Earlier this year, Microsoft took their first crack at delivering an enterprise-level reporting solution. The full name is Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services. Originally this was going to be built into "Yukon" aka "SQL Server 2005" but apparently this feature was finished early and was released as an add-on to SQL Server 2000.
After you install SQL Reporting Services, you'll see a new type of project added to your Visual Studio .NET development tool. Yes, you'll actually be building these reports in Visual Studio .NET. This process is much like working in Crystal Reports or Microsoft Access. You select your tables and fields, design the layout of the report and then preview the data.
Now comes the cool part. Once your report is ready, you will deploy it to the Reporting Services website directly from Visual Studio. Now all of your users can access these reports from the web server. Don't worry - there are plenty of security measures available to ensure only the right people can access this server and then only access the reports you want them to see.
You can have the users run them on demand, or have them scheduled and cached or they can be emailed out directly to the users. Users can also "subscribe" to various reports and get a notification whenever a newer version is published. Once the user is viewing the report, they can export it into a variety of file types - Word, Excel, PDF, XML, TIFF, etc.
I've been very impressed so far. The report delivery mechanism is very slick. The product is also very open to expansion since the reports are stored as standard XML-based RDL files (Report Definition Language) and the Reporting Services engine itself is an XML web service.
And don't be fooled by the name _SQL_ Reporting Services - it can connect to a variety of data sources - SQL, ODBC, OLE DB, and Oracle.
If you are already running SQL Reporting Services, don't forget to grab Service Pack 1.
I'll have more info in my blog later on once i've been able to play with it for a while. Oh, and did i mention that this product is FREE as long as you are licensed for SQL Server 2000? Nice!
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