Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Harvest continued ROI and add value to your SSRS reporting investment with Analyzer

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SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is the built-in reporting backbone in the Microsoft BI stack. Customers who have based their reporting solutions using MS BI would have invested in terms of hardware and licensing to build up their report servers. Generally, report servers are categorized as shared services in an enterprise-class IT environment. So the servers are setup in a load-balanced environment, where different report server nodes are built and managed through a load balancer. Reports are hosted in these environments, and support teams maintain these load-balanced SSRS servers to meet application reporting requirements.

SSRS is a great reporting platform, but it caters to the purpose for which it is designed, and like every other product it has its set of limitations. Some of the major ones are:

1) Limited application programming interface to customize the user interface. SSRS Report Viewer Web part and SSRS Report Viewer Control are two of the most prominently used controls that act as an application interface to SSRS Server. And none of these controls can be programmed in terms of UI.

2) SSRS is a reporting platform and/or technology, but it’s not a collaboration platform. Reports Manager acts as an operation console for users to access and administer SSRS reports, but it offers too little in terms of personalization and collaboration.

3) Mobile business intelligence is almost completely absent with SSRS.

By the time an organization starts feeling the pressure of these requirements, you would have already made your reporting investments. No organization would like to scrap their existing investments and head on to a new reporting platform for obvious reasons. These investments can be in terms of development efforts, licenses, infrastructure and more. So the need is to have a reporting platform that can integrate with SSRS and add value to it as well as sustain ROI from the investments already made.

Now the question arises, how does Analyzer qualify to be considered as one of the suitable candidates for this scenario?

1) Analyzer has recently come out with a rich Mobile BI offering, and this is one of the biggest value additions to your reporting platform. You can read more on this from my
previous article on Analyzer.

2) Analyzer is a zero-footprint installation, which means that your reporting platform customers do not need any additional infrastructure or setup for accessing Analyzer.It can be used as a Web Front End to SSRS reports, replacing Reports Manager as it offers a lot of collaboration and personalization features too. Using Analyzer, an organization can have the best of both worlds, i.e. Operational SSRS report and Analytical Analyzer Reports authored using Analyzer. I would reserve an in-depth discussion on this for another article.

3) The main interest would be how Analyzer can integrate with your existing SSRS servers, and would the users have to get trained with a new Analyzer API to hook into an SSRS server to access reports?

The answer is that nothing changes in the way you connect to your report servers and access reports. The below two screenshots show how you can use the same familiar interface to connect to your SSRS Server and same familiar Report Viewer control interface to point to your SSRS reports.

In this way, organizations can leverage existing report investments, and add value to their reporting platform by using Analyzer. For more details, you can visit the
product website.

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