Monday, 25 April 2011

NOTE: Writing Your Own Functions

Did you ever hear of PROC JLAUNCH? No, neither did I until I tried the FCmp Function Editor. And, if you didn't know, the FCmp Function Editor is an interactive tool for exploring and maintaining functions created with PROC FCMP. There are a lot of good reasons for creating your own function. Read on...

I confess I dismissed the SAS Function Compiler (PROC FCMP) as nothing more than an alternative to my old, familiar macro language. A colleague of mine recently pointed out that although FCMP may be similar to macro in the functionality that it provides, it provides the functionality in a far more elegant and packaged manner. FCMP avoids the complexities of SAS macro language such as percentage signs, quoting, and the fact that all values and variables are character. FCMP offers the novice-intermediate SAS programmer an easy entry into structured programming.

You can create functions, CALL routines, and subroutines in FCMP; and those items can then be used in DATA steps, WHERE clauses, ODS statements, and selected PROCs. The details of using FCMP are in the Base SAS Procedures Guide, but I'll step you through some basics here.

Firstly, you should understand that your functions will be stored in a data set. When you define a function you specify a library, data set, and a package in which to store the function. Data sets can store more than one package, and packages can store more than one function. The following log illustrates some further basics (with explanation following the log).
15 options cmplib=work.funclib;
17 proc fcmp OUTLIB=work.funclib.NOTEPKG;
18   function HERBERT();
19     x=41;
20     y=42;
21     z=44;
22     return (43);
23   endsub;
24 run;
NOTE: Function HERBERT saved to work.funclib.NOTEPKG.
26 quit;
28 data lotus;
29   y=40;
30   x=herbert();
31   put _all_;
32 run;
y=40 x=43 _ERROR_=0 _N_=1
The simple example above shows a) use of the CMPLIB option to specify a search path for bespoke functions, b) variables used within the function definition are local to the definition and do not interfere with variables used in the code that called the function, and c) return values are specified with the RETURN statement.

The DATA step I/O statements (for example, INPUT, FILE, SET, and MERGE) are not available in PROC FCMP. However, some functionality of the PUT statement is supported.

I recommend that you adopt a naming standard for your bespoke functions in order to distinguish them from in-built SAS functions. This will avert much gnashing of teeth by hapless maintenance programmers later in the life of your code.

And finally, back to JLAUNCH. The FCmp Function Editor is a handy tool for helping you to create and maintain your functions. You can access it from the good, old-fashioned Display Manager interface, i.e. (on Windows) Start --> All Programs --> SAS --> SAS 9.2 (English). It'll probably prompt you to login to your metadata server, then you'll get a nice, windowed Java application to play with (hence the use of JLAUNCH).

Once inside the FCmp Function Editor, you can right-click a library, choose New Function, and then use a wizard-like interface to specify the attributes of your function, and its code. FCmp Function Editor will generate the SAS code for you (except the CMPLIB options statement) and it will check the syntax for you (you need to click View --> Show Log to see your errors). Upon clicking OK, it'll create and store the function for you. You can update the function at any time, or retrieve the full PROC FCMP code by double-clicking the function from within FCmp Function Editor.

All-in-all I'm seeing FCMP in a new light and I'm sure it'll feature in my future work. However, I will confess to being too sweeping in my earlier comparison of SAS macro language with FCMP. If you want to do stuff at the data set or PROC level you'll still need to learn macro!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

300 Subscribers. Thank you!

Google Feedburner tells me that the NOTE: blog had 300 subscribers yesterday. This feels like a significant milestone to me. Thank you for your continued interest in my musings and observations.

At the risk of skewing the figures and compounding the apparent popularity of these posts, some of the most popular posts over the last 18 months are listed below. You'll notice how I prefix the title of SAS-related posts with "NOTE:" but don't do so for more generic topics.
The blog got started for real in September 2009. We quickly hit 100 subscribers in October 2009, and we achieved 200 subscribers in November 2010.

For those interested in statistics and figures, we have made a total of 205 posts (206 if you include this one); Sitemeter tells us that we've had a total of 9,673 visits to the home page (262 of which were last week alone). The 300 subscribers comprise 156 email subscribers plus 144 RSS subscribers.

Please keep visiting and keep commenting. And don't forget to encourage your colleagues to take a look and subscribe too: either by getting automatic emails, using RSS, or following our Twitterstream (@aratcliffeuk).

Monday, 18 April 2011

NOTE: Undocumented Features - Use Them at Your Peril!

Back in October 2009 I mentioned the undocumented feature in Enterprise Guide whereby data sets whose names begin "_TO" are hidden by EG's Server List pane. I also cautioned against using undocumented features.

SAS's Chris Hemedinger recently highlighted that this behavior has been "fixed" in SAS 9.3. You were warned!

NOTE: Are You Ready to be Taught? Test Your SAS Skills

SAS Education in the US have launched a series of online assessments to allow prospective training customers to see if they're at the right level of knowledge to join a course. Since SAS share course materials across many regions, the value of these assessments is not limited to the US.

Each assessment contains 10 to 12 multiple choice questions designed to help you determine the most appropriate training for you based on your prior knowledge and experience. Once an assessment is completed, you are given a score (including the number and percentage of questions answered correctly), and a course recommendation is made.

It's a neat way to test your SAS skills, regardless of whether you intend going on the courses. I tried "SAS Macro Language 2: Developing Macro Applications" and was relieved to get 100% of the ten questions correct! The questions are multiple choice, but they include code snippets and they make you think. Recommended.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

NOTE: SAS Global Forum 2011 - Back-Ups, and The Last Word

My trip to SAS Global Forum 2011 in Las Vegas was valuable to me for many reasons. I learned a lot of information about a) SAS in general, and b) SAS 9.3 (to be released later this year). I echo many of the sentiments of SAS's Mike Kalt in this week's blog entry.

My hotel internet bill issue is now resolved, but my small poll of friends suggests that a significant number of those who booked accommodation through  the conference web site (and hence gained entitlement to free internet access in their hotel) were refused free use of the internet and/or had to pay. Only those who persisted with their claim through several layers of hotel management were successful, the others just didn't use the internet or they paid (twice).

Anyway, on a more positive note, I enjoyed SAS's Bubba Talley's BI 9.2 Troubleshoting paper. In addition to some valuable hints and tips about symptoms, investigations, resolutions and prevention, Bubba also spoke about SAS 9.3. According to Bubba, back-ups in 9.3 will be manageable from SAS Management Console; will be executed in a separate thread; the server will remain up and operational; configured during install; replaces %omabakup; features roll-forward recovery; and allows for ad-hoc back-ups. Nice!

And finally, all SAS Gloabl Forum 2011 papers are now available online within the SAS Support web site. In addition to Bubba's paper, you'll find mine(!) and many, many others.

NOTE: Inspiring Analytics

I was very pleased to meet SAS's Chris Hemedinger at this year's SAS Global Forum. Needless to say, he was espousing the virtues of Enterprise Guide when I found him!

If you're a regular NOTE: reader you'll know that I'm a fan of his blog. I was jolly interested to read his most recent post "Hammer time with high school students". It was a very eloquent description of how he opened the eyes of some local high school students to the meaning and power of analytics (and SAS). Analytics is a widely growing area of business interest and any school or college-leaver would do well to understand what it means (better still, to have skills in analytics). I wonder if Chris's students realise the value of the insight he's given them.

For my part, I shall be repeating the exercise with my own kids this weekend, and hammering home the message that gathering and understanding the data & information that surrounds you is a job worth doing (and worth doing well).

[It was a pleasure to meet you Chris. Keep up the good work!]

NOTE: SAS Professionals 2011, July 12th to 14th (yes, July, not April)

My thanks to Bernie for pointing out that I meant July 12th to 14th as the dates for SAS Professionals Convention 2011 in yesterday's post (now corrected). The rest of you are clearly not paying attention!!

It's doubly embarrassing because I was talking to a client today about attention to detail, checking one's own work, and getting things right first time. [head in hands] "What a mistake-a to make-a!"

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

NOTE: Looking forward to SAS Professionals 2011

Having just returned from SAS Global Forum 2011 in Las Vegas, I'm now looking ahead to this year's SAS Professionals Convention. It'll be in Marlow, July 12th to 14th. More information will be coming to the SAS Professional web site soon.

If you haven't already tried a SAS Professionals Online - Expert Channel session, think about registering for the next event. On April 14th, SAS UK's Neil Constable will present "Making More of SAS Enterprise Guide". Register today, check your connection, then tune-in on Thursday. An annual personal subscription to the Expert Channel costs just £240. Good value.

Monday, 11 April 2011

NOTE: Loading Data Set Variables Into Macro Variables (%SYSCALL SET)

SAS Global Forum still offers plenty of learning opportunities for the hard-core coder. Quite apart from presenting my paper in Coders' Corner, I took the opportunity of spending some time in some of the sessions. I leaned plenty of new-old stuff, i.e. stuff that was new to me but had been part of SAS for many tears. One such example is using %syscall set to quickly and elegantly load data set variables into macro variables.

William C Murphy mentioned it briefly in his paper entitled "Who Do You Have? Where Are They?". Having done some research, I see he featured it in his 2007 paper "Changing data Set Variables Into Macro Variables".

The paper tells you all you need to know, but if (like me) you're an old SAS/AF dinosaur, you'll recognise the techniques involved - using OPEN, SET and FETCHOBS.

Friday, 8 April 2011

NOTE: SAS Global Forum 2011 - Update #4

The conference is finished now. I'm back in my room, packing, in anticipation of tomorrow's flight back to London. I'm hoping to catch a show tonight - but I haven't booked yet.

[Update: I saw Jersey Boys. Fantastic. Highly recommended. Oh what a night (sorry, I couldn't resist!]

It was a good conference, with plenty to learn. If you'd like to get a feel for the quality and value of the presentations (perhaps you're considering a trip to SAS Global Forum 2011 in Orlando, Florida, USA in April) you can see some of the sessions in the (new for 2011) Take Out area.

The presentations in the Take Out area offer a combination of slides and audio, so you can hear the presenters deliver their presentation. Truth be told, I think the audio was recorded in a studio, not "live".

Be warned, I found I had to wait for the page to fully load, then click in the white square, then wait for the square to first turn grey and then offer slide 1 with a Play button. Without clicking on the plain white square you could be waiting quite some time (like I was).

NOTE: Mobile BI at SAS Global Forum 2011

I bravely forecast before attending SAS Global Forum 2011 that Mobile BI would the *the* hot topic. Well, I wouldn't say that it was hot, but it was fresh from the oven and very tempting. In fact, SAS had not one, not two, but three types of mobile computing solutions on show. Those three types were:
  1. Roambi
  2. SAS Mobile
  3. Fit-to-task
In the opening session, Jim Davis (SAS Senior Vice President, and Chief Marketing Offer) showed a number of mobile apps on an iPad 2. He highlighted that SAS had created a new R&D organisation tasked solely with responsibility for User Interface (UI) development. In addition to using the iPad 2 to show a nice, generic BI dashboard app, Jim showed a social monitoring app for spotting sentiment in social streams (for handling cases of negative sentiment), plus a retail space app. All on iPad 2.

These last two examples are both fit-to-task mobile applications whereby the mobility of the device fits perfectly with the nature of the job, e.g. putting the right products, in the right quantity int he right place in each and every store.

The generic BI app looked like an instance of Roambi. SAS recently signed a partnership with Mellmo, the producers of Roambi. Roambi is one of the leading mobile BI solutions. When the SAS extensions are released in the next few weeks, Roambi will be able to read SAS metadata, such as web reports, and create Roambi content for consumption on mobile devices. In more detail, the Roambi solution breaks down into three components: Publisher, Server, and Viewer.

The Roambi server and publisher are able to read SAS metadata, apply Roambi templates to the content, and store the result. The viewer is then able to take the stored results and make them visible to users with any of the supported Roambi client apps. The advantages of Roambi are i) it is an industry standard that SAS customers may already be using to publish BI content from other vendors, ii) it is available in the next few weeks (for SAS 9.2), iii) quick "time-to-value" due to the re-use of existing SAS BI content.

The SAS Mobile solution is the third type of mobile computing solution for SAS. Not available until the end of the year, alongside SAS 9.3, SAS Mobile will offer SAS's "adaptive presentation " solution whereby any content can be consumed anywhere (almost!). SAS 9.3 will replace the Web Report Studio and BI Dashboard editors with one single, combined tool - The Designer. The new SAS Designer will the design and creation of reports of varying kinds, and will allow the user to specify the anticipated target devices. The Designer will create and store packages that contain content that is optimised for the target devices. A variety of SAS viewers will then be able to display the packages using the native look, feel and behaviour of the device.

So, in order to get SAS Mobile you'll need to upgrade to SAS 9.3. If you're already running SAS 9.2 then you can soon get Roambi without necessitating any upgrades.If you're currently running SAS 9.1 then you'll have to upgrade to get a mobile computing solution. SAS offer a metadata migration utility to take you from 9.1 to 9.2, and they'll offer a 9.2 to 9.3 option too. However, I didn't get any firm answer to the question of whether a 9.1 to 9.3 option will be available.

With any mobile solution, the issue of online versus offline is very important. The Roambi solution downloads all of the data that it requires. This means it can happily work offline, but also means the download can take a length of time. On the other hand, SAS intentions for the SAS Mobile solution are to provide some user control over what is downloaded.

Gartner estimate that 1/3 of all BI content will be consumed via a mobile device by 2013. That's a big shift from where we are today, but it's believable when you see enterprises buying into the technology so readily. The reasons are plain:
  • Mobile computing offers faster/better decision making and is analogous to mobile email that Blackberry delivers
  • Tablets are light and portable yet provide a big enough screen to be usable for "real work"
  • Total cost of ownership (TCO) is lower than for laptops
Challenges such as security have been largely resolved by the provision of features such as:
  • Email encryption
  • Passcode locks
  • The ability to remotely wipe the device if it is lost or stolen
So, Mobile computing wasn't hot this year. Maybe SAS Global Forum 2012 will see the fruition of all the developments I've listed above. I sure hope so, it's very exciting.

[See all of my posts regarding SAS Global Forum]

[NOT] Cheated by my SAS Global Forum 2011 Hotel

[Update#4: Harrah's have refunded the money. All's well that ends well]
[Update#3: SAS have offered assistance with the issue. I'm still waiting a response from Harrah's. How long does it take to say "yes, we refunded the money to your credit card account"?]
[Update#2: Harrah's have responded. Their extremely brief note didn't offer an apology, but did say "The internet charge has been adjusted off". Since I've already checked-out, I've asked them to confirm they've made a refund to my credit card as opposed to adjusting my account at Harrah's.]
[Update: ConferenceDirect, the booking agency, have responded to my email and confirmed my entitlement. We now jointly await a response from Harrah's.]

I just got charged for using my conference hotel's internet connection. This despite the original details on the SAS web site stating "rates include daily in-room high-speed Internet access". I just checked back to the Housing page to be sure of my facts and it's still there.

I checked with reception at my hotel (Harrah's) and they insist that internet is not included in the rate, so I must pay and then take my complaint to SAS. It's a frustrating end to a great conference.

Did you book your hotel through the SAS booking page? Did you try to use the hotel internet (the Housing page claims that all four of the conference hotels will provide free internet access). Did you find it wasn't available and/or you had to pay? Let me know by writing a comment. I suspect that the problem is not unique to me.

I hate these situations. Even though my complaint will hopefully provide me with recompense, I feel sure there are plenty more people who have not been given their entitlement and have just simply paid for their internet access (twice). Harrah's wins by needing less bandwidth than it truly should be providing.

I'll let you know what happens with regard to my complaint.

[See all of my posts regarding SAS Global Forum]

Thursday, 7 April 2011

NOTE: SAS Global Forum 2011 - Update #3

Today is the last day of the conference, and the atmosphere is quieter than previous days. It must be the effect of the kickback party at Pure nightclub last night. Nonetheless I've already seen some excellent papers this morning.

It's time for some thoughts on this year's conference, and to look ahead to next year's.

I've enjoyed this year's conference. It's always good to catch-up with old friends, and the content and quality of this year's papers has been as high as ever. SAS 9.3 is due for release towards the end of this year and looks to offer a good mix of new features and simpler administration.

I'd ask for a few improvements for next year's conference.
  1. Better wi-fi. The wi-fi here at Caesar's Palace is hateful. No technology conference staged in 2011 should have to suffer such ineffective wi-fi. It comes and goes at its leisure, and requires re-authentication every time it does so
  2. My iPhone toting friends have benefited from the SAS Global Forum iPhone app. I'd like to see that available for my Android device next year. The app offers excellent information about papers, the agenda, and the conference in general
  3. Fruit at the food stands. The coffee and soft drinks were nice; the pastries were okay; some fruit would have been gratefully received
On the plus side, I found the occasional texts about key events to be useful, and I liked the daily email delivered to my inbox at 7am each day.

Next year's conference will be in Orlando, Florida, USA between April 22nd and 25th. Andy Kuligowski will be the conference chair, so SAS Global Forum is in safe hands. In fact, if it coincides with school holidays, I may just bring the family.

[See all of my posts regarding SAS Global Forum]

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

NOTE: DI Studio Version 4.3

Version 4.3 of SAS Data Integration Studio (DI Studio) is to be released alongside SAS 9.3 later this year. I stopped by the Data Integration booth at SAS Global Forum to get some detail from those that should know. There are a raft of enhancements that are worthy of note, but the big one that caught my eye was job versioning and rollback. Here's what I found (and saw)...
  • Increased ability to perform ELT (Extract, Load and Transform) in addition to traditional ETL - doing your transformations down in the database and thus minimising the data miles travelled by your data
  • Code import wizard in 4.2 already understands macros to the extent that it can create and display a process node representing the macro, but DI Studio 4.3 will give you the option of expanding the macro so that you see the component tasks of the macro in the your DI process flow. This gives you a clearer picture of what your job is doing and allows job performance to be collected at a more granular level
  • Talking of job performance, DI Studio 4.3 provides more breadth and depth with regard to the performance profile of your jobs and their steps. You have access to predefined reports that can (optionally) be created in Web Report Studio
  • A Type 1 SCD loaded transform has been added for those that don't need the complexity of the Type 2 loader. Not sure what Type 1 and Type 2 are, see my earlier article on the subject
  • Job deployment can now be done from an OS command line using a newly-supplied shell script. This script supports deployment of one or more jobs at a time, and it can be scheduled. For those of you who have invested in automating the promotion and deployment of your jobs using the programmatic interfaces to export/import that DI Studio 4.2 brought, you can now consider completing the task by automating the deployment of your promoted jobs. Apparently, job deployment hasn't been made available through the programmable API because the task of deployment requires a great deal of Java activity that SAS weren't comfortable with delivering through the APIs. Disappointing, but there you go
  • And finally, for those who take configuration management seriously, we have versioning of jobs (and packages). Sadly this isn't a top-down delivery of a release management capability, but it's a step in the right direction. SAS have provided plug-ins for CVS and Subversion, but they say they'll publish the API and allow you to write your own plug-ins for your own preferred source code management system, such as IBM Rational's ClearCase. These plug-ins facilitate the process of pushing exported packages (with one or more jobs and dependent objects) into your source code management system. From within the DI Studio interface you can see and inspect versions of your packages.You can even compare objects within packages, so you can answer the common Release Manager questions like "what changes did you make to the job between version 2 and version 4?". Sadly, the comparison can only be done on one object at a time.
So, all-in-all, DI Studio 4.3 has a lot to offer alongside the introduction of SAS 9.3. The versioning leaves a lot more work still to be done with regard to release management, support for a wider range of source code management systems, and detailed reporting. Nonetheless, it's a job well done by the DI Studio team.

The plug-ins are not available from Management Console and thus cannot be used and applied to any SAS metadata objects that you might expect to export/import. Thus there's no support for BI objects. That's disappointing, but SAS tell me they are aware of the shortcoming and hope to plug the gap in a future release.

[See all of my posts regarding SAS Global Forum]

NOTE: SAS Global Forum 2011 - Update #2

Day 2 at SAS Global Forum (or is it day 3? I'm not sure) and my feet are aching due to the enormous amount of walking required. Yesterday I spent a lot of time in the Demo Area, talking to SAS developers about their work in the areas of DI, Mobile BI and In-Memory Data Viz. I'll put together some posts about those things later today.

Meanwhile, it's grid, grid, grid all the way today. I'll be camped in the Systems Architecture stream for most of the morning. I'm currently working on a large grid project, so this stream is perfect for me. ("large grid project", is that a tautology? Aren't all grid projects large?)

I can't stay in the Systems Architecture stream all day though because I'm presenting my V-Model paper in th Coders' Corner stream at 5:40pm today. I'm looking forward to it. If you're at SAS Global Forum, be sure to come along and say "hi".

[See all of my posts regarding SAS Global Forum]

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

NOTE: Get a Clearer View of Your Security Metadata

The partners booths at SAS Global Forum rarely offer third-party SAS software products. The one perrenial exception is Futrix (offering self-service BI beyond SAS's own capabilities), but this year sees an offering from Metacoda. It's the Metacoda Security Plug-Ins. This product is worth a serious look if you take the security of your SAS system and its data seriously.

SAS's security capabilities are not in question. They are multifarious, comprehensive and flexible. But that scope of capability means they have many dimensions, and your site's security implementation can quickly become difficult to perceive. That's where the Metacoda Security Plug-Ins step in to help. They are offered as a plug-in for SAS Management Console, and they offer a large number of views on your security metadata, meaning there's sure to be a convenient view to match your current interest and need.

The current version of the plug-ins work with 9.1.3 and 9.2. It covers ACTs, ACEs, users, groups and logins. A new version of the plug-ins will be available by summer and will add roles, capabilities and further details on internal logins for 9.2 customers.

I was impressed with what I saw demonstrated on the booth. Combined with flexible and affordable licensing models, I recommend you take a look and contact Metacoda for further details.

[See all of my posts regarding SAS Global Forum]

NOTE: SAS Global Forum 2011 - Update #1

There's a lot for the 3,000+ attendees of SAS Global Forum 2011 here in Las Vegas to see and do. The opening session and this morning's Technology Connection session offered plenty of snippets of information. I'm now attending papers and cruising the demo area in order to get more detail on what I already heard. The conference centre is huge, so the cruising is pretty tiring!

Here are some snippets of what I heard so far:

  • The SASware ballot resulted in commitment from SAS to provide the ability to run stored processes from Base SAS code and to provide vector graphics from ODS (thereby permitting resizing and scaling of the output images). No release date was offered for these features
  • SAS are really pumped about their announcements made yesterday morning regarding high-performance in-database analytics for Teradata and Greenplum. Examples of turnaround time being reduced from 20 hours to 80 seconds were offered, based upon massively parallel processing. Billions of rows, with thousands of columns. Use of smart techniques instead of brute force, i.e. minimising distance travelled by your data and maximising communication between processes
  • Good, old-fashioned display manager is still receiving updates. ODS will be switched on by default in 9.3, so you don't need to code so many ODS statements; graphics output will be displayed in the in-built browser rather than the old graphics display tool, hence providing greater flexibility and proper response to drill-downs
  • ODS Graphics will be part of Base SAS in 9.3
  • Enterprise Guide 5.1 offers type-ahead for column names in addition to the existing ability for library names and table names
  • SAS Conversation Centre (available May 2011) will offer the ability to manage and take control of Twitter interactions based upon sentiment analysis
Videos of the key sessions are all available on the SAS web site. One of the highlights for me was listening to Gary Loveman, chairman of Caesars Entertainment. Gary spoke most eloquently and entertainingly about his company's success in using customer intelligence.

[See all of my posts regarding SAS Global Forum]

Friday, 1 April 2011

NOTE: Mobile BI

I dropped and broke my beloved HTC HD2 Windows Mobile smartphone just before Christmas. I loved its large 4.3" screen and its neat HTC Sense interface over the top of clunky Windows Mobile V6.5. I've replaced it with an LG Optimus One (P500). Why should this interest the SAS world? I'll tell you...

My sad telephonic experience has given me the opportunity to get some insight into a topic that I'm expecting to be hot at this year's SAS Global Forum. I'm talking about Mobile Business Intelligence. It sounds geeky but I'm convinced there's real business value and it'll be a hot topic in 2011.

I enjoyed the large screen on the HTC. I found it big enough to use the on-screen keyboard and to type emails without great inconvenience. It allowed me to view web sites perfectly adequately too. But it lacked support from developers and I was constantly frustrated by the launch of new apps for Apple's iOS and Google's Android, but not for Microsoft's Windows Mobile. So, when it broke I thought I'd take the plunge into the world of Android. Hence my purchase of the LG Optimus One.

I'm very pleased with the LG, and I love the availability and variety of apps (including TripIt to help me plan my trip to SAS Global Forum), but I do find the smaller 3.2" screen to be a frustration. I no longer find it so comfortable to write emails and browse the web.

As a newbie to the Android world, I've been keen to follow the developments of the Android tablets that have appeared over the last few months (first the Samsung, then the Motorola, and now everybody's jumping on the bandwagon). Given my recent experiences and frustrations, I can see how an Android tablet could be just what I need to keep in touch while I'm travelling.

I've never been a fan of Apple's expensive and locked-in approach to their products (though I do fully appreciate the gorgeous aesthetics of them). Hence I haven't given the iPad much attention. But I now see how the iPad and its cheaper, more-open Android cousins offer the mobile business person a fantastic tool for doing their job. Whether it's keeping in touch with colleagues and customers, having instant access to operational details like stock availability and product pricing, or being able to view strategic company information when you want and where you want, these tablets offer a convenience that conventional laptops and netbooks fail to deliver.

A lot of business intelligence (BI) vendors have released mobile products in order to meet the demand, firstly for the iPad but more recently for Android (and doubtless BlackBerry's upcoming PlayBook tablet will soon be supported too). BI vendors must provide their customers with the ability to design once and render anywhere; to support BI anywhere (desktop, browser, tablet, smartphone) and in any interface (dashboard, visual exploration, query, or Office). Leading industry analyst Howard Dresner recently published a study on the mobile BI market. Information Builders came out among the top contenders and chose to publish the study in full. Dresner concluded that "within two years a significant percentage of users will consume BI content exclusively on mobile devices".

SAS's recently signed partnership with MeLLmo Inc, creator of Roambi, one of the leading business apps for interactive mobile analytics, gives it the ability to deliver mobile SAS BI - albeit only for Apple iOS products at the moment. As I said earlier in this article, I expect to hear a lot about this partnership, and to see plenty of demos of what it can deliver, at SAS Global Forum. I'll be keen to not only look at the interface but to also understand the infrastructure that is required to allow people to work and move around transparently between office, mobile, online and offline modes.

However, I'll make one final point. Mobile BI is big and getting bigger, but there are plenty of other key developments in the industry that SAS must follow to retain their eminent position. Cloud-based delivery of services, and in-memory analytics are just two that I also hope to hear more about at SAS Global Forum.

Time to pack and find my passport...

NOTE: Positive Moves in the SAS Blogosphere

I'm pleased to see today's announcement from SAS regarding the merge of two SAS blogs (The DO Loop (written by Rick Wicklin) and The SAS Dummy (previously written by Chris Hemedinger)). As the announcement makes clear, change was needed. The new blog, written by Wicklin, will appear next week. You are encouraged to read the announcement for further detail.

There's related information on Adam Cooper's F1 blog.

Posted by: Andy Ratcliffe
Date: April 1, 2011

Take a Different View on NOTE:

The NOTE: blog is very kindly hosted by Google Blogger. The Blogger platform has recently had some alternative means of viewing the content added to it. If you visit NOTE: at (note the /view on the end of the URL) you'll be given five different means of seeing the NOTE: goodness! Choose between Sidebar (the default), Flipcard, Mosaic, Snapshot and Timeslide. Let us know if you find any of them useful.

fyi, Blogger also added a new style for viewing the blog when accessed from a mobile device. Have you seen this? Do you find it convenient?

Finally, if you're interested to know how the NOTE: blog is constructed online, you might like to visit an earlier article on that very subject.