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Programming with the SQL Procedure

Using PROC SQL Options to Create and Debug Queries

PROC SQL supports options that can give you greater control over PROC SQL while you are developing a query:

You can set an option initially in the PROC SQL statement, and then use the RESET statement to change the same option's setting without ending the current PROC SQL step.

Restricting Row Processing with the INOBS= and OUTOBS= Options

When you are developing queries against large tables, you can reduce the time that it takes for the queries to run by reducing the number of rows that PROC SQL processes. Subsetting the tables with WHERE statements is one way to do this. Using the INOBS= and the OUTOBS= options are other ways.

The INOBS= option restricts the number of rows that PROC SQL takes as input from any single source. For example, if you specify INOBS=10, then PROC SQL uses only 10 rows from any table or view that is specified in a FROM clause. If you specify INOBS=10 and join two tables without using a WHERE clause, then the resulting table (Cartesian product) contains a maximum of 100 rows. The INOBS= option is similar to the SAS system option OBS=.

The OUTOBS= option restricts the number of rows that PROC SQL displays or writes to a table. For example, if you specify OUTOBS=10 and insert values into a table by using a query, then PROC SQL inserts a maximum of 10 rows into the resulting table. OUTOBS= is similar to the SAS data set option OBS=.

In a simple query, there might be no apparent difference between using INOBS or OUTOBS. However, at other times it is important to choose the correct option. For example, taking the average of a column with INOBS=10 returns an average of only 10 values from that column.

Limiting Iterations with the LOOPS= Option

The LOOPS= option restricts PROC SQL to the number of iterations that are specified in this option through its inner loop. By setting a limit, you can prevent queries from consuming excessive computer resources. For example, joining three large tables without meeting the join-matching conditions could create a huge internal table that would be inefficient to process. Use the LOOPS= option to prevent this from happening.

You can use the number of iterations that are reported in the SQLOOPS macro variable (after each PROC SQL statement is executed) to gauge an appropriate value for the LOOPS= option. For more information, see Using the PROC SQL Automatic Macro Variables.

If you use the PROMPT option with the INOBS=, OUTOBS=, or LOOPS= options, you are prompted to stop or continue processing when the limits set by these options are reached.

Checking Syntax with the NOEXEC Option and the VALIDATE Statement

To check the syntax of a PROC SQL step without actually executing it, use the NOEXEC option or the VALIDATE statement. The NOEXEC option can be used once in the PROC SQL statement, and the syntax of all queries in that PROC SQL step will be checked for accuracy without executing them. The VALIDATE statement must be specified before each SELECT statement in order for that statement to be checked for accuracy without executing. If the syntax is valid, then a message is written to the SAS log to that effect; if the syntax is invalid, then an error message is displayed. The automatic macro variable SQLRC contains an error code that indicates the validity of the syntax. For an example of the VALIDATE statement used in PROC SQL, see Validating a Query. For an example of using the VALIDATE statement in a SAS/AF application, see Using the PROC SQL Automatic Macro Variables.

Note:   There is an interaction between the PROC SQL EXEC and ERRORSTOP options when SAS is running in a batch or noninteractive session. For more information, see the section about PROC SQL in the Base SAS Procedures Guide.  [cautionend]

Expanding SELECT * with the FEEDBACK Option

The FEEDBACK option expands a SELECT * (ALL) statement into the list of columns that the statement represents. Any PROC SQL view is expanded into the underlying query, and all expressions are enclosed in parentheses to indicate their order of evaluation. The FEEDBACK option also displays the resolved values of macros and macro variables.

For example, the following query is expanded in the SAS log:

proc sql feedback;
   select * from sql.countries;

Expanded SELECT * Statement

NOTE: Statement transforms to:

        select COUNTRIES.Name, COUNTRIES.Capital, COUNTRIES.Population, 
          from SQL.COUNTRIES;

Timing PROC SQL with the STIMER Option

Certain operations can be accomplished in more than one way. For example, there is often a join equivalent to a subquery. Consider factors such as readability and maintenance, but generally you will choose the query that runs fastest. The SAS system option STIMER shows you the cumulative time for an entire procedure. The PROC SQL STIMER option shows you how fast the individual statements in a PROC SQL step are running. This enables you to optimize your query.

Note:   For the PROC SQL STIMER option to work, the SAS system option STIMER must also be specified.  [cautionend]

This example compares the execution times of two queries. Both queries list the names and populations of states in the UNITEDSTATES table that have a larger population than Belgium. The first query does this with a join; the second with a subquery. Comparing Run Times of Two Queries shows the STIMER results from the SAS log.

proc sql stimer ;
   select, us.population
      from sql.unitedstates as us, sql.countries as w
      where us.population gt w.population and
   = 'Belgium';
   select Name, population 
      from sql.unitedstates 
      where population gt
                  (select population from sql.countries
                      where name = 'Belgium');

Comparing Run Times of Two Queries

4  proc sql stimer ;
NOTE: SQL Statement used:
      real time           0.00 seconds
      cpu time            0.01 seconds
5     select, us.population
6        from sql.unitedstates as us, sql.countries as w
7        where us.population gt w.population and
8     = 'Belgium';
NOTE: The execution of this query involves performing one or more Cartesian 
      product joins that can not be optimized.
NOTE: SQL Statement used:
      real time           0.10 seconds
      cpu time            0.05 seconds
10     select Name, population
11        from sql.unitedstates
12        where population gt
13                (select population from sql.countries
14                    where name = 'Belgium');
NOTE: SQL Statement used:
      real time           0.09 seconds
      cpu time            0.09 seconds

Compare the CPU time of the first query (that uses a join), 0.05 seconds, with 0.09 seconds for the second query (that uses a subquery). Although there are many factors that influence the run times of queries, generally a join runs faster than an equivalent subquery.

Resetting PROC SQL Options with the RESET Statement

Use the RESET statement to add, drop, or change the options in the PROC SQL statement. You can list the options in any order in the PROC SQL and RESET statements. Options stay in effect until they are reset.

This example first uses the NOPRINT option to prevent the SELECT statement from displaying its result table in SAS output. The RESET statement then changes the NOPRINT option to PRINT (the default) and adds the NUMBER option, which displays the row number in the result table.

proc sql noprint;
   title 'Countries with Population Under 20,000';
   select Name, Population from sql.countries;
reset print number;
   select Name, Population from sql.countries 
      where population lt 20000;

Resetting PROC SQL Options with the RESET Statement

                     Countries with Population Under 20,000

               Row  Name                                 Population
                 1  Leeward Islands                           12119
                 2  Nauru                                     10099
                 3  Turks and Caicos Islands                  12119
                 4  Tuvalu                                    10099
                 5  Vatican City                               1010

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