For close to a decade, Microsoft has been recognized as a leader in the area of BI and reporting, and for nearly just as long Reporting Services has not changed. That is, until now.
With the release of SQL Server 2016, we are set to see some amazing changes in this venerable component of the BI-stack. As Microsoft’s own Patrick LeBlanc puts it:
“Reporting is sexy again!”
Microsoft’s stated objective is to “…put the power of data in the hands of every business and person on the planet. It is our objective to serve over a billion users with the Microsoft business intelligence (BI) platform.”
And how do they intend to get such market share? By offering the most comprehensive and alluring suite of tools at the most competitive price point.
First, there’s what MS is now calling “Paginated Reporting.” This is SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). But it’s not your daddy’s SSRS. SSRS 2016 is HTML5 and CSS3 compliant. It’s got the fresh look and feel of a modern web application, but with the same great functionality that allows for exact placement of elements on a page and complex display logic. Paginated reports are meant for on premise reporting.
Next, there is “Interactive Reporting,” otherwise known as Power BI. Power BI is both cloud-based as well as on premise. In terms of capabilities, think Tableau, but with a MS twist and price-point (Tableau is a notoriously expensive dashboarding tool.)
Then we have “Mobile Reporting.” Built on a recent acquisition of DataZen, this technology is truly mobile-first. It has its own report-authoring client tool and is integrated with SSRS Report Manager for a single admin interface. Furthermore, all your content created in SSRS (Paginated and Mobile) is available for your Power BI dashboards (additional configuration is required but it can be done).
Last but not least, we still have Excel for all those Excel people out there who just can’t live without it. IA’s own Jason Russell has this to say about Power BI:
“Power BI allows users to easily create powerful, interactive data visualizations from multiple data sources. The dashboard functionality allows relatively untrained users to put a ‘Wow’ factor in reports that can’t be replicated with other BI tools. This ease of use allows IA to quickly create demos to users to showcase possibilities of data reporting.”
I’ve been working with Microsoft’s BI Stack myself since the beginning (SQL Server 2005). I found the tools so great and so much fun to work with, I left the cold, harsh world of Oracle behind and have not looked back. But for quite some time, it has been clear that while other areas of MS BI and SQL Server itself have enjoyed a steady pace of evolution, SSRS was always left behind.
Until now… It’s back and it is cool.
Watch out Tableau! Microsoft is gunning for you and Power BI has just the right mix of features and cost that you should be nervous. And that’s not all. Power BI is just one component of this broad offering that is well poised to get to that goal of 1 billion users.
Dashboarding tools are all around us, and if they’re going to exist we may as well utilize the best. Contact the BI consultants at IA to today to learn how to best utilize Power BI for your business!