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The Life Science and SAS Grid Collaboration:  Past, Present, and Future

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Way back in our June 2014 blog, What is a SAS Grid?, we reviewed a brand new technology from SAS called the SAS Grid. If we fast-forward to today, SAS Grids are now a common technology utilized by many SAS customers, including numerous Pharmaceutical companies.

Why are SAS grids so popular today?
PC SAS Maintenance
Many companies find it a logistical nightmare to have SAS for Windows (unofficially known as PC SAS) installed on all the computers throughout their enterprises.

Struggles may arise for a couple of reasons:
• A new SAS license must be obtained annually and installed on every PC SAS device within their
  organization.
• Hot fixes and maintenance releases must be rolled out to users throughout each company.
• New users must have PC SAS installed on their computers.

These issues prove to be logistical and maintenance hassles that cost the IT staff time and effort. Using SAS on employees’ computers leads to the unintentional creation of local copies of data, which proves problematic, especially with sensitive data. Local copying leads to data duplication, data modified for only one person, and possible data loss if a laptop goes missing. Many organizations can no longer tolerate the risk and liability caused by this practice.

Centralized computing architecture
Using a SAS Grid lets organizations install, maintain, and administer SAS in a central location across the servers making up the SAS Grid. Whether applying new licenses, hot fixes, or performing maintenance, administrators can now complete the work in one central location. All the SAS administration can now be performed in the company’s SAS Grid installation. Users are added to the SAS Grid environment in a matter of minutes and new data sources are readily available to the SAS Grid, so other administrative functions become easier to accomplish.

Shared File System
A SAS Grid requires the use of a high-speed shared file system and consists of a set of SAS Grid nodes (i.e., servers configured to run SAS programs). When SAS programs are run in a SAS Grid, the Grid determines which server looks the least busy by means of the lowest CPU, paging, etc., then runs the SAS program on that server. Since the user’s SAS program runs on any server, the data must be available to all servers. The shared file system must be able to deliver data to all the SAS grid nodes, as SAS programs run concurrently.

Using a shared file system provides additional benefits, especially for Pharmaceutical, CRO, and other Life Sciences companies. The shared file system allows a structured hierarchy to be developed and used for organizing clinical trial information (data, programs, output, etc.), with tight security allowing access by authorized users only.

Future SAS grids for Pharma
A recent and expanding trend within Pharma’s SAS Grid environments is the ability to have the SAS Grid serve as a foundational component for a Statistical Computing Environment.
A Statistical Computing Environment (SCE) is an enterprise computing platform that provides:
• Availability to all users from enterprise servers
• Statistical computing
• Version control
• A Shared environment
• Secure access to study data (programs, data, output, etc.)
• 21 CFR Part 11 compliance
• Automation to support all phases of clinical trial analysis


As the global leader in clinical systems technology innovations, d-wise benchmarks the SCE of life science organizations, which include the above configured functionality and other advanced analytical customizations. Many of these advanced modernized SCE clinical Systems now include the ability to allow clinical developers to augment visualization tools and connect across multiple enterprise systems using R, Python, or other technologies. This allows for analyzing and reporting on clinical trial data, including data built with clients who have no SAS based code at all.

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