Microsoft extends business intelligence ambitions

The software giant on Tuesday is expected to release its Reporting Services server for SQL Server 2000, an important step in the company's overall business intelligence strategy.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read
Microsoft will fill out its business intelligence software portfolio with the release of a reporting application for its SQL Server database.

The software giant on Tuesday is expected to make its long-anticipated Reporting Services for SQL Server 2000 available and discuss the company's vision to make business intelligence more broadly accessible. Reporting applications, a subset of the overall business intelligence field, generate reports that summarize historical information, such as daily sales records, and schedule the delivery of reports.

With its entry into reporting, Microsoft will join many other established companies, such as Actuate, Business Objects and Cognos. Even though these companies' products need to work closely with Microsoft's SQL Server database, Microsoft could create a competitive threat for them, particularly for existing Microsoft customers.

Reporting software companies typically charge a fee for their software, but Microsoft is making Reporting Services available to businesses as a free add-on to customers that have a license for SQL Server 2000.

That licensing arrangement made the decision to go with Microsoft Reporting Services an easy one for Mary Kay. The cosmetics company was evaluating whether to expand its license with Crystal Decisions, which is now owned by Business Objects, or to write its own reporting application, said Doug Voss, director of information services and technologies for supply chain systems at Mary Kay.

"If Crystal entered the purchase, it would have been a six-figure purchase and would have required substantial justification," Voss said. "The (Microsoft) licensing was advantageous."

In terms of features, SQL Server Reporting Services is adequate for Mary Kay's application to generate regular reports from its transactional systems. The company did a pilot project to ensure that the company's developers could quickly learn to write reports with Microsoft's tools and not slow down an existing project, Voss said.

Reporting Services is an important piece in Microsoft's plans to capture more share of the overall business intelligence market, which has been one of the few areas in the overall software industry to grow during the past three years.

Microsoft already has an online analytical processing server for detailed analysis of data. In the next edition of SQL Server--planned for release at the end of the year--Microsoft plans to expand the number of utilities for moving and reformatting data, a set of features called extraction, transformation and loading, or ETL.

Reporting Services is also scheduled to be part of the next version of SQL Services, called Yukon, under a similar licensing scheme, according to the company.

Reporting Services can generate reports in a variety of file formats, including Excel, Adobe PDFs, images, Web pages, as well as XML-formatted data, said Thomas Rizzo, director of SQL Server product management. By delivering data in XML, the Reporting Services server can share data with other applications directly.

The server includes caching capabilities to improve the overall performance of the reporting server. Developers write reports by using an add-on to Microsoft's Visual Studio.Net development tool.