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SAS Cloud: Where Should I Run SAS Visual Analytics?

Data Communication

Brian Bennett


A cloud environment may be a good alternative for your SAS Visual Analytics deployment. Cloud deployments are increasingly popular and gaining acceptance. You may already be using one of these services. Dropbox and OneDrive accessing data from a shared environment hosted on a remote server.

Some companies choose a cloud deployment to keep hardware costs low. They may also want to experiment with the software before making a purchasing.

What Service Do I Need?

Essentially a cloud service is renting space on someone else’s service. This means the cloud vendor is responsible for providing the infrastructure (such as networking, hardware, and data storage space). This managed service is referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Many companies prefer to use the method so they avoid capital purchases. When working with data, there can be a lot of guessing on the space needed. So many IT departments enjoy the ability to purchase more space as it is needed. 

In the figure, you can see what the cloud service is expected to provide and what you provide. SAS Visual Analytics (which is cloud-based) has the middleware, runtime, and application all packaged together. So essentially you bring the application, data, advanced analytics, and talent. They provide the platform and easy access.

What Kind of Clouds are Available?

There are four cloud deployment patterns:

  • Private Cloud
    Cloud infrastructure provisioned for exclusive use by a single company comprising of multiple consumers. An example is the SAS Cloud Analytics, which is maintained by SAS Institute but hosts SAS environments for multiple entities.
  • Community Cloud
    Cloud infrastructure shared between several entities from a specific community with common concerns (security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.). This cloud is controlled and used by entities that have a shared interest but do not compete with one another.
  • Public Cloud
    Cloud infrastructure provisioned for open use by the general public. It exists on the cloud provider premises. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) or Microsoft Windows Azure Services Platform are examples of this service.
  • Hybrid Cloud
    Cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public). These unique entities are separate but are bound together by standardized technology, which makes the data and application portable. This cloud may be maintained by internal and external providers. An example is connecting a private cloud to a public cloud like Amazon EC2.

What are the Advantages and Limitations of a Cloud?

The most obvious advantage to cloud computing is that you only pay for what you need when you want it. Since you are renting the space on someone else’s server and you can pay only when the server is active. 

If you need more space you just request it. The cloud vendors offer many options base on the server size required and usage period. 

The limitation of the cloud environments is how you move your data to the environment. You still must maintain the software and database support and security.

Some users are getting around this requirement by using the private cloud from SAS Institute. SAS Cloud provides platform support along with hosting the environment.

Who is the Best Provider?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the largest vendor in this space. As more vendors have entered the market the prices have continued to become more attractive. 

Other vendors most often noted are Google, Microsoft Azure, and Rackspace.

When selecting a vendor, you should consider the services offered to support future growth, the pricing model, and the support model. If your services are essential then consider what kind of service level agreement the vendor supports. This vendor is becoming a part of your company so a good fit may be essential to your business operations.

You should also consider that the market is becoming more competitive and some of the smaller vendors may not survive. Be mindful of the vendor’s financial health and ability to support long-term goals and planning.

Should I Deploy to the Cloud?

The cloud environments are a good choice for short term usage. If you are trying the tool or you need additional IT support, then this deployment model is a good choice.

In April 2016, we polled several of the major vendors to price the minimum requirements for a simple SAS VA system.  The average price was $500 a month. [In April 2019, the cost was reduced.] 

When you are doing a proof of concept that is a cost so low you can pay with a credit card. For a long term solution, it may be easier to pay as you go for the IT services.


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