While many people discuss business intelligence vendor start-ups and mergers, SAS remains the largest privately held vendor in the business intelligence market. SAS has been a leader in data analytics for decades. The latest Gartner's Magic Quadrant and Forrester's Wave both favorably review what SAS has to offer.

So what does SAS offer and why does SAS lead in data analytics? I believe SAS's advantage is a mix of flexibility, scalability, power and community.

SAS runs on most platforms you have in your enterprise. SAS runs on Windows desktops, Unix servers and IBM mainframes. SAS even has a product called JMP that runs on Macintosh machines. Since I do little data analytics on the Mac OS, I will focus on Windows, Unix and mainframe SAS tools.

Except for platform variations in connections strings, SAS code written on one platform executes cleanly in the same SAS version on other platforms. For example, you can prototype SAS code on your licensed local Windows desktop then execute that SAS code on a licensed Unix server or mainframe with only minor modifications. Those minor modifications involve reads and writes from and to the host system. The SAS commands remain the same. SAS's PROC SORT uses the exact same syntax to perform the exact same task whether the SAS code is executed on your Windows laptop, Unix server or IBM mainframe.

Beyond the cross-platform flexibility, SAS has done a strong job of version compatibility. If I still had the data, that PROC PRINT I wrote long ago using SAS 5.12 would still perform the same task on SAS 9.3. New features have certainly been added to SAS 9.3, but the old SAS code still functions in the newer versions. That sort of building block approach differs from another business intelligence vendor who seems to require brand new code syntax every product version or two.

SAS delivers its tools in an a-la-carte fashion. Base SAS is the centerpiece of the SAS tools. You can read, load, analyze, report and present data with Base SAS alone. From there, you can add on exactly what you need. SAS/GRAPH adds data visualization capabilities. SAS/STAT enables traditional statistical and predictive analytics. SAS/GIS supports geospatial data usage. SAS/AF allows developers to create GUI forms which enable end-users to point-and-click objects to execute custom SAS code.

The list of available SAS modules goes on and on. SAS even tailors its product offerings for specific industries such as utilities, financial services, health insurance and casinos. Remember, SAS has been building on their successful blocks for decades with most products executing across platforms.

With Base SAS alone, you can read data from many sources and transform those data based on your business rules. From there, you can calculate means, modes, medians, standard deviations and other metrics from those data. You can print tables and plot charts of those data. And those capabilities are in Base SAS alone.

Add the additional SAS modes to your arsenal and you can read, transform, analyze, predict and present data in impressive fashions.

The SAS user community has embraced and contributed to SAS products for decades. Next year, SAS Global Forum meets for its 7th year. Prior to SAS Global Forum, SAS users met at annual SAS User Group International (SUGI) events. That means SAS is approaching 40 years of user group involvement. That's a lot of international user support.

That sort of international involvement depends on local support. If you are in Virginia, I suggest you check the VA SAS Users Group. If you are not in Virginia, I encourage you to find SAS user groups available in your area.

SAS has delivered dependable data analytics products for decades. SAS users typically remain committed SAS users. SAS products continue to lead the analysis of many industries.

The power of SAS remains strong.