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Interactive reports highlight Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services

Author and Reporting Services expert Brian Larson discusses features of SQL Server Reporting Services in this interview.

Brian Larson, CTO and partner at Superior Consulting Services, is author of the book Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services, which is a thorough guide to creating and disseminating business intelligence reports. In this interview, Larson discusses the two authoring environments in Reporting Services. He also highlights some of the newer features in the 2012 version of Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, as well as its limitations.

Who is most likely going to be using Reporting Services within a company? Is it accessible to people with different skill sets?

Brian LarsonBrian Larson

Brian Larson: Reporting Services provides two authoring environments -- Report Designer and Report Builder. The Report Designer is part of the SQL Server Data Tools environment. The Report Designer would typically be used by a developer within a company's IT department. The Report Builder is usually accessed through SharePoint, but it can also be installed as a standalone application. The Report Builder utilizes a user interface that is similar to Microsoft Office with a ribbon across the top. The Report Builder is typically used by a business user. The Report Builder includes a graphical query designer, so the person creating the report does not need to know how to write a query. While the Report Builder interface may be designed for the business user rather than the technical report author, all of the advanced formatting and interactive features are available through both authoring environments.

What are some of the drawbacks or limitations of Reporting Services? Are there any specific obstacles that users should be prepared to handle?

Larson: Reporting Services is a very powerful and extremely capable reporting environment. There are very few user requests that I have not been able to fulfill when using the later versions of Reporting Services. Reporting Services reports can be displayed on Android and Apple devices; however, this may take a bit of careful formatting. The report authoring environments, Report Designer and Report Builder, both require a Windows environment.

Which are your favorite features of Reporting Services? How do these stand apart from what was available previously?

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Larson: I really like the interactive capabilities of Reporting Services. This interactivity allows a report author to create very powerful drill-down and drill-through capabilities for reports and dashboards. Previously, these types of interactions could require hours and hours of custom programming.

I also like the mapping capabilities of Reporting Services. Pairing Reporting Services mapping with the geographic and geometric data types in SQL Server allows a report author to do some very powerful things -- including things like sales regions and warehouse layouts. Previously, this would require specialized [geographic information system] GIS or other mapping software.

Are there many updates or changes to Reporting Services in SQL Server 2014?

Larson: The SQL Server 2014 release does not include new Reporting Services capabilities. However, the SQL Server database engine includes new optimizations that can be leveraged by Reporting Services to increase report performance.

To read an excerpt from Chapter 1, "Let's Start at the Very Beginning," from the book Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services by Brian Larson, click here.

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