SAS marks 30 years with data integration record

SAS showed off speedy business intelligence software, toasted another year of growth and explained why it has no plans to go public

Claiming to "outperform any other vendor's tools by more than 250 percent", SAS said on Wednesday that it had set a new record for integrating data in a business intelligence system.

The process involved extracting, transforming and loading as much data as possible in an hour, a procedure known as ETL. Using a Sun Fire E25K server running UltraSPARC IV+ dual-core processors under Solaris, a StorEdge file-sharing system and its SAS Enterprise Data Integration Server, SAS said it has processed 3.9 terabytes in one hour, which represented raw performance of 81.2GB per hour per CPU.

The demonstration of raw processing power was part of a series of announcements from SAS at its annual European showcase, the SAS Forum International in Geneva, where the company was showcasing its latest software and services, and putting a major emphasis on performance.

"Organisations are struggling with ever-increasing amounts of data that cannot be extracted and loaded using the ETL technologies that have served them well in the past," said Allan Russell, senior vice-president of strategy for SAS . "If companies are considering addressing poor performance through hardware upgrades, this benchmark clearly shows that SAS has a lot to offer in keeping investment costs to the minimum."

Landmarks as well as benchmarks were celebrated at the SAS Forum, as company founder and chief executive Jim Goodnight pointed out that it was 25 years since the company set up its UK branch, its first subsidiary outside of the US. Goodnight also said he was surprised by a presentation that marked the fact that he founded the company 30 years ago.

In all that time, Goodnight has kept a tight hold on SAS and refused to turn it into a public company. But SAS remains very successful. "Last year was our 29th consecutive year of growth and profit," said Goodnight. "And we continue to put the money back into the company — 24 percent of our top-line revenue is re-invested."

Goodnight stressed the benefits of remaining a private company. He delighted delegates and staff at the Forum by talking them through the personal view he gets each day from the company "dashboard". One after another, Goodnight detailed all the intimate facts on the company that usually only chief executives get to see — including daily turnover, orders, profit, other costs, staffing number and turnover.

Such a move would be madness for the chief executive of a public company, but it appeared perfectly acceptable, if slightly unusual, behaviour for the boss of a privately held firm. This was also the only reference Goodnight made during his presentation to the question he says he is tired of being asked, namely "When are you going public?"