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IDG News Service - Microsoft has added reporting capabilities to its SQL Server 2000 database, rounding out its business intelligence platform with a feature long sought by some of its customers.
SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services allows users to program their databases to generate reports, such as a breakdown of sales by region, and then helps manage and distribute those reports. It can pull data from multiple sources including databases from Microsoft, Oracle and IBM, as well as line-of-business applications from SAP AG and others, said Thomas Rizzo, director of Microsoft's SQL Server management team.
The reports can be generated in HTML for presentation on the Web, in a document format such as Adobe Systems' PDF, or in a data format such as XML. Reports can also be exported directly to Excel thanks to close linkage with Microsoft Office, Rizzo said.
The reporting features will be welcomed by many SQL Server users, some of whom were so keen that they went into production with a beta version of the software released last year, said Philip Russom, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass.
Microsoft had originally planned to introduce Reporting Services with Yukon, the next major upgrade to its database. With the launch of Yukon delayed until later this year, Microsoft is offering the capabilities with SQL Server 2000 so that customers don't have to wait so long, Russom said. IBM, Oracle and the other main database vendors already support reporting capabilities.
Real estate company Long & Foster turned to Reporting Services to standardize its platform for delivering almost 300 reports to its 13,000 employees. It's replacing a mishmash of software including reporting tools from Cognos Inc. and Crystal Decisions (acquired last year by Business Objects SA) as well as some older technologies, said Lance Morimoto, Long & Foster's senior manager for e-commerce and applications development.
It completed a pilot program involving 35 reports and is happy with Microsoft's software so far, he said. Data for the reports comes from a SQL Server data warehouse, which in turn aggregates data from the company's ERP applications and other systems.
Russom doesn't expect Microsoft's reporting software to hurt companies such as Cognos and Crystal too badly. It will appeal mostly to customers with predominantly Microsoft environments, he said. Microsoft's tool for authoring reports, Report Writer, is offered as an add-on for Visual Studio .Net, Microsoft's development environment, he noted.
"The whole solution is pretty tightly integrated with .Net," Long & Foster's Morimoto said. "We're a big .Net shop, so we were able to add the reporting services module into Visual Studio .Net."
Russom also noted that Report Writer is a "version one" product with some room to mature. The success of Reporting Services will depend partly on whether vendors such as Cognos and Crystal support Microsoft's Report Definition Language (RDL), he said, which would allow reports authored with third-party tools to be managed and distributed through Reporting Services.