Tuesday, November 18, 2008

SAS and Microsoft: Different Worlds

Well, first of all, sorry I haven't written recently. My time has been taken up by some great SAS work but it is under wraps for the time being.

I was chatting with a SAS buddy of mine recently and I started to comment on the differences between the SAS and Microsoft development communities. I like them both but they each have the pros and cons.

The Microsoft community travels fast, I mean lightening fast. There are constant updates, massive 3rd party support, great forums, blogs, etc. from the Microsoft developers to always keep people updated. Best of all, the constant changes means that it is always exciting and new. Like getting several Christmas's a year. Cool new technologies like Silverlight (WOW!!), C# 4.0, Office 2007, Windows 7, LINQ, etc. On the 3rd party front, I have dozens of graphing toolsets I can use. Dozens of databases, etc.

That is also their con which is that you always have to be learning and never catch up. It also leads to a lot more uncertainty with how things work which can be a detriment when building enterprise systems.

The SAS community is much slower to change. Part of this is due to the Institute which doesn't release software very often and keeps the software fairly static.
I like that I can count on Base SAS to work each and every time. It is still the best way of manipulating data that I know of. Also, the user community (SAS-L, mainly) is a club with the same players each year. I like the steadiness of the SAS community and the software. When I go to a SAS conference, I know people. The Microsoft conferences tend to be a madhouse and you have to arrange to meet people you might know.

The con with SAS is that steadiness. The lack of change means that people still use older technologies such as DDE and do not explore further. So often, I see the same way of doing things being recommended rather than people stepping back and asking if there is a better way. The insularity of the community tends to hold back innovation, IMO. SAS does not have a 3rd party ecosystem so you don't have other companies being encouraged to develop new ways of using SAS.

At the end of the day, though, I like SAS and Microsoft. Each has strengths and weaknesses.

Lastly, I would encourage SAS developers to find dual interests simply to see alternate ways of doing things. Not everyone needs to embrace Microsoft but I see a great positive in adopting multiple technologies simply to change the view of the world.

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