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Microsoft Cloud: Blog Post

Enterprise Reporting on Cloud as PaaS

Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting

Enterprise application needs more or less boil down to reporting needs as reporting makes the acceptance of an enterprise application by the business users. There are different kind of reporting needs.

  • Adhoc Reporting:  It is  the reporting tool support  for creating simple queries and reports. Casual or novice users use  these kind of reporting tools  to create self-serve reports that answer simple business questions. With minimal steps, you can view data, author basic reports, change the report layout, filter and sort data, add formatting, and create charts.
  • Custom Reporting: Apart from adhoc reporting, most enterprises needed  sophisticated, multi page and dynamically altered reports which reflect the high value items like organization dash boards and legal documents etc.  Enterprise reporting also needs the facilities to publish reports and schedule  and make the output available  to multiple users in multiple formats in a secured way.

As with other enterprise needs, reporting as a SaaS  for adhoc reporting and as a PaaS for custom reporting will be the big need for future enterprises.

Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting
SQL Azure Reporting enables developers to enhance their applications by embedding cloud based reports on information stored in a SQL Azure database.  Developers can author reports using familiar SQL Server Reporting Services tools and then use these reports in their applications which may be on-premises or in the cloud.

SQL Azure Reporting is not yet commercially available, you can register to be invited to the community technology preview (CTP).

SQL Azure Reporting  also currently can connect only to SQL Azure databases.

While there are limitations, this platform  once become available  commercially will become a very valuable cloud platform delivering  rich reporting, without  having to maintain an infrastructure.

Enterprise Reporting Features Likely to Be Available in SQL Azure Reporting
The following features  are likely to be available in Sql Azure Reporting based on the analysis of its ‘on premise'  counter part  SSRS (Sql Server Reporting Services).

  • SSRS reports work on a multi tiered reporting model and there is a Rendering extension services as part of Reporting Services
  • Rendering Extensions Supported in SSRS 2008

-     HTML

-     CSV

-     XML

-     PDF

-     Excel

-     Word

  • SSRS supports the following types of reports:

-     Out of the Box Reports

-     Server Based Reports

-     User Defined Ad hoc Reports

-     Reports integrated into Web Applications (Asp.net..)

-     Reports integrated into Share point portal using web parts

-     Custom built application features that render reports using programming code (C#..)

  • The following features also exist as part of Report Builder:

-     Filters

-     Sort order

-     Adding calculations with expressions

-     Formatting considerations

-     Pagination and printing considerations

  • End-user perspective:

-     Report Builder 2.0 designer sports much like the office 2007 applications. Large icon buttons are arranged on ribbons that may be accessed using tabs

-     You set properties for different objects in the designer using three different methods

Dynamic formatting:

  • Dynamic grouping based on expressions
  • Dynamic Fields & Columns
  • Dynamically hiding and showing a row or column
  • Links and drill-through reports are powerful features that enable a text box or image to be used as a link to another report by passing parameter values to the target report

Summary
With several features as mentioned above for both Adhoc Reporting and Custom Reporting, SQL Azure Reporting which will be available shortly leads the Reporting Platform on Cloud. There are draw backs like at this time it connects only to SQL Azure databases, but  it will provide a viable alternative for enterprise reporting needs.

Windows Azure Cloud Platform is expected to automatically scales up and down the Reporting instances and provides the dynamic elasticity while providing the performance and fault tolerance.

This will also ensure that enterprises need not spend effort and cost on laborious upgrades to the reporting platform, which are generally amount to rewriting full or part of the reporting application.

Microsoft execs said at the company's October 2010 PDC that Microsoft will deliver the final version of SQL Azure Reporting Services in the first half of 2011.

More Stories By Srinivasan Sundara Rajan

Highly passionate about utilizing Digital Technologies to enable next generation enterprise. Believes in enterprise transformation through the Natives (Cloud Native & Mobile Native).

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