Monday 26 October 2009

NOTE: Enterprise Guide 4.1 Expires 2010 UNLESS...

Earlier this month I posted a warning that Enterprise Guide 4.1 (EG 4.1) will expire at the end of 2010. Chris@SAS pointed-out that the latest EG 4.1 hot fix extends its life. That's important because upgrading to EG 4.2 is not a straightforward option: EG 4.2 only works with SAS V9.2.

The fact that SAS client software (not just EG) expires was a surprise to me and will be a surprise to many other SAS customers too, so I did some more research. Here's what I found...

EG 4.1's hotfixes are listed at The EG expiry date was changed by hotfix 41EG09; all subsequent hotfixes, up to and including the current 41EG11, include the expiry date change.  So, now you want to know what hotfixes you've already got on your copy of EG 4.1, right? Okay, you need to go to Help / About and see what version number is listed. Then, go to SAS Usage Note 20655 to see what hoxfix number that relates to. Wouldn't it be so much easier if the Help/About screen told us the hotfix number *and* the expiry date?!

Also in 41EG09 you'll see that SAS Usage Note 34883 also covers the fact that SAS Web OLAP Viewer for .NET was scheduled to expire on March 1, 2009.

SAS Usage Note 33359 lists expiry dates for EG 2.05 through to 4.1 (but not 4.2).

A number of things concern me about this situation.

A) It's a secret. SAS do not communicate the existance of these expiry dates to new or existing cutomers in a manner that the customers become aware of the situation. Merely publishing Usage Notes is not good enough. Customers need to be able to plan the application of hotfixes or upgrades in order to avoid unexpected expiry of products (unlike SAS license expiry, there's no "warning period").

B) Even when one is aware of these expiry dates, it's hard work finding out i) which products have them and ii) what the dates are for given versions of software. Indeed, I am conscious that the information I have supplied above is incomplete, e.g. what is the full list of client software that has expiry dates, and what is the expiry date for specific versions such as EG 4.2? Making the expiry dates available in Help/About screens would be a major improvement.

C) Even if all of the information was out in the open and clearly communicated to SAS customers, I'd still remain unconvinced of the customer-benefit of the dates. The mere fact that one needs to update scores of copies of client-side software can be a logistical nightmare (I know, I've done it) when one takes into account the need to do testing and the need to respect change freezes in individual departments due to their business cycles. SAS generally recommends keeping up-to-date with EG hotfixes but that isn't practical for some sites. Some customers don't have central, automated mechanisms for software distribution

On the other side of the coin, I can see that customers should be encouraged to keep their software up-to-date, with respect to version numbers and hotfixes. But I'm not convinced that SAS have got the balance right.

I'll leave the last word with a SAS Insider:

The reasons behind a client-side "expiration" date are sort of long and complicated. They are not controlled by SETINIT licensing. The key points you want to take away are these:

- SAS has a strong history of maintaining products that people are actually using and keeping them running. See The vast majority of users will never face a crisis because the software is expiring.

- That said, SAS offers differing levels of support for products depending on the product age and serviceability:

- I know that not everyone can always adopt the latest thing from SAS, but a reasonable rate of adoption is a good way to ensure you have access to the latest fixes and enhancements. We will continue to support EG 4.1, as it works with SAS 8.2->9.1.3, as long as people need it. The leap to EG 4.2 (requiring SAS 9.2) can be significant, and we recognize that not everybody can make a fast transition. But don't look for much support on EG 2.0 and 3.0, since they are superseded by EG 4.1 and EG 4.1 is well-tested by time and use (released originally in March 2006).

- Client hotfixes are *usually* low risk. They make the client work a little better, but they don't generally affect the way that SAS runs your programs or generate output.
What do you think? Have you suffered from a product unexpectedly expiring? Please let us know your thoughts and experiences by posting a comment