SQL Server gets reporting capabilities

In an effort to make the SQL better than the original, Microsoft Corp. announced Wednesday it will be adding reporting capabilities to its SQL Server business intelligence (BI) platform.

These new functionalities will be integrated into the BI platform in the next version of Microsoft’s SQL Server called Yukon, slated for beta-testing in the first half of this year. It will support a Web services interface and a range of data sources including OLE DB, open database connectivity (ODBC), as well as multiple output formats including Web browsers and Microsoft Office applications.

“It’s going to be able to receive data from multiple different data sources,” said Darren Massel, product manager, SQL Server and BI at Microsoft Canada, based in Toronto. He added it would be able to produce reports both vertically and horizontally such as operations results and financial reports respectively.

“It’s also going to support multiple output formats so they can distribute these reports through Web browsers, through Microsoft applications or through something that a partner could take and extend and deliver through a different delivery channel,” he added.

Microsoft says the Web services interface will allow developers to easily build custom applications using its Microsoft Visual Studio .Net and the .Net framework.

“Speaking with our customers, they have been asking for a reporting platform that has been built on the .Net platform and integrates well with our other Microsoft applications, as well as a solution that can be embedded and extended by third party developers,” Massel said.

This means that companies could extend the SQL Server to connect to their own custom data sources, produce additional output formats and deliver to more devices, or this new functionality could allow users to build their own custom-reporting applications, Massel said.

The SQL Server also contains integrated analytical abilities including online analytical processing (OLAP), data mining, extract, transform, load (ETL), and data warehousing.

Warren Shiau, a software analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said this announcement is interesting because it illustrates several trends going on right now in the software market.

“What we have are the large enterprise suite vendors – or you could even extend that to say the software stack vendors – bundling in functionality in areas that used to be handled by standalone vendors,” he said. “Typically BI has been a product area served by vendors with standalone BI products.”

This happened similarly in the application server market when Oracle started bundling an application server in with its database, he said.

As for the BI market, Shiau said this could eventually squeeze out some of the standalone players, but for now, built-in BI products likely won’t contain the same depth of functionality contained in standalone BI products. But he cautioned that as functionality increases in the built-in BI market, a collision between the software stack vendors and standalones will be unavoidable.

Massel confirmed Shiau’s speculations about functionality, saying the BI abilities in the SQL Server are for now thought of by Microsoft as complementary to standalone products.

Shiau also said the bolstering of BI of functionality in the SQL Server with reporting would influence the price of standalone BI products and the market share held by these vendors. But on a different note, he said it could serve to bring BI to businesses that might not have thought about it before.

“The impact of this is sort of like a Trojan horse,” he said. “It brings business intelligence into a wider market that it would have never reached before if you were depending on the people making buying decisions which are typically more expensive.”

When asked how it would affect the user, Shiau spoke positively.

“Anything that gives the users the choice is better, and the effect of this is to really lower prices for BI for users,” he said. “So whether in the end some standalone vendors have to exit the market because of this, I still don’t think the impact ends up being negative for users, it really ends up being positive.”

For more information visit www.microsoft.com/sql/.

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