predict a multi-code setting makes a number of sense and there’s a number of worth to that,” he stated. “We’ve all the time been professional open supply and pro-choice, and giving our prospects an setting that they’ve that flexibility–that’s what we’re going to steer with and need our buyer to be educated in, and perceive that when it’s in there working, then you may make selections for the longer term.”

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