First Look at Microsoft SQL Server 2016 SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)

Michael Betterton from our Canberra Office talks about some of the changes in Microsoft’s SQL Server 2016 SSRS and how you can leverage these.

With the recent release of Microsoft’s SQL Server 2016 in June this year, many people have posed the question of how has Microsoft’s Business Intelligence (BI) Stack changed in this release, specifically SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). This release of SSRS has brought about numerous functional and back end improvements that brings the tool into the current generation of BI tools.

The SSRS web portal has seen a major update with a graphical update bringing the tool into line with most other web portals in a new “material-design” front end. The web portal now runs entirely from a HTML5 rendering engine allowing for excellent reproduction of reports across both mobile and desktop devices. In addition to the back end changes, the front end user experience has been improved and made more intuitive, for example, common user functions such as subscribing to reports and changing portal settings are easier to setup and maintain. The new web portal allows for the publishing of PowerBI reports directly to the portal. The hosting of PowerBI reports on the SSRS Web Portal has been indicated in numerous posts and blogs as a key feature that Microsoft will continue to improve in forth-coming releases. Once this feature is added to SSRS in a coming iteration, users will be able to have a full on premise solution of PowerBI and SSRS reports.

The major change to SSRS content comes in the form of the incorporation of Datazen into the SSRS Web Portal. Since Microsoft’s acquisition of Datazen, many have been wondering just how this tool will be incorporated into Microsoft’s BI stack. The answer is through the sharing of the updated common web portal. The web portal now has the ability to publish three different report types to a single page:

KPIs are single measure focused items capable of giving an “at-a-glance” view of a single metric, e.g. Total Sales Year to Date. KPIs can be linked to a published shared data source or to static data, updated through the web portal or created in the SSRS Mobile Report Publisher (formally the Datazen Publisher). The possible chart types include static figures, lines, bars and traffic lights to offer a simple summary view of some key metrics.

Mobile Reports are the main new report type incorporated into SSRS. These reports are created through the Mobile Report Publisher and have the ability to scale to be viewed on any device. Mobile reports provide the capability to present data in almost any variation, with charts such as bar, line, scatter, gauges and maps easily created through the simple and interactive mobile report publisher.

Finally, Paginated Reports are the updated SQL Server 2012 SSRS reports that allow for pixel-perfect reports or for dashboards that are more complex than what is capable through other tools. Together with the KPIs and Mobile Reports, paginated reports are useful where more precise control over the appearance, layout and behaviour of each element in the report is required. Microsoft has also added two new chart types to SSRS Paginated reports being the Sunburst and Tree Map. Tree Maps are incredibly powerful for visualising density, quantity and grouping amongst elements in a single glance. Sunburst charts are a hybrid pie chart/stacked bar chart and provide a level of detail and visualisation potential across data sources.  The below image is an example of a Sunburst chart.

Paginated reports have also seen several smaller improvements to many of the less-developed features of previous versions of SSRS. Some of these improvements include parameters now having the ability to be formatted and arranged in any order, reports can be printed directly to PDF without ActiveX, and can also be exported to Power Point directly from the Web Portal. Subscriptions have also seen an overall improvements and users can now edit their subscriptions from within the web portal including changing ownership and changing mail settings such as frequency and subject.

The changes that Microsoft has made to their BI stack in SQL Server 2016 are nothing short of impressive. SSRS is now truly able to scale across any device and any reporting requirement, from dashboard to detail, SSRS can solve the data visualisation problem at hand.

Contact us to discover more about the changes to SQL Server 2016 and its impact on the world of Data Discovery, analytics and reporting, also below are some recommended blogs on this topic.

Has your organisation started using Microsoft SQL Server 2016? Share your thoughts with us.

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