SAS versus R

SAS versus R

R has some very good extensions for larger data sets. The fact that R is a programming language gives you a lot more freedom in analytics when using R, but for data management I do want to use a more database-like tool, which SAS certainly is.
As a long time/advanced SAS user who is in the process of transitioning into being more R oriented the thing I miss most are my beloved Macros. I’m hoping I can use R functions the same way I used SAS Macros…fingers crossed.
I have avoided SAS except where professionally necessary. I find the macro oriented language extremely unpleasant and the generally prepackaged nature is also contrary to my needs. I don’t normally comment on that publicly since I figure different folks would like different strokes (posted by a software architect at MapR).
We can endlessly argue about when exactly R catches up with SAS (in 1 year or 3 years), but this won’t have much benefit for this discussion. Potential SAS or R users are more interested in trends, I believe.
Even if R was used by more people than SAS it would not mean that R is better than SAS. I believe more people drive Suzuki than Mercedes, but that does not mean that Suzuki is better then Mercedes.
The reason I think the R job growth trend will continue is: it’s free, it’s easy to use in conjunction with SAS and many other tools, and it’s growth in capability is very high. R is now adding more functions in one year than SAS has in total.
I work in analytics every day and own a small consulting firm. I do not observe the same increase in R requirements being stated here. In fact, I see an increase in demand for SAS and services for SAS. I also see Python and other products infringing on R’s territory.
I attended (and spoke at) the American Statistical Association’s Conference on Statistical Practice last week. I must say I was surprised to find the degree to which SAS dominated that particular group. R was there, of course – prominently. Yet, SAS appeared to be the tool of choice for this group.
What if SAS is cheaper in future, or even free, would people change their mind and switch from R? Probably, an interesting assumption it is when debating SAS vs. R, purely from functionality perspective.
I’ve just posted some findings on jobs in analytics, including SAS and R. Based just on job trends, R should catch SAS in between 1.87 and 3.35 years