SAS backs Python as alternative to its own language

Analytics veteran also cosies up to consultancies to extend market reach before 2024 IPO


Analytics industry veteran SAS has announced support for Python in its proprietary analytics studio.

Founded in 1976, SAS developed its own language which derived from a North Carolina State University project and is deployed across its range of analytics and machine learning environments.

Bryan Harris, CTO and executive vice president at SAS, told us he wanted to offer users an alternative.

"SAS embraces and welcomed open source as it increases the productivity for our customers' investments," he said.

"Customers no longer have to choose between SAS programming language and Python. Now they can use both."

Customers can use data management environment SAS Studio to develop Python models with full syntax highlighting and integrate them into other SAS products, including web-based data mining tool Model Studio, customer interaction tool Intelligent Decisioning, and Model Manager, which helps manage the ML model life cycle.

"As open-source languages like Python and R continue to grow, SAS will always embrace these languages and help customers get analytics into production faster," Harris said.

The vendor-based programming language might have seemed old hat, leading some to question whether data scientists should learn the SAS language when open-source alternatives like Python allow them to code in several analytics and data science environments.

A similar move was executed by Neo4j, the graph database specialist. In April it said its data science toolkit would come with a native client for Python.

SAS has also announced an on-premises version of its "cloud-native" AI, analytics, and data management platform Viya. It expects to be able to deploy in Kubernetes on-premises in Q3 of this year. The fully containerized service was released on Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, and Red Hat OpenShift last year.

CEO Jim Goodnight co-founded SAS more than 46 years ago. Originating in an academic project to understand agricultural data in the southern US, it later branched out into analytics for insurance and pharmaceutical industries. In a life cycle perhaps a little longer than your average startup, SAS is preparing for IPO in 2024.

In other news, Gavin Day, senior vice president of technology, also revealed that SAS is refining a systems integrator partner program which included Accenture, EY, and KPMG. These companies provided nearly half of new software sales revenue in 2021 and nearly 15 percent of new software deals worth more than $1 million, he said. ®

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