SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services Go Mobile, Power BI Tells Stories

The software maker outlines SQL Server's new mobile reporting capabilities and debuts new "narrative" Power BI reports.

Microsoft SQL Server

New R-friendly capabilities aside, the latest SQL Server 2016 release candidate (RC3) features supports for the company's new Mobile Report Publisher software. Now, Microsoft is giving perspective customers a look at how they can use the company's database software to deliver business insights to their users' smartphones and tablets.

When used in conjunction with SQL Server's Reporting Services (SSRS), the preview version of Microsoft's Mobile Report Publisher tool enables companies to create, publish and manage mobile-friendly reports for their employees. For example, a retailer can use SSRS and the Mobile Report Publisher feature to issue an overview of daily sales to its managers. The reports can be viewed using a Power BI mobile app or with a Web browser.

In SQL Server 2016 RC3, Mobile Report Publisher now supports the ability to save a report to multiple servers. After saving a report locally, users can use the SSRS upload capability to publish reports to other servers. Microsoft cautions that the pertinent data sources and datasets must adhere to the same folder path on each server for the reports to display properly.

Microsoft also removed some log-in hurdles for organizations that use the company's user access management technologies. "In addition to both NTLM [NT LAN Manager] and Basic Authentication, we've added support for companies that use the Negotiate authentication option on their server and streamlined the sign-in process," Christopher Finlan, a senior program manager at Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, said in a blog post.

"Now, when you connect to a new report server, it will try to connect you automatically based on your current Windows credentials," he continued. The manual option remains for organizations that prefer it.

To help organizations keep sensitive data away from eagle-eyed users, the company is taking a different approach to report thumbnails.

Instead of using actual data to generate thumbnails, Mobile Report Publisher now uses simulated data. The change prevents unauthorized users from gleaning restricted or confidential information from thumbnails in a report portal or mobile app.

Microsoft's other mobile-friendly reporting platform, Power BI, gains a new custom visual that translates business data into natural-language narratives that emulate how an analyst would write about her findings. The software giant teamed up with Chicago-based Narrative Science to translate Power BI charts, graphs and other data visualizations into text.

In an April 26 blog post by Stuart Frankel, CEO and co-founder of Narrative Science, he said his company's collaboration with Microsoft "not only enhances and amplifies the user experience for customers of Power BI but also further drives the democratization of information, where users don't need to interpret data and visualizations—they simply need to read."

The free extension, dubbed Narratives for Power BI, can produce bulleted lists or paragraphs of facts and figures that read like stories. These narratives update dynamically as users interact with Power BI data and can be customized with font and verbosity options.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...