SAS launches a free version – but, is it good enough?

Kunal Jain 16 Apr, 2015 • 4 min read

I have spent the entire 7 years of my corporate work experience working on SAS. So, when I heard that SAS launched a free version (late May) – I was all excited! My initial reaction was that if SAS becomes available for free, it would become the preferred choice of analysis tool for people entering the industry.

It is easier to learn (compared to R), has the highest market share (in terms of number of jobs) with awesome customer support (read more details here). Usually, high cost is the biggest hindrance to its wide usage among freelancers, consultants, trainers and data scientists. If SAS offers a version for free – it would be like having the best of both worlds. Did it actually turn out to be so? Well, we will figure out in a few minutes!


The free offering – SAS Analytics U (or SAS University edition)

Let us look at what SAS has to offer in its free version and then try and understand what they were aiming to achieve. The free offering, which is called SAS Analytics U, is free for download for teaching, learning and research.

This is what SAS says on its overview page:

Our new software for teaching, learning and research in higher education is now available to download for free. You’ll gain access to the latest SAS software and programming environments for data analysis and reporting.

Sounds good! However, I am not sure what classifies as learning and research here. I participate in Kaggle competitions for the learning – so can I use it there? I am not sure. I think it is better to check. You can download the software here.


Components of SAS Analytics U:

I thought, I’ll download it anyway and use the software for teaching it to a few people, I used to coach. I was in for the next surprise as soon as I got into details. These are the components which are available for download in SAS Analytics U:

  • Base SAS
  • SAS / STAT
  • SAS / IML
  • SAS / ACCESS Interface to PC Files
  • SAS Studio

My eyes stayed wide open when I saw this list for the first time. There is no SAS / GRAPH in this package! How do you complete an analysis without the use of PROC GCHART? Who uses SAS without accessing SAS / GRAPH? This looked like a serious limitation to me initially. Thankfully, SAS has included ODS graphics into the package. So, you need to use PROC SGCHART instead of PROC GCHART. The output of SGPLOT looked better compared to GPLOT and SAS has provided easy GUI access in SAS Studio, so that even a beginner can learn SGPLOT.

There are a few more components which SAS could have added, e.g. SAS / ETS, SAS / OR or SAS / QC. SAS Enterprise Guide, Enterprise Miner or Visual Analytics would have been icing on the cake – but for now, we will have to live with what SAS has provided! I am told there is more coming in July. Till then my decision trees have to wait!



You need to set up a virtual environment (through Oracle Virtualbox or VMware Player), both of which are free to download for non-commercial uses. So, I went ahead and did so. Virtualbox seemed to slow down even my top end monster – Quad core i7, 16 GB RAM and did not work for some reason. On the other hand, VMware ran fine and was up as soon as I finished downloading 1.5+ GB of installation.

I loved to see the SAS graphic back on my screen. You run SAS Studio through your browser. The interface is neat and should be familiar to anyone who has used base SAS in the past.

I tried installing the same on Ubuntu 12.04, but the SAS Studio failed to load – something to research at a later point.



SAS has put on limitations to how much memory / processing power you can use. You can only use a maximum of 1 or 2 GB RAM with 2 processors. So, clearly, SAS is not offering Analytics U for advanced learning. This was the second deal breaker for me (first one being the missing components)



One new initiative worth mentioning is the community SAS is trying to create with Analytics U. It has Facebook, Linkedin and YouTube channels. However, the community is very small right now and lacks the quality of discussions you might see on the R or Python in their communities. Let us see how it grows and whether it converts into a meaningful community in future.


Overall Verdict:

It is heartening to see SAS reacting to open source softwares and their rise in recent years. It has definitely made a good attempt in pushing out first product. However, the current product is aimed towards new learners. I think they have put too many limitations to appeal to serious learners.

Having said that, it is not too far from a product which can provide a SAS career path for people entering the industry. If they can add the (few) key missing components, it can become a stepping stone for the future analysts / data scientists. Till that time, R and Python continue to reign this place. I am not moving away from any of them in near future.

It would be interesting to see what SAS comes out with in a few days. I am following this space closely.

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Kunal Jain 16 Apr 2015

Kunal is a post graduate from IIT Bombay in Aerospace Engineering. He has spent more than 10 years in field of Data Science. His work experience ranges from mature markets like UK to a developing market like India. During this period he has lead teams of various sizes and has worked on various tools like SAS, SPSS, Qlikview, R, Python and Matlab.

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Responses From Readers


Kumar Chinnakali
Kumar Chinnakali 16 Jun, 2014

Dear Kunal, Thanks for sharing this information. It help us(beginners) to explore the analytics in additional tools along with R. Once again AV is doing awesome. Hats off. Regards, Kumar Chinnakali

pradeep 16 Jun, 2014

Dear Kunal, Thank you for sharing. Installation seems to be little tricky. Regards, S.S.Pradeep

saurabh 16 Jun, 2014

Hi Kunal, It would be great if you can share the installation steps as well in a separate article. -Saurabh Kapoor

Abhinav Jain
Abhinav Jain 16 Jun, 2014

Thanks Kunal for sharing this useful piece of information.

Anders Skollermo
Anders Skollermo 16 Jun, 2014

VERY good review! Many thanks! Please note that Graphics is included in many STAT procedures. Earlier you used a STAT procedure AND after that a geneal GRAPH procedure. Now there are several examples of STAT and GRAPHICS "joined together" - it actuall is quite good, for e.g. Kaplan Meyer analysis.

Erin Robbins, SAS Analytics U Marketing Specialist
Erin Robbins, SAS Analytics U Marketing Specialist 17 Jun, 2014

Hi Kunal, thanks for your feedback on SAS Analytics U and the free SAS University Edition software that is part of this initiative. The SAS Analytics U initiative was built on SAS community feedback, and we would be happy to discuss with you further and answer any questions you may have at [email protected]. Definitely stay tuned in the coming months as we continue to grow this program and expand our offerings!

Richard Self
Richard Self 17 Jun, 2014

Actually, I found the installation very easy, once I had figured out the quirks in Oracle VirtualBox. Importing the SAS AnalyticsU VM was incredibly easy and it was up and running very quickly, just follow the installation instructions that are provided with the SAS installation.. The most important item for me was to not to install the Python extension in VirtualBox, it killed VirtualBox completely. On my other PC, I had to get into the Bios to allow virtualisation. Otherwise this is an excellent tool for my students to learn most aspects of SAS and to get them enthused with making sense of data very quickly, especially if you use the UCLA SAS tutorials. The toolkits that are built in to SAS AnalyticsU, together with a wide range of data, are also excellent for learning SAS. It provides all the tools necessary to pass the Base SAS certification tests. You will find that the interface and SAS Studio can, in some ways, replicate aspects of Enterprise Guide, although this will require a bit of a mindset change. All in all I think that this is an excellent offering at just the right time to help address the huge Analytics skills gap. By the way, you really would not want to use SAS Visual Analytics in a virtual machine on a PC. It needs a huge 258GB Ram server according to the technical specs!

Pradeepta Mishra
Pradeepta Mishra 18 Jun, 2014

Hi Kunal, Thanks for sharing this information. I have gone through the documentation part, i have couple of questions, apart from the limitations you have rightly mentinoed, 1) Is there any data security issue, since we are accesing the sas studio server, can i assume that my data is not going out of my computer. 2) What is the maximum data i can process through SAS U. if it is targeted at the university usage and not for small commercial entities, then surely it is going to be another blunder by SAS to take on the open source giants. why would some researcher move from R and Python to SAS U ?

Richard Self
Richard Self 18 Jun, 2014

One further point that needs to be made. SAS AnalyticsU is designed for University use (the clue is in the name) and for the stater levels of Analytic. I do not believe that it is currently intended as a heavy-weight research tool for university researchers. Departments in universities doing solid large-scale analytics will inevitable have the educational licenses for the standard products. Hence we are probably debating issues which are not actually going to affect the real world. It is one of the first new products to solve one of the problems that Dr Jim Goodnight promised at SAS Global Forum 2014 was a key focus for SAS this year, which is to make their products easier to install. I suspect that it is also an initial showcase of the future direction of SAS towards browser based interfaces with a much more GUI based approach to delivering the power of SAS to analytics users, which is clearly a great idea. SAS AnalyticsU is much easier to instal than SAS for Windows, takes just a few minutes rather than more than half an hour and, subject to some of the vagaries of installing the Oracle VirtualBox, is extremely simple. It also removes the necessity of managing and annually updating licenses on students' PCs. Yes, I know it is currently slightly limited in some of the more "statistical" products but as I am using SAS as a tool to develop analytics skills rather than for teaching statistics, that is not a problem and in any case, we will have the full set of products on the Lab PCs for the students to use.

Ralph Winters
Ralph Winters 20 Jun, 2014

You can configure the tool to use a larger amount of memory:

Ravi Kamani
Ravi Kamani 25 Jun, 2014

Hi KUnal, Thanks for sharing this, I will download it start learning SAS as i am new to it.

Ravi Kamani
Ravi Kamani 27 Jun, 2014

Hi All, I am planning for SAS Certified Statistical Business Analyst certification. Where can i get the study material, has anybody done this from here? I know my posting deviating from the discussion above. Your comments will be highly appreciated.

west exchange
west exchange 03 Aug, 2014

Hi when I try to download free SAS University I get the following message: Oops! Your profile does not have permission to complete this download. I have a basic yahoo email address. How do I download the software?

Prashant 17 Aug, 2014

The SAS University Edition is quite slow to launch in the absence of Internet .Also after the recent Update to the University Edition the software no longer works with the Oracle VM Virtual box in the absence of Internet .It gives an error that Port 8561 is unavailable.Due to this I switched to the VM player version of the software.This works in the absence of Internet but is slow.

David Corliss
David Corliss 17 Aug, 2014

While SAS / ETS has not been included, much of the basic functionality for time series analysis is available in base SAS. Do a search and you will find papers with source code in base SAS for forecasting, ARIMA models, leading and lagging indicators and even some newer, more advanced topics such as wavelet analysis and clustering methods for time series data. Yes - more tools, more functionality and more power are available with ETS, which is not included in SAS University edition. However, University Edition has a lot of power for time series analysis, especially for the beginner and student for which it is intended.

kriss 03 Sep, 2014

Hi, I have a problem with Sas U. When I trying to go to localhost:10080 in Chrome or IE or Opera - there is still the same empty website 'Website is not available'. Vbox working properly, there is black console window visible. What shall I do? Thx. Btw. Do You know good software for Biostatistics (trial pharmacy and epidemiology)? It would be great if it will have similar or better parameters as SAS. I am not a kind of programmer guy so R and Python does not work for me ;b Thx.

vasanth 22 Sep, 2014

Hi Kunal, I have issues with installing VMware with the SAS University edition. When I try to connect the SAS U through the VMware , I am getting a truncated URl... Regards Vasanth

kayode 19 Dec, 2014

please house I need your help on where to be able download sas university edition because sas has block where they said I should download please this is an urgent matter thanks

Gitika 05 Jan, 2015

Thanks for very valuable information! Can one use SAS sql in the free university edition?

Suvrojit Roy
Suvrojit Roy 22 Feb, 2015

Hi Kunal, Thank you very much for this insightful post. I am new to SAS and Analytics and a little confused about the various terminologies I came in touch with. I hope you can help. I would like to acquire the BASE SAS certification to start with. I could not use the University edition since my Laptop did not allow virtualization. So I'm reduced to using SAS on Demand via my web browser. What I understand is it utilizes SAS Studio. Does it implement SAS 9 versions since I believe the BASE SAS certification would require practise of SAS 9. Is SAS 9 available through SAS Studio as well? Or do I need the SAS Enterprise Guide or SAS for Windowing environment to practise SAS9.

Juan Jose Espinosa
Juan Jose Espinosa 02 Sep, 2015

Hi Kunal, I work as a SAS freelance consultant. I have a new client that has asked me for SAS training. My cliente doesn't have SAS licenses yet. My question is: Do you know if I can use SAS onDemanad for this training. Obviosuly I will get paid for the training is a commercial course. Thanks

Kandarp 24 Oct, 2015

Hello Kunal, Can you suggest the best available book to learn SAS programming? And, does any book is better to have for developing analytical skills or the practice itself enough?

shashank 02 Jul, 2016

Many companies ask for SAS competency. Can we practise on SAS-University and claim that we know it? How much different is SAS-University edition with Licence/ paid version ?

charmi 21 Jul, 2016

SAS university edition dosent have proc autoreg in it. Please let me know how can I use proc autoreg? Thanks Charmi Dholakia 8097055678


Please share me University SAS for 64 bit window 10

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