sQL Server Reporting Services, Microsoft at its best

I have had my own reasons for not following along the MS bandwagon – Open source hostile, Expensive (far from free), but most of all, they appeal to the wrong folks – Suits. I am sitting in a class on MSSQL Server Reporting Services, and boy was I amazed when I found that there was a new application link called, and mind you I’m not kidding here, SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio, and guess where it links? Directly to MSVS, no changes at all to the interface. Heh. Who would have known that MSVS was actually directing Business Intelligence? Certainly not me.

I had one hell of a laugh when I first saw that, but it gets better. Reporting Services allows Scripting. Some of you may already see where I am going with this, but I’m going to take you with me through this. A file can be created to help publishing, and creating of your reports. Its actually fairly simple. You click a couple buttons, maybe a right click here and there, but in the end you create your My Report File.rss file. Yes, you read that right, it ends with rss. Maybe this is just because I work on the web and all but when I see rss I sure as hell don’t see reporting service script, and anyone that reads blogs, listens to podcasts and even some other realms should know that reporting service scripts are not really simple, and the file is actually not syndication. Your report file is populated with VBScript that outputs an XML file… INLINE, and from what my teacher guy is saying, you cannot change that. The extension and the language are both locked in, enjoy craziness.Here is the process as prescribed by Microsoft:

Talk to your manager and see what he wants
Jump into your Business Intelligence app
Create a new project and connect it to your databases
Mock up a report format, its basically drag and drop
Publish the report on sharepoint
Bask in the glow of knowing that you have completed your managers requirements.

Here is what really happens
Schedule an appointment with your manager
Have it cancelled
Schedule another appointment with your manager
Have it rescheduled
Meet with your manager, get 40% of his attention
Spec a report from his input
Be completely mind boggling confused by what he is looking for, because half of it isn’t in the database yet.
Open your business Intelligence application, think ironic things
Create a new project and connect it to all twelve data sources
Spend four days figuring out what information you really need
Make a mockup of what your manager said he wanted,
Put it up on sharepoint
Take it down when he tells you its all wrong
Fix the report, connecting to another group of databases and redoing the queries
Share it on sharepoint
Get new requirements from your manager of a report that sounds strikingly similar to the first one you made
Stab yourself for not using VSS

The emotion that is conjured by this class is definitely not going to be something that words describe too well, but I will give it a try. Boredom, oh no that’s not an emotion. Sadness, yes that sums it up. If you have any experience with C# or VB interaction with databases, you will glide through this class. One of my buddies actually said it best: “its more like a sales conference than a class.” Yes indeed we are being sold on Microsoft products.

There is only sparse availability for firefox or open source usage of the reports services. Everything is controlled by XML and Javascript, as with most of the new things that are coming out of Microsoft.