Microsoft plans reporting engine for SQL Server

Microsoft Corp. has announced plans to embed an analytical reporting engine in the upcoming 64-bit version of its SQL Server database, adding another element to the decision-support capabilities it offers to corporate users.

Currently, Microsoft supports the ability to launch online analytical processing queries as part of SQL Server 2000. But the new Reporting Services technology planned for the 64-bit release, which is code-named Yukon, will also let users create business reports and distribute them across corporate networks, said Sheryl Tullis, product manager for SQL Server.

Although the reporting engine is being targeted primarily at developers within corporate IT departments and at software vendors, end users will be able set up their own report parameters, Tullis said. The software will include Web services hooks for developing reports using Microsoft’s Visual Studio .Net tool kit and .Net Framework programming model, she added.

In addition, it will be able to interoperate with any data repository that has OLE DB or Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) interfaces and to publish reports to Web browsers or Microsoft’s Office desktop applications. Reporting Services is scheduled for initial release in a beta-test version of Yukon due by midyear.

Microsoft acknowledged that there will be some overlap between Reporting Services and reporting tools sold by business partners such as Crystal Decisions Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif. But Microsoft said in a statement that it will continue to provide partnership opportunities for other reporting tool vendors.

The tight integration promised among Microsoft’s SQL Server, Reporting Services and server management software makes the new technology especially appealing to ProClarity Corp., a Boise, Idaho-based developer of business analytics software.

Money-Saving Move

ProClarity, a Microsoft partner and SQL Server 2000 user, is testing an early version of the Reporting Services software, said Clay Young, the company’s vice president of marketing. ProClarity plans to roll out the reporting tools internally when the beta release becomes available, he added.

Young said ProClarity hopes to use Reporting Services to create reports that don’t require further analysis after distribution, such as ones that detail the number of hits on its Web site. The company currently uses Crystal Decisions’ software, but Young said ProClarity plans to standardize on Microsoft’s technology to save money, since Reporting Services will be bundled as part of SQL Server licenses.

Microsoft’s move makes sense as reporting tools become more of a commodity that decision-support vendors can embed into their products, said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif.

Microsoft should have no problem convincing users that it can develop reporting software that’s technically sound, Greenbaum said. But it may be harder for the company to prove that it has reporting expertise in individual vertical markets, he added.

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