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Running the Tables for SAS Administrators at SAS Global Forum 2016

07/11/2016 by Nick Welke Tricia Aanderud Modernization - Infrastructure, Support

Table talks give #SASGF attendees a great way to discuss tips, techniques, and ideas with other like-minded individuals.nick discusses sas admin topics as #sasgf At the 2016 SAS Global Forum, Zencos hosted a table talk for SAS administrators.

The table talks provided SAS administrators a way to learn from one another instead of just listening to a lecture. We did two sessions and each one had similar themes but completely different discussions.

There were SAS administrators from small shops to large shops. Some were part of the IT organization and some were outside of the organization. It seemed like the administrators who were part of IT had more support on the network side. Those administrators outside of IT understood the business and the users better. The topics that seem to dominate the conversations were around data management and user management.

Data and User Management Topics

Here’s a summary of the topics discussed:

  • When the administrator was outside of IT, there is the most “rub”. IT may view all SAS work as reporting and blocks access to databases or storage. The more successful organizations had the SAS administrators inside the IT department. Otherwise, the administrators spent more time educating IT and building a peaceful relationship.
  • An off-shoot of this discussion was IT not allowing root access. This practice creates issues during installation, which means IT has to take part. This has minor impact on daily activities, such as moving files or setting permissions.  An administrator noted that some IT departments allow sudo access. This allows your ID  to act as the root user without needing the password. You have to make your case to IT and be trustworthy.
  • Why do users need so much data and how do you keep up with demand. Hadoop was noted as a solution but it also created other issues – such as how do SAS users access the data. The SAS Access to Hadoop was noted as an alternative. Many administrators were frustrated with the large amounts of data they were being asked to manage. It was growing astronomically! Some of the administrators could see themselves moving to that situation within the next year so were curious to hear how Hadoop had helped.

Things We Learned

Here are some tips that others shared:

  • Use the SAS Utilities
    Some administrators were not aware of the SAS Clean Work utility. Nick Welke recommended the administrators set the utility to run weekly. This utility removes temporary SAS files and SAS utility directories (aka Zombie sessions).
  • Use Hadoop to back up older data
    Many times users load data to the system and forget about it. As a result, the time to do a backup keeps growing and it requires more disk space. One solution mentioned by David Moors, a SAS administrator from the UK, was to move the ancient data to Hadoop after a certain period. This allowed the backup to be faster and users could retrieve the data easily.
  • Add a Discovery Zone
    A larger corporation had implemented this technique. The discovery zone provided users access to all tools and a metadata folder where they could play. The idea was to allow users to learn how to use advanced or new tools, such as a stored process or text analytics. Since the administrators had isolated the area, there was less worry about a catastrophe. The users had to have training before accessing the area and generally it was power users. It did allow users to hone their skills.
  • Use the Free SAS Resources
    If you are the combination SAS administrator and SAS guru, ensure your users are aware of the many free resources available. Resources such as SAS communities, many user blogs, and even free SAS tutorials. Two administrators suggested making videos to show users how to complete tricky steps. Zencos creates video and training sessions to assist organizations when implementing SAS tools.
  • Linux has lots of Power
    There were many Linux tips shared between the administrators.  One administrator provided a directory structure for users to keep programs and data. Inside the structure was a symbolic link. He could move the location without the users being aware of something was different.  It had saved him a lot of time and effort.