Monday, March 08, 2010

Microsoft Business Intelligence ( MS BI ) Missing Features even after SQL Server 2008 R2 - My Wish List request to Microsoft

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The title of this article might give the first impression, that I am a too greedy person. After all this loads of features raining in SQL Server 2008 R2 version majority of which fall in the bucket of BI, if someone is still publishing a wish list then it's definitely an implicit offense. I still will take this post as a medium to put down my greed of features before the community, and let the community review how justifiable is my greed !!

Before I start with my greedy list, I would like to make one point clear. My intention is to help make the product better to help it's real users (developers) tackle real life problems more efficiently. I by no mean intend to discourage the product (coz even my bread and butter depends upon it), but highlight the shortcoming so that the same can be addressed if the community and Microsoft feels appropriate. I keep on providing workaround for the shortcomings of any feature on to help the community do bridge the gap of our present shortcomings, which can be read from here.

1) Addition of a few VSTS 2010 features to BIDS : When I started working with VSTS 2010 RC, I saw that an almost full fledged SQL Query Analyzer is available and honestly I got super jealous. The reason for the same is that when I work with BIDS, I need to build and manage database objects for which I need to use SSMS. Using Server Explorer still I can get similar kind of environment, but it's an MS Access kind of query designer and not SSMS style, that too with no intellisense. VSTS has got classic interface to create class diagrams, and on contrary to that one can't even export SSIS package design to any other formats. Whether it's a master-child package design in SSIS or a Reports and Subreports (which can also been seen as a master child kind of design), a class designer should be available in BIDS where one can map the components to entities of a design.

2) Search in the development environment of SSRS and SSIS in BIDS : I mentioned this topic in one of my earlier posts also. When one lands on the moon of a messy package or report with lots of components added to it, finding a component becomes as good as finding water on moon. There should be features in BIDS which can help locating components by just providing the name of the component. I honor the argument that other tools which might be providing similar features are expensive, but here we are not discussing project economics. It's about how a product can be made an enterprise class tool, providing all the tools of trade a developer would require in day to day development work.

3) SSMS should be added more feature for metadata management : No doubt SSMS has come a long way from it's previous birth where is was known as Enterprise Manager. But still it lacks features, which surprisingly are found in freeware third party add-ins like SSMS Tools pack and SQL Prompt. VSTS 2010 has got DB Pro, which can be best used from SSMS but we use tools like TableDiff for the same. Custom Reports feature was introduced in SSMS, but there is one bug in it which few people would be knowing. If you create a report using BIDS 2008 in SSRS 2008 format, you won't be able to use it even in the R2 release. If you use the SSRS 2005 version, it would work fine. The reason for the same is that the Custom Reports feature use the Reports viewer which is capable of displaying on SSRS 2005 version reports. Such bugs should be cleared off as the functionality has completely got paralyzed due to such bugs.

4) Profiler for BI Deliverables : Profiler is the best surveillance tool I have ever worked, and I have always wished for such tool for SSIS Development. We get a detailed Progress Tab to see the execution progress, but I don't think it matches any near to that class of Profiler. Also if Profiler itself can be made dockable in BIDS with the option of hooking the worker threads of SSIS, Progress Tab can be made much more organized and usable. Presently it loads tons of periodic information which not expand or collapse option in these slices of the same higher level information.

5) Design Pattern Templates for BI Projects Types in BIDS : Microsoft .NET has got some very widely accepted design patterns like MVC and MVP. I have worked in the capacity of a Team Lead for .NET projects at some point of time in my career, and based on my career experience I can say one thing that design patterns are admired like Beer Festival in Europe, but in MS BI world I find design patterns as less as number of pandas left in this world. To provide what I mean by Design Pattern Template, go through one of the design pattern I suggested here. Some of such design patterns can be standardized in SSIS and SSRS development too, and can be provided in the form of template too.

6) Better Deployment Mechanisms in BIDS : I bet that many professionals would agree that the deployment mechanism offered for SSIS and SSRS packages is completely below professional quality. How to automate SSRS Reports Deployment is one of the most searched topic for SSRS, and the page on my blog where I have explained use of RSScripter receives very high hits due to the same reason. SSIS involves deployment of database objects that support it along with SSIS packages, which is not supported out of the box from BIDS.

7) Better Debugging Mechanisms for SSRS and SSAS in BIDS : I have no grievances for SSIS debugging tools, but for SSRS I feel Microsoft completely forgot to provide debugging tools at all. Reports are viewed over a browser, and in a client server environment that same would obviously work over HTTP. There are no tools to debug if a report starts performing too poorly, and the only means to resort it use some HTTP Proxy tools to profile and dissect the flow of content over the wire to debug performance. There is no mechanism to debug the performance of a complex query language like MDX in SSAS development environment and we resort to tools like MDX Studio and MDX Script Analyzer.

This is just my open opinion, and feel free to leave your comments to provide your opinion or educate me wherever you feel my ignorance.

1 comment:

MariaB said...


I work for the SQL Server Development team and just read your blog. We welcome your suggestions and love to hear feedback from customers who use and care about our products. Thank you!

Have you logged these suggestions in our "Feedback" system (Connect)? If not, I want to encourage you to do so.

I could enter your suggestions myself in our internal system, however, if I did that:

a) you wouldn't get notified about the results of your suggestions

b) others couldn't vote on your ideas in the way we track, so we wouldn't have the benefit of others agreeing w/you and doing it in a way that MSFT would know about and can measure

If you would be so kind as to log these 7 ideas as "Suggestions" via Connect ( and select Feedback), then your ideas would more likely result in a change in the product.

Writing this blog was a great idea! Taking the steps to log these 7 ideas in Connect will take in one step further!

Hope this helps,
Maria Balsamo
SQL Server Development Team

We put a higher priority on suggestions (DCRs) and bugs with the highest votes.

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