SQl Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is an ASP.NET report generation software system from Microsoft. It’s the strongest competitor of the well-known Crystal Reports solution. This article will present an introduction to SSRS and provide the basic concepts, architecture and definitions that will hopefully get you started with SSRS.
One of the main advantages of SSRS is its ability to offer a server-based reporting solution. What this means is that the report definitions of your reports will be stored remotely in a SQL Server database promoting a more centralized storage, sharing and administration of your reports. This is a tremendous advantage that reduces the deployment footprint, improves maintainability of your application and reduces its size considerably (report definitions can be huge in some cases). All this is possible because you do not have to deploy the report definitions in alongside your application.
SSRS also offers client-side reporting on top of its server-side reporting power. You can use SSRS reports the old-fashion Crystal Reports way, for scenarios where your application is going to be running in standalone mode and won’t be connected or accessing a DB.
DEFINITIONS and IMPORTANT SSRS TOOLS
We’ve been talking about report definitions, but what exactly is a report definition? A report definition in SSRS is a file in the File System with an .rdl extension. RDL stands for “Report Definition Language”. This file contains the data and data source(s) used by the reports as well as how this data is actually presented to the user. This file is a XML file that can be created or edited on any simple text editor (although I wouldn’t recommend that).
SSRS supports a wide variety of data sources for its report definitions. You can connect your report definition to SQL Server, Oracle, Access, DB2, OLE-DB, customer .Net classes that represent data sets and even Web Services (more on that later).
The other part of the report definition is the actual layout and display information of the data. SSRS reports can be organized in a variety of ways and support a plethora of reporting objects like Charts, Graphs, Drill Through and Drill Down among others. All this information about how the data is going to be displayed is also part of a report definition.
Once you’ve completed your report definition, you must deploy it to the Report Server. The Reports Server manages the reports and is primarily responsible for maintaining the metadata of your reports such as persistence of the reports’ connection strings and underlying data sources, cache versions and other things of that matter. The Report Server maintains this information in various SQL Server databases that are defined when configuring the report server.
The Report Manager is a web-based user interface for viewing and organizing reports via a web browser. This application requests reports information from the Report Server and displays information to the user.
Reporting Services Configuration Manager
To configure all these great tools you must use the Reporting Services Configuration Manager tool in Program Files.
Make sure that you don't have any of those red icons in your configuration manager, they mean there is something wrong with your reporting services configuration and it is very likely the Reporting Service won't work correctly. Here you can define the server and databases SSRS Server will be using for managing reports.
SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio
Business Intelligence Development Studio is Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 with additional project types that are specific to SQL Server Business Intelligence. BI Development Studio is the primary environment that you will use to develop business solutions that include Analysis Services, Integration Services, and Reporting Services projects. You can find this by going to your SQL Server start menu folder.
You’ll use BI Development Studio to develop reports and report models in SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services. When you install Reporting Services, the following project templates are made available in Business Intelligence Development Studio:
- Report Server Project
- Report Server Project Wizard
- Report Model Project
These are the basic tools and knowledge to get you started. Hope you learn something today. Come back for more in my next post, where I'll walk you through the process of creating tabular and matrix reports, as well as how to deploy, view and manage them.