Microsoft's SQL Server to offer analytic reporting

Microsoft is readying its SQL Server to deliver analytical reporting capabilities that it claims will help users across a company make better business decisions.

The company Wednesday announced that it would embed a reporting engine called Reporting Services in the upcoming 64-bit Yukon version of the SQL Server database. Microsoft software partners and in-house corporate developers will be able to take the technology and use it to craft reporting processes.

Currently, Microsoft offers only the ability to launch an online analytical processing query and do analysis. This change will permit its database users to create, develop and distribute analytical business reports across an enterprise, said Sheryl Tullis, product manager for SQL Server.

While the reporting engine is targeted primarily at developers, end users will be able set up their own parameters as well, she said. The technology will come with a Web services hook to craft companywide applications using the Microsoft Visual Studio .Net tool kit and .Net Framework programming model. In addition, the engine can work with any data repository that has OLE DB and Open Database Connectivity interfaces, and it can publish to Web browser and Microsoft Office desktop applications.

Microsoft executives acknowledged that there would be some overlap with the Reporting Services engine and offerings from partners such as Crystal Decisions Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif. However, Microsoft in a statement, said it will continue to provide partnership opportunities for companies such as Crystal Decisions and other vendors of business intelligence technologies.

"We will provide these partners with a robust, scalable platform for business intelligence and reporting, and in many cases will have complementary technology," Microsoft said.

The tight integration between the Reporting Services and SQL Server and Microsoft's server management software makes it especially appealing at Boise, Idaho-based business analytics software maker ProClarity Corp. ProClarity, a Microsoft partner and SQL Server Server 2000 user, has been testing the Reporting Services technology for weeks. The company plans to roll it out internally for users when the beta becomes available, said Clay Young, vice president of marketing.

ProClarity plans to use Reporting Services for creating standard noninteractive reports that don't require further analysis after distribution, such as reports about the number of Web hits on the company Web site or reports about customer product shipments. ProClarity now uses Crystal Decisions software for this, but will standardize on Microsoft to save money, since Reporting Services will come bundled as part of the SQL license.

Microsoft's move makes sense as reporting becomes more of a commodity that vendors embed into their product lineup, said analyst Joshua Greenbaum an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting, in Daly City, Calif. While Microsoft will have no problem convincing users that it can produce a product that is technically sound, it may be harder for the company to prove it has "domain expertise with any individual vertical market" for reporting, he said.

Reporting Services will be out in beta sometime before June as part of Yukon.

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