Home > Book Review, Technology opinion > Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012 Reporting Services–A Review Part 1

Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012 Reporting Services–A Review Part 1


Intro and Chapters 1, 2 & 3

Going to user groups is a great opportunity to meet folks in the industry.  Volunteering to help out for community events never hurts either.  It was by doing this, I was able to meet Paul Turley, one of the authors of this book.  Through that I was able to get an early version on the condition that I give it a review.  <evil laugh…>

It’s part of the WROX Professional Series.  As such, it has the standard make up of;

  1. Whose this book for
  2. What chapters to dive into depending on what you need

All very nicely laid out and clear.

You might be asking… Why buy a book?  I mean, you can just bingle(bing/google) it.  Why read a book?

Chapter 1

To begin with the authors hit you up with questions you should keep in mind when starting a project.  It’s really tempting just to get right in and cut some code, see what works and adjust.  You know, Agile like…  not.  Agile has a few more processes than just heading out without a plan.  Pulling in to port and asking where you are might work for Captain Ron but not so much for programming…  the questions?

What are the requirements? What questions does your report need to answer? What’s not working? What needs to be fixed, and what will it take to build a solution to help you reach your goals? So, I ask you, what do you need? Why are you reading a book about Reporting Services? Do you have a specific problem to resolve, or do you just need to develop some basic report design skills? Do you need to build an entire reporting solution? Who are the users of these reports? Are they department workers, business managers, or financial analysts?

Ok, some good questions…  but is that really enough reason to get a book?

Chapter 1 completes the picture of who, what and where along with a brief look into the back story of reporting services.   It also addresses, in my opinion,  much of why getting a book is the secret sauce that puts it all together.

I’ve worked with Microsoft Technologies a long time and rather than take the on shoe fits all approach, Microsoft has always seemed to want to provide ten ways to reach the same conclusion.

This can be confusing when using bing or google since you might get the answer for part of the solution, write some code, then re-bingle and get a new answer.  You were going for clarity and ended up in the clouds.   There is a nice table in chapter one that presents the various tools Microsoft has defined for the product.

While the authors state that trading in BIDS for SSDT is a bit of a challenge, it’s still visual studio to me…<queue Billy Joel and “It’s still rock and roll to me”

With Chapter 1 out of the way, it’s time to delve into the more targeted chapters.  Because the book has a multiple audience focus, the first chapter addressed much of the content in broad strokes.  While tempting to just dig into the later chapters, skipping this would make targeting the information you want to get a bit more of a challenge.  So spend an hour, read it through.  I was glad I did.

Chapter 2

I’m glad the chapter covers basic installation.  I’m a bit more adamant about developers learning more of the gory details that go into server installation, etc. (a virtual network, is a great way to go) this chapter at least gets you through the basics.  Besides a fully detailed treatment of the install would be a book in itself if you consider all the fun that is a “Full” environment.

Here I’d like to see a cautionary statement about SharePoint.  Its been my experience that if you plan on using SharePoint in the future, you go ahead and install the plumbing from the beginning.  If you don’t, you’ll end up in SharePoint hell and PowerShell surgery.  Again just my opinion…maybe the warning will appear later in the chapter…

The instance ID warning is good advice for developers and network admins alike.  I’ve been in a situation or two when the instance id was changed and it played havoc with other systems trying to connect.

I liked the treatment of modes.  Having walked the plank, er, SharePoint, running webparts can be a much easier path than taking the plunge and tightly coupling it all.

In chapter 2, table 2-3 lists Command Line Utilities.  What’s missing is the PowerShell Provider.  From my experience with SharePoint, PowerShell is a key tool with Microsoft server technologies.  See CodePlex SSRS PowerShell Provider.

Overall chapter 2 give the keys to look to when setting up SSRS in a basic mode.  As you know from my previous blogs, I fully recommend taking the additional step of creating a virtual environment as far as you can to find the other gotchas along the way.  The section on security warns that “basic” is the least secure but to go beyond that…you enter the realm of domain accounts, kerberos and a few other gotchas.   Going through this chapter illustrates the SSRS is now at least a near first class citizen and as a result has the complexities associated with that status.

The chapter summary does a good job of outlining what’s there and how in-depth you should take the information.  Don’t expect to build an Enterprise solution using this chapter.  It provides excellent guidance for the basic install and, I think, does a good job of describing many of the complexities with an Enterprise install.  Trust me, for that puppy a team is needed.

Chapter 3

SharePoint!!!! Integration…

Ok, I’m sure this is going to be a heck of a ride…

Now, I’m going to take exception to the first part of the chapter titled Understanding SharePoint Technologies.  Ok, I like you guys but no partial chapter can even touch that monster.  But, I’m also sure that’s not exactly the meaning…  Well time to dive in and see how my understanding changes…

I really love the understated “take note of this” block immediately following the long list of SharePoint Features…  I’m calling them understated because I’ve gone through SharePoint Enterprise deployment.  So, take my concerns with a huge grain, heck, mountain of salt.  The basic install works very well and for a development or proof of concept, really, these tidbits meet the grade.

This just goes to show that any of the new technologies from Microsoft are of sufficient complexity that taking the time to get familiar and have good reference material is a key investment in sanity.

1 2 3(?) punch…

1. Introducing Reporting Services

I like the overview this chapter presents.  The product has changed quite a bit with 2012.  Understanding the offerings helps making an intelligent decision when considering the product.

2. Reporting Services Installation and Architecture

Good coverage for a single chapter and a great place to get started and set up a proof of concept.  The chapter does a decent job of getting you going, a good walk through or two and all the rest plus hinting at the deep complexities available.

3. Configuring SharePoint Integration

Again, good treatment of the basic steps.  Having walked down a SharePoint path or two, just dealing with SharePoint is the subject of many books, webinars, etc.  The steps worked just fine in a virtual machine on my development system.

Summary

As I make my way through the book, I’ll continue to put out more posts.  So far, so good.  Depending on your understanding of the technologies, the first three chapters may seem too narrow or overly complex.  As the complexities of Microsoft’s products grow this gets reflected in what is written about them.  You have to make a choice on how deep to dive will keeping it within a readable level.  Having experienced the earlier versions of these products, to me, these chapters fall on the narrow side.  That’s only because I want enterprise class answers from sections focused on a basic approach.  Hmmm… perhaps it’s MY point of view that needs a slight re-focus?  Yup.  First three chapters get a Thumbs Up… can’t wait to continue this with the next chapters…

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