SAS , R and NYT – The Sequel

Here is a follow up article to the SAS vs. R articles by Ashlee V of the NYT.


The SAS Institute has borrowed a page from Sesame Street. It is now sponsoring the letter R.

Last month, I wrote an article about the rising popularity of the R programming language. The open-source software has turned into a favorite piece of technology for statisticians and other people looking to pull insights out of data.

On several levels, R represents a threat to SAS, which is the largest seller of commercial statistics software. Students at universities now learn R alongside SAS. In addition, the open-source nature of R allows the software to be tweaked at a pace that is hard for a commercial software maker to match.

All told, surging interest in the free R language could affect sales of SAS software, which can sell for thousands of dollars. Rather than running from the threat, SAS appears ready to try to understand R by adopting a more active role in its development.

You can read more at or even by clicking on the Bits RSS feed in the sidebar on

Ajay –

Note SAS is only opening up the SAS/IML product to integrate Rs matrix language capabilities. The base SAS software seems to be still not integrated with R and so is the statistics module SAS/Stat (SAS Institute sells in add on modules based on functionality and prices accordingly).

Many third party sources like have created interfaces from Base SAS to R – they are priced at around 50 $ a piece.

An additional threat to SAS’s dominance is from the WPS software from a UK based company , World Programming (which has an alliance with IBM) . WPS software can read , and write in SAS language and read and write SAS datasets as well, and is priced at 660 $ almost one tenth of SAS Institute’s licenses.

The recession is also forcing many large license holders of statistical software (like Banks and Financial Services) to seek discounts and alternatives. SAS Institute remains the industry leader in analytics software after almost 35 years of dominance.

However this is a nice first step and it would be interesting to see follow up steps from SAS Institute rivals .

We can all go on our respective open source and closed source jets now.

comments from Anne H. Milley, director for technology product marketing at SAS, who relegated R to a limited role.

In the article, Ms. Milley said, I think it addresses a niche market for high-end data analysts that want free, readily available code. We have customers who build engines for aircraft. I am happy they are not using freeware when I get on a jet.

Author: Ajay Ohri

One thought on “SAS , R and NYT – The Sequel”

  1. In addition to commercial tools warming up to R, there are open source data mining solutions which link to R, e.g., KNIME ( ) is such a graphical workflow tool which makes it easier to get started with R.

    Adding to the open source threat for commercial software vendors, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions based on open standards, cloud computing and web services are now emerging in the predictive analytics industry, eliminating the upfront investment for hardware or software licenses.

    One example is Zementis ADAPA ( ) which is a deployment and scoring engine for predictive models based on the Predictive Model Markup Language (PMML) standard. PMML ( ) as a model exchange format is supported by most major commercial and open source data mining tools (SAS, SPSS, IBM, Microsoft, R, KNIME, etc.)

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