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MSSQL Server Reporting Services: A New Paradigm for Enterprise Reporting

January 28, 2004

About the Series ...

This is the first of several articles of a new series, MSSQL Server 2000 Reporting Services. The series is designed to introduce MSSQL Server 2000 Reporting Services ("Reporting Services"), with the objective of giving a preview of its features, as well as sharing my conviction in its role as a new paradigm in enterprise reporting. As I advise clients on a more and more frequent basis these days, this is the future in a big way. I hope you will consider my input valuable, and that you will investigate closely the savings and advanced functionality that will soon be available to anyone with an MSSQL Server 2000 (and beyond) license.

The screen shots that appear in this series were taken from a Windows 2003 Server upon which I have implemented Reporting Services Beta 2. The final release may differ in appearance, as well as in the details of operation and general functionality. Any Microsoft Office components that appear in the series are members of the Office 2003 suite.

Introduction

I became a beta-tester of Reporting Services early in its development, and rapidly concluded that this new MSSQL Server 2000 add-on would literally change the face of enterprise reporting, as we know it today. Not only does Reporting Services provide an integrated, end-to-end set of tools for creating, managing, and viewing / delivering reports, but it does so with a scalable engine that supports server-based hosting and processing of reports. This is enterprise reporting at its finest, with several impressive advantages over the current offerings in the enterprise business intelligence arena. Moreover, the potential savings that await the implementing organizations could rank right up there with those promised by the recent fads of outsourcing, among other "follow the leader" activities so prevalent in business today.

As a recovering Certified Public Accountant, who also holds credentials as a Certified Management Accountant and Certified Internal Auditor, I spent several years dealing with reporting systems from the perspective of an information consumer. I am now nearing ten years in experience as a data architect and implementer of business intelligence for many Fortune 500 organizations; I have, for most of that time, worked daily with large enterprise reporting applications such as Cognos, Business Objects, Crystal Enterprise and Crystal Analysis, MicroStrategy, and divers other applications / combinations of applications.

To me, the Reporting Services model paints a bright future for all roles in the reporting life cycle, not only because an organization gets the entire solution in one package, but because the solution is open and extensible, allowing report authors, managers, and users at every level to benefit from familiar tools and systems that are already in place. The solution is a part of the Microsoft BI framework, and is the latest entry to a powerful family of tools that includes a relational database (SQL Server), a powerful ETL tool (Data Transformation Services), an OLAP engine for cube production (Microsoft Analysis Services), and a formidable data-mining component, among other substantial functionality. Needless to say, integration with Microsoft Office components is a given.

In this series of articles, I will share some of my insights and discoveries as I work with Reporting Services, in hopes of shedding more light on the practical realities I find. I will do this from the viewpoint of a practitioner who has worked closely and repeatedly with many BI products, comparing functionalities between some of these, and the new Reporting Services offerings. To kick the effort off, we will begin with a discussion of the phases of the reporting cycle as presented in the Reporting Services model, and then continue our coming articles with an overview of Reporting Services from the perspective of each of these phases.








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