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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I have been following some of the recent talk going on the blogosphere about R and SAS.
R vs SAS/SPSS in Corporations: A view from the other side

She is correct that it is nearly impossible to get large organizations to give up their propietary software. And she does a great job explaining why. So should the SAS Institute be worried about R?

First lets take a moment to point out something that is often overlooked when people compare open-source to propietary software. Open-source projects on their own are usually relatively lame imitations of their propietary cousins (let's be honest here!). However(!!) open-source becomes incredibly powerful when it is combined with other open source projects.

Consider Linux: nice little OS. MySQL: fun hobby data base. Apache: a very patchy server. PHP: Easy to code, a nightmare to maintain. On their own, none of them are world-changing. But combine them into a LAMP stack and Boom! You are a web developer powerhouse:
PHP 77% of web sites!
Apache serving 80% of the internet!

What this tells me is that R on its own is probably not a big deal for the SAS Institute to compete with. But R combined with the right open-source
projects could potentially be explosive.

I've been thinking that a lot of the SAS I do could be replaced with:
Ruby/Ruby On Rails

And then on my (shameless plug!)new job site I saw this job:

What you’ll do:
Help to build out data warehouse.
Identify and analyze trends that are important to the business.
Build tools to surface key metrics and reports for the company.
Write ETL scripts to funnel data from various sources.
Layout, optimize and maintain distributed schemas.

What you’ll need to be familiar with:
Vertica or Other Distributed Databases

Other things we use:
Ruby on Rails
RESTful Services

Apparently others are thinking the same. So should the SAS Institute be worried? I honestly don't know. But as a consultant I do know what I will be doing this weekend: installing Ubuntu on an old laptop and setting up a Git, Ruby, Rails, R (GRRR!) development environment to play around with.

1 comment:

  1. Just my thoughts - SAS has something that few other BI tools will ever be able to compete with - an active, helpful user community.

    I have tried other BI tools (in particular) and it was maddening trying to find another person who had solved the problem I was facing. There were plenty of novices asking the same questions.

    Plus so many of these corporations are heavily ingrained in SAS, so it would be a significant investment (migration, training) to move to a different platform.

    GGR ... I'll probably have to learn some of this stuff also.

    Tricia A
    BI Notes Blog: