Microsoft Corp. partners that are integrating into their products the companys newly released business-intelligence tool, Reporting Services, say the software will save end users money theyve long had to invest in third-party reporting tools or handwritten code.
Caron Mooney, director of IS Partners—a Microsoft Solutions implementation company in Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner for Business Intelligence—said that Reporting Services fills a longstanding gap in Microsofts product line. “Ive been in the Microsoft World since Visual Basic 1.0,” she said. “One problem I always had is reports and distribution of reports. In the past, other people were filling that gap [in the Microsoft environment].”
Companies that filled that gap have included, for example, Crystal Reports Inc. Crystal was recently acquired by Business Objects SA—a move that may well have been motivated by Microsofts debut in the BI space, Mooney said. “I think one reason [Crystal sold itself] was they knew Microsoft was bringing out Reporting Services,” she said. “The market was going to consolidate anyway.”
If consolidation means that database vendors are now taking business intelligence to heart, all the better, according to Anthony Peccerillo, vice president of software development for MaxQ Technologies Inc., a middle-market business solutions provider and Microsoft Gold partner in Norwalk, Conn. “The authoring and the storage of business intelligence should be a part of any database solution,” he said. “To date theyve been broken out, so you have people like Crystal Reports and other reporting tools filling the gap. With Reporting Services, its part of the database. … [That means] we can devote our resources to providing a better solution to a market rather than building tools.”
A big part of Reporting Services appeal is its rock-bottom price: Its free to current SQL Server 2000 customers who run it on the same server as their database. Running the product on another server entails purchasing an additional SQL Server 2000 license. In addition, customers must license at least one Visual Studio tool for each report author. An 120-day evaluation copy of Reporting Services can be downloaded here.
“We can enter at a lower cost of ownership to end users by utilizing the Reporting Services framework instead of building our own for offering those core components [of writing and distributing reports],” Peccerillo said.
Reporting Services features an integrated environment within which customers can author, generate and view reports based on data stored in Microsofts SQL Server database and other major databases that have ODBC drivers and OLE data providers, including Oracle, Ingres and IBMs DB2.
Who Will Benefit
There are two major groups of customers that Reporting Services will benefit, according to IS Partners Mooney. The first is the type of customer who wants reports that contain predefined navigation. For example, a retail store executive wants to see a report that contains order numbers. Clicking on an order number will then allow him to see an invoice—i.e., a predefined navigational route.
Enterprises that require robust distribution will also benefit, Mooney said. Through the 90s, getting reports out to groups of hundreds or even thousands of users required Mooney to write code herself. In contrast, Reporting Services offers multiple means of caching, distribution, storage of report histories, scheduled report distribution, and data watches that can be programmed to deliver alerts when preset data events occur. Distribution routes include e-mail or simple messaging service on cell phones, for example.
For Ryan Jamieson, IS Partners technical director, one of the biggest appeals of Reporting Services is that much of the environment has been moved to Microsofts .Net framework. Thats important in terms of the ample .Net development skills now available in the labor market, from C++ to Java, he said. .Net also offers pre-created tools that allow developers to skip over manual coding. “If youre a traditional Visual Basic developer, youve seen a huge performance gain,” he said. “Weve seen incredible performance in terms of the time it takes to get a solution to market. … In some cases, its half the time [with .Net].”
Editors note: This story has been changed since its original posting to reflect the fact that Reporting Services customers do not need to purchase per-user or per-device CALs (client-access licenses) to use the tool.