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Posted Feb 26, 2004

MSSQL Server Reporting Services: The Authoring Phase: Overview Part I

By William Pearson

About the Series ...

This is the second article of the 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.

Note: In addition to the installation of Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services, Version 1.0, together with Microsoft Visual Studio.NET (required to access Report Designer for report creation), Service Pack 3 updates are assumed for MSSQL Server 2000, MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, and the related Books Online and Samples.

Images are from a Windows 2003 Server environment, but the steps performed in the articles, together with the views that result, will be quite similar within any environment that supports MSSQL Server 2000 Reporting Services, MSSQL Server 2000 and MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services ("MSAS"). Any Microsoft Office components that appear within the series are members of the MS Office 2003 suite.


In the first article of this series, MSSQL Server 2000 Reporting Services: A New Paradigm for Enterprise Reporting, I offered my opinion that Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services ("Reporting Services") will change the face of enterprise reporting that we have come to know. I gave several reasons that I have come to this conclusion, not the least of which is that the savings to large enterprises, like my clients, could amount to an easy five-to-six figures annually - perhaps more. When we add to the savings the fact that Reporting Services provides an integrated, end-to-end set of tools for creating, managing, and viewing / delivering reports, and that it does so with a scalable engine that supports server-based hosting and processing of reports, it becomes a compelling case, indeed. Integration with the Microsoft Office suite, together with the operating systems that most of us have come to take for granted, means extended use of tools and services we already have, freeing us from the costly redundancies (in time and money - most notably in support) that occur when we implement one of the old-style "end-to-end" solutions.

One of the best ways to "audition" Reporting Services, and an approach I am advising to many of my current clients, is to simply get a copy and do a parallel scenario with the systems that are currently filling the BI space within the organization. Microsoft is offering free evaluation copies of the components, which are easily installed in development. It's going to be hard to justify simply renewing licensing with the current enterprise BI vendor, once the word is out about the massive savings others are experiencing (CFO's and CEO's do have breakfast together occasionally ...), without performing the due diligence that is incumbent upon any technology professional.

Get there first, and have the testing in process when someone asks you about it! I mentioned in my last article that we are about to witness a migratory phenomenon that will be inspiring in its scope and magnitude. OLAP, as well as multi-dimensional and relational reporting, is moving toward a commodity market, and away from the proprietary, expensive empire that has been dominated for years by a handful of dominant players. Stay in touch with this new wave, and ride it past the untimely disappearances of the "specialists" who have grown lax in the comfort of the yesterday's products. Listen to common sense versus the "What, Me Worry?" press releases from the still-incumbent vendors - how many times have we already seen this happen, in other facets of the IT environment?

The objective of this series will be to assist such an exploration with overviews of the general reporting cycle in this new application, followed by articles that address how to accomplish the sorts of reporting objectives that I have spent the last ten years helping clients to perform with enterprise applications like Cognos, MicroStrategy, Business Objects / Crystal, and the like. I will be taking scenarios that I have encountered within these implementations and projects, and then show how they can be accomplished in Reporting Services.

I stated in the previous article that we would perform an overview of each of the phases of the enterprise reporting life cycle in the next few articles. The overviews set will serve as an introduction to later, more detailed articles, as well as to provide general, "high level" information. In this article, we will take a look at the Authoring phase, where the reporting cycle begins. In this and the subsequent article, we will discuss the Authoring phase in general, exploring the steps involved in authoring within an illustrative practice example. Our overview of the Authoring phase in this article will include the following:

  • An introduction to the Authoring phase;
  • A discussion of the general Authoring process, as part of a hands-on practice example whereby we create a tabular report, taking the following steps:
    • Create the Report Project / Report File;
    • Establish the Data Connection;
    • Build the Query;
    • Design the Report Layout;
    • Add the Data;
    • Save the Reporting Project and Report Definition for the steps in Part II of our Authoring overview.

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