SAS Visual Analytics: Is it different from Enterprise Guide?

Those considering moving to SAS Visual Analytics often quiz me about how it is different from SAS Enterprise Guide. While SAS Enterprise Guide can duplicate some SAS Visual Analytics functionality – it’s not the same. This post I’m going to explore the principal purpose of each tool to help explain how they are alike and different.

What is SAS Enterprise Guide?

SAS Enterprise Guide (EG) is a development environment for the SAS language. You can create/import/access data, prepare/transform/massage the data, and analyze/view/output the data as a data set/visualization/report. OK, worse sentence ever constructed but I’m trying to cover all the verbs for SAS EG. In your SAS toolkit – it is a powerful ally. Here’s an idea of how the SAS EG work environment looks from an older post I did on importing spreadsheets.


SAS EG is similar to BASE SAS (aka Display Manager/SAS Foundation) in that you can write SAS programs. SAS EG allows non-programmers to create process flows that have their good and bad points, connect to UNIX environments, or just write code for a batch process, a stored process, an OLAP cube, or an information map. [Roger Muller has reasons you should switch from BASE SAS to SAS EG.]

SAS EG is installed on your computer and you can connect to a SAS server to access data and run programs. You can also run SAS EG locally depending on how it is setup in your environment. BASE SAS is a straight programming environment. It’s interface is similar to the new web-based SAS Studio. Some confuse SAS DI Studio and SAS EG but Michelle Homes noted that a key different was how the metadata was integrated more with SAS DI Studio.

Here’s a screenshot of how you program in SAS Studio so you can compare how the tools look. In this figure I’m writing a program but you can see the tasks available to the side. It’s very similar to SAS EG in that respect.


What is SAS Visual Analytics?

SAS Visual Analytics (VA) is web-based environment that supports several applications. It allows you to create beautiful, interactive dashboards or reports that are immediately available on the web or a mobile device. The tool has a Data Explorer that makes it easy for the novice analyst to create forecasts, decision trees, or other fancy statistical methods.

SAS Visual Analytics Overview

SAS VA comes in two flavors: non-distributed and distributed. The non-distributed version runs on a single server for smaller companies. The distributed version can be installed on 3 or more servers to supports big data.  As a matter of fact – your data can keep getting bigger and all you have to do is add more servers to support your data. It has the built-in web – so anything you save is immediately available to others – even on a tablet.

SAS Visual Analytics Overview Process
Click for larger image

SAS VA is not intended to create data or write programs. Instead it allows you to connect to a data source and import the data to the LASR server for use with the Designer and Explorer. It’s easy for even a reporting novice to create beautiful geo-spatial objects that can be animated or just a simple dashboards. Many customers have reported using the interactive reporting in place of PowerPoint during meetings because questions can be answered immediately based on data loaded in a batch process (shown below).

sas visual analytics replaces powerpoint for small business

What are the Key Differences in the Tools?

I see a natural relationship with SAS EG and SAS VA – you create and prepare data with SAS EG and then explore and display it with SAS VA. Yes you can use the SAS EG tasks to create charts and analysis but SAS VA makes the task easier and certainly more beautiful. With SAS VA – since it’s web-based all of my reports and analysis explorations are available immediately and with the interactions.  This means I can click to filter objects and see changes instantly – this is not possible with SAS EG.

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