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Back To Interview list

Michael Smith: I am talking with Geoff Snowman of Microsoft about his talk "SQL Server Reporting Services" at CFUN-04. Why should ColdFusion programmers care about SQL Server Reporting?

Geoff Snowman: Many ColdFusion programmers are already using SQL Server as a database. SQL Server Reporting Services is a new feature of SQL Server that allows easy creation of printed reports. Just about any application that I build needs standard reports. One approach is to build the reports as HTML pages in a development tool like Cold Fusion. This isn't the ideal approach, as it takes a lot of development time and it limits the distribution mechanisms you can use for your reports. Because of this, many Cold Fusion programmers are using an additional reporting tool like Crystal Reports. SQL Server Reporting Services is the first time that Microsoft has competed directly in the reporting marketplace.

MS: What does it cost?

GS: The licensing model for SQL Server Reporting Services is the SQL Server licensing model. In other words, you need a SQL Server license on the machine that runs Reporting Services. In a smaller application, you might be able to install Reporting Services on the same server that already runs SQL Server. In this case, there are no incremental costs for Reporting Services. It's hard to beat zero dollars for a price tag. Of course, in larger enterprise systems, you will probably want to install Reporting Services on its own server. In that case, you will need to acquire a SQL Server license for the new server.

MS: That is cool! So what does it do?

GS: Reporting Services has a number of strengths that make it suitable for enterprise environments. It integrates well with web-based development environments. All of the reports are addressable as URLs, so it's easy to create a link from an intranet page to a report.

MS: What about security?

GS: We have a pretty flexible security model, so you can control who has access to a report. Out of the box, we support Windows security and Microsoft Passport security, but it's easy to add new security providers. You can also control when the query associated with a report gets executed. As an example, you could have a sales report executed each morning at 3:00 AM. When users request the report in the morning, they would see the cached data and wouldn't be putting any load on the database server.
We go beyond that to provide a couple of delivery models for reports: a push model and a pull model. In the pull model, a user surfs to a site and requests the report when it's needed. In the push model, Reporting Services drops a report to a file share or e-mails the report to a user on a regular schedule.

MS: What tool is used to design reports?

GS: There are a number of tools. We have a report designer that is integrated with Visual Studio. When SQL Server 2005 ships next year, the report designer will be integrated with SQL Workbench. Because we've published the specification for our Report Definition Language (RDL), it's possible for third parties to create their own designers. One example is Cizer, who have created a report designer that works within Internet Explorer.

MS: How do people get hold of SQL Server Reporting Services?

GS: If you bought SQL Server through the retail channel, ordering instructions for the Reporting Services CD are at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/reporting/howtobuy/default.asp. The CD itself is free, although there is a $5.00 shipping charge.

MS: How long has Reporting Services been shipping?

GS: We shipped Reporting Services for SQL Server 2000 earlier this year. It was in beta during 2003. We've already published several case studies. One is at Mary Kay Inc., the cosmetics and skin care manufacturer. Several hundred users are working with reports created in SQL Server Reporting Services. Doug Voss, Mary Kay's Director of Supply Chain Information Services and Technologies, said "We already had Visual Studio .NET and MSDN(r) Universal developer program subscriptions, so switching to Reporting Services did not require the purchase of any new tools - in fact, there were no incremental software licensing costs at all. And learning to use the Reporting Services report designer is easy for someone who is already familiar with Microsoft Office Access or [Microsoft] Visual Basic(r), which makes me confident that we'll be able to shift report development from ... consultants to internal personnel." (You can read the complete case study at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/reporting/productinfo/casestudies/
casestudy .asp?CaseStudyID=14592.)

MS: What are you going to focus on in your presentation?

GS: I'm going to demo the Report Designer in Visual Studio, show some of the management tools, and show an example of a CFM page that links to a series of reports. Because Reporting Services is built on the .NET architecture, you would expect it to work with .NET applications, but you might worry about compatibility with other tools. For that reason, it's important to demonstrate the integration with other web development tools. In fact, it's very easy to make Cold Fusion and Reporting Services work together. If I can do it, with my weak Cold Fusion skills, I'm sure that anyone attending CFUN will have no problem making it work! I probably won't spend much time going through slides as this is the type of product where one demonstration is worth a thousand slides.

MS: That is so true - I will look forward to seeing it!

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