Discussion thread on R vs SAS for businesses

September 2, 2011
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(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

There's an interesting discussion thread on LinkedIn going on now on the relative benefits of R versus SAS in the commercial sector. Oleg Okun kicks off the discussion with this question:

Did anyone have to justify to a prospect/customer why R is better than SAS? What arguments did you provide? Did your prospect/customer agree with them? Why do you think, despite being free and having a lot of packages, R is still not a favorite in Data Mining/Predictive Analytics in the corporate world?

What follows is an in-depth discussion (more than 130 comments so far) comparing the two statistical software systems. Steve Miller condenses the discussion in a great post at the Information Management blog. Themes covered include: the benefits and purported risks of using open-source software vs commercial software; dealing with large data sets (one R user notes: "I've used a very fast (~16Tb RAM) computer to run simulations on hundreds of billions of observations"); availability of skills for new hires ("Many of our customers have the problem of needing to spend the time and money to train new hires in SAS because their new hires have only used R"); availibility of support for R (Revolution Analytics provides support for R); and many other topics. One sub-thread focused on quality in open-source software, for which Steve had an excellent riposte:

There's little argument that the vast international R community provides access to the latest statistical models and procedures before they're available in proprietary SAS. But SAS proponents counter that R users assume  more risk with software quality than do those of SAS. In fact, an oft-quoted comment from a SAS executive on the "benefits" of  R goes something like “I think it addresses a niche market for high-end data analysts that want free, readily available code. We have customers who build engines for aircraft. I am happy they are not using freeware when I get on a jet.” My take after 8 years of heavy R usage is that I've never worked with a more stable, bug-free piece of software.

Check out the full thread and contribute to the discussion on LinkedIn.

Information Management: LinkedIn Advanced Business Analytics – SAS Vs. R

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