SAS System 6.06 provides the Institute with all the benefits of IBM’s SAA A preview of SAS System Version 6.06 for mainframes and minis dominated this year’s SAS European User Group conference in Cologne, writes Sophie Hanscombe. The new release marks the culmination of five year efforts to rewrite the SAS System in C, and […]
SAS System 6.06 provides the Institute with all the benefits of IBM’s SAA
A preview of SAS System Version 6.06 for mainframes and minis dominated this year’s SAS European User Group conference in Cologne, writes Sophie Hanscombe. The new release marks the culmination of five year efforts to rewrite the SAS System in C, and the full implementation of SAS’ MVA Multi-Vendor Architecture across the range of hardware supported by the company. The goals behind MVA appear similar to IBM’s Systems Application Architecture – applications portability, consistent look and feel, and user-friendliness improvements. Early stages of the development project produced Version 6.03 for MS-DOS micros, which has now been extended to encompass both OS/2, and Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard workstations, running under Unix. Releases for Data General, Apollo, Prime, and Silicon Graphics machines are also promised for the second quarter of next year. According to SAS, key new Version 6.06 features fall into the areas of data management, data access, and the user interface. On the first two fronts, it claims, Version 6.06 will offer indexing to boost access speeds, and compression features to cut transfer times. The new release also introduces a Proc/SQL, SQL data query language, enabling users to query SAS datasets using SQL commands, and an External Data facility, providing direct access to DB2, RdB, SQL/DS and Oracle/VMS. SAS has also decided to include a Where clause, to speed up what it describes as the process of data subsetting. The ease-of-use claims spring primarily from an enhanced windowing system, introduced within the user interface. This comprises native window support for Presentation Manager and DECwindows, and a dedicated window for graphics, designed for the interactive graphics promised in future releases. Meanwhile consistent look, functionality, and power, regardless of hardware, and ease-of-use meet in SAS/Assist, the Institute’s menu-driven user interface first introduced in Version 6.03. The software uses point-and-shoot techniques and icons to guide non-technical users through automated versions of the System’s most frequently used capabilities; it also shields once-a-month users from the complexities of different user interfaces. Additional user friendly features include SAS’s FSView procedure, and the SCL Screen Control Language. The latter enables developers to shape SAS/Assist application screens to comply with different environmental user needs, while the former provides full screen browsing capabilities. According to SAS president Jim Goodnight, the company hopes to have all this stuff to users by next year; official availability date is spring 1990. However, a number of developments within MVS and VM/CMS environments have yet to be finished, and interfaces to DB2, VSAM, IMS, CICS will not be included in the first release. Consequently, Goodnight expects most MVS sites to run Version 6.06 alongside the original Version 5 for a couple of years. A question mark also hovers above the pricing policy on SAS/Assist. SAS has yet to decide whether the software will be provided as a standard feature within Version 6.06, or whether it will be subject to a small additional charge.
No to SAS on AS/400 – it can’t do sums
Heading the 1989 SAS/Ballot was the question of implementing the SAS System on the AS/400. The ballot is used at every conference to establish the general reaction to potential technology plans, and was the driving force behind the company’s push into the DEC market, some four years ago. (And yes, most of the pressure came from IBM users). The issue came low on the ballot, and the SAS president appeared equally dismissive. Goodnight described the AS/400 as primarily a System 3X upgrade, and added that this has never been a big market for us. Technology obstacles include the fact that the AS/400 still has no C compiler, and directly affecting the speed of the software no Floating Point processor. The AS/400 is not a scientific machine, he concluded, brusquely.
IBM’s SAA is a
marketing ploy – Goodnight
Although not featured on the ballot, users and SAS members alike were happy to express opinions on SAA and OS/2. Consensus on OS/2 appeared to be that takeup would be slow, and limited. Main deterrents appeared to be cost, and that distinct lack of applications. This is an area where users need to see real benefits, explained one SAS member, en route to the SASSystem running under OS/2 demo. And SAA? We love standards, said Goodnight, but SAA is a marketing ploy. SAS argues that once im-plemented, MVA MultiVendor Architecture places the company ahead of IBM on the portability path; prerelease software shows that SAS on a mainframe and SAS on a PC looks exactly the same, claims Good-night. And the differences separating mainframe and PC applications under SAA? Chiefly, data sor ting, program modules, and Floating Point numbers.
SAS puts Unix on the front burner
In addition to the extension of Version 6.06 to en-compass the major Unix families, SAS is positioning itself for the Unix market in Europe. Potential partners are believed to be Siemens, Bull, and ICL and strictly in that order. Attempts were made to forge some kind of deal with ICL two years ago, but its C compilers at the time simply weren’t up to the job. At a more general level, Goodnight remains sceptical of IBM’s proUnix protestations. I don’t know whether I believe them or not, he said, pointing to a conflict of interest between its adoption of NextStep, and its endorsement of Motif, via membership of the Open Software Foundation. With the smallest share of the workstation market, Goodnight just can’t figure out why IBM wants to split the market, and force developers like us to offer two different windowing systems.
Graphics, statistics for Mac in the SAS plan
The Institute used the conference to tout a number of future offerings, ranging from interactive gra-phics through to AIinspired natural language pro-cedures. It also plans to put a Proc/Report interactive report writing procedure on Version 6.06. Other new departures include a SAS/Publish procedure, to provide desktop publishingtype capabilities, and JMP, a standalone statistical graphics product, designed to run on the Apple Macintosh.
No shiny shoes approach at SAS
Commenting on its latest set of figures turnover in Europe up 38% at $45.2m, and by 26% at $170m in the US European chief Art Cooke claims SAS would have overtaken ADR this year, if ADR hadn’t been bought by Computer Associates. The secrets of its success? A privately held company, SAS claims to plough record levels of turnover back into research and development. And marketing? A firm disassocition from what it calls the shiny shoes approach.