SAS company profile: Its tech, strategy and partnerships

Summary:Will SAS' star continue to shine in the increasingly crowded BI space?

Will SAS' star continue to shine in the increasingly crowded BI space?

With five billion gigabytes of information generated worldwide every day there has never been more need of ways to help make sense of this gigantic data deluge.

That's where software company SAS comes in - aiming to allow businesses to analyse data and glean insights such as how to outperform competitors or better serve customers.

Not that SAS is some upstart hoping to exploit the modern information explosion - the company has been around since 1976 and has seen its revenues rise every year since its creation. In 2009 SAS' annual turnover reached $2.31bn, generated by a global customer base that includes 93 of the top 100 companies on the 2009 Fortune Global 500.

SAS is unusual among major software companies in that it has never been floated on the stock market, and today is the world's largest privately owned software company.

The lack of investors pulling the strings behind the scenes has allowed the singular vision of its CEO and co-founder Dr Jim Goodnight to come to the fore.

SAS headquarters in Cary, North Carolina

SAS headquarters in Cary, North Carolina
(Photo credit: Jo Best/

Goodnight, with his doctorate in statistics, has driven SAS' heavy R&D spend, which swallows up more than 20 per cent of its revenue each year.

Outside of the lab, another hallmark of SAS is the focus it has on investing in its staff, offering facilities to rival any Silicon Valley HQ at its campus in North Carolina. As a result, SAS topped the 2010 list of the 100 best companies to work for compiled by Fortune magazine, its 13th successive appearance on the list.

Yet the road ahead for SAS is not clear of threats: the shadow of IBM looms large, as it attempts to muscle in on SAS' business analytics turf with its purchase of SAS' main competitor SPSS.

At the same time, Base SAS, the programming language for SAS tools that for decades has been the language of choice for carrying out statistical analysis is being challenged by an open-source alternative known simply as R.

Interesting times then - a period of growing opportunity but also of new challenges to SAS' statistical analysis crown.

Back to the beginning - how a private empire was built

The company was born out of a programme to analyse data collected by the US Department of Agriculture at the University of North Carolina.

At the time of its founding in 1976...

Topics: Developer


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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