Microsoft rolls public beta for SQL Server reports

Microsoft Corp. on Friday released the first public beta of a product that should allow developers to build and manage reports using its SQL Server 2000 database. It also disclosed pricing for the product and pegged it for release by the end of the year.

Called SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services, the software will be offered as an add-on for Microsoft’s database and fills a hole in Microsoft’s server line-up that customers have been asking it to fill, said Stan Sorensen, director of product management for SQL Server. Databases from Microsoft rivals such as IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp. have long supported reporting capabilities.

“It allows you to pull information from a variety of backend systems – including SQL Server, of course, as well as Oracle, Sybase and other databases – put that information into a single schema, and then be able to generate, distribute and manage reports based on that data,” he said.

A closed beta of the software was released in May to more than 1,000 customers, Sorensen said. This is the first public beta and Microsoft expects to get tens of thousands of testers for it, he said.

Its availability will be announced at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans Friday, where Microsoft executives will also discuss pricing for the finished product, which is due out by the end of the calendar year, Sorensen said.

Customers will need a SQL Server 2000 license for each server on which they run the reporting software, so if they run it on the same server as their Microsoft database they won’t have to pay extra for it, Sorensen said. To run it on a separate server they’ll have to buy a separate SQL Server license for that box, he said. SQL Server licenses start at US$5,000 per processor.

Third-party vendors are also using the reporting services software to build add-on products for Microsoft’s database. For example, Cizer Software Corp. is building a product called Report Writer that will allow end users to design and generate reports from a Web browser using an XML (Extensible Markup Language) schema that Microsoft is introducing with its reporting software, according to a statement from Cizer.

Microsoft calls its schema the Report Definition Language and is trying to get partners in the reporting space, such as Crystal Decisions Inc., to support it as well, Sorensen said. Microsoft is in the process of deciding whether to submit the schema to a standards body, he said.

Microsoft also hopes to license its reporting software to vendors who want to use it in their own products. MaxQ Technologies Inc., of Norwalk, Conn., plans to embed it in a suite of business intelligence tools it sells, Sorensen said.

The next major upgrade to SQL Server, codenamed Yukon and due out in the second half of next year, will have more advanced reporting services built in, Sorensen said. Yukon is currently in a closed beta; Microsoft expects to offer a second, public beta in the first half of 2004, Sorensen said.

Microsoft hadn’t planned originally to offer the reporting capabilities with SQL Server 2000, but since customers were keen to get their hands on it Microsoft decided to offer it as a SQL Server 2000 add-on, he said.