Since starting the Guy In A Cube series over three years ago, Adam Saxton has become the front man for Microsoft Business Intelligence feature announcements and Power BI how-to tutorials. Joined by Patrick Leblanc last year, the Guy In a Cube series features over 200 short video tutorials with at least two new clips added every week. The Guy In A Cube YouTube channel currently has over 13,000 followers.
I always look forward to spending time with both of these guys at community events. I first met Adam several years ago when he was a Senior Support Escalation Engineer for Microsoft who helped with a number of tough BI server setups. Patrick did senior level consulting work for customers in the field before joining Microsoft as Data Platform Solutions Architect. Adam and Patrick are natural born entertainers. With their deep knowledge and expertise with database technology, security and the entire BI, analytics and reporting stack; they offer one of the top online resources for learning and keeping up with the rapidly-expanding Microsoft BI platform.
At conferences and events, I rarely see Adam without a camera in his hand and so was a real treat to get them in front of my camera for this interview. We chatted about how they got started and how they continue to use their series to highlight new and important features, and to provide guidance to support the Microsoft BI community.
In this interview during the 2017 PASS Summit, we continue to explore the topic of this series of blog posts on Microsoft BI solutions for the enterprise. Patrick and Adam share their guidance about managing large-scale solutions, version control and multi-developer projects using Power BI, Analysis Services and SQL Server.
Please join me and other 2017 PASS Summit speakers for 24 Hours of PASS: Summit Preview on July 19th and 20th. 24HOP is a series of 60 minute on-line sessions presented back-to-back for 24 hours, from the same professionals who will deliver preconference and main conference sessions during the Summit the first week of November this year. These online sessions are free of charge and normally attended by thousands of individuals to gain insight and knowledge about the topics. 24 Hours of PASS features free educational webinars delivered over 24 hours. Topics covered in this edition include Performance Tuning, SQL Server 2017, Linux, DevOps, Azure, PowerShell, SSRS, Power BI and much more. Browse all sessions. These webinars provide a sneak peek at some of the best practices, expert tips and demos you’ll find at this year’s PASS Summit in Seattle. Continue reading →
I am thrilled to be presenting a full-day preconference session before the PASS Summit, on October 31st. Please join me for a deep tour of the new capabilities and BI platform integrations for SQL Server Reporting Services 2016 & 2017. The session will also review the essential skills and tasks to setup and configure the report server and web portal, report design and modern report solution planning. Continue reading →
This page is a table of contents for for several new and forthcoming posts. I’m posting a series of excerpts for my Wrox Press book: Professional SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services and Mobile Reports. Each of the posts is a condensed version of the material covered in a corresponding chapter from the book. Although I would love for you to buy the book to get the full edition of each topic, each post will contain valuable information that I hope will be informative and educational on it’s own; whether you buy the book or not. I’ll update this index with topics and links as I continue to add each post. Until then, some of these will serve as placeholders for future posts.
Please post comments or contact me through my blog if you have questions or feedback, or if you are interested in training and consulting related to this material. – Paul
This just in from the Reporting Services product team:
“Power BI reports in SQL Server Reporting Services: January 2017 Technical Preview now available” This feature addition will allow Power BI reports to be published to a local SQL Server Reporting Services server, entirely-on-premises without using the Power BI cloud service.
NEWS FLASH: Power BI reports can be deployed to SQL Server Reporting Services web portal. The production-ready release is targeted for mid 2017. This is much sooner than most folks in the community were anticipating. An installable technical preview is targeted for January of 2017. This announcement was just made on the SQL Server Reporting Services Team Blog.
From the announcement:
Which Power BI capabilities do you plan to add to SSRS?
We’re focusing our efforts on adding Power BI reports to SSRS and on supporting the features Power BI Desktop offers for use within these reports, including a variety of data connectors and visualizations. Beyond the current Technical Preview, we plan to add support for
Additional data connectors (besides Analysis Services), cached data, and scheduled data refresh
Power BI mobile apps (viewing Power BI reports stored in SSRS)
Given our focus on Power BI reports, we have no current plans to add other Power BI features (such as “dashboards,” Q&A, Quick Insights, and others) to SSRS.
What can we expect in the next Technical Preview of Power BI reports in SSRS?
With the current Technical Preview, we used a pre-configured Azure VM to offer you a preview that’s quick and easy to try. Our focus for the next Technical Preview is on a version you can download and install on your own VM or server, a necessary next step toward a production-ready version. Aside from this aspect, the functionality will be similar to the current Technical Preview’s.
When will we have this next Technical Preview?
We’re targeting January 2017 to release this next Technical Preview.
What’s the release vehicle for a production-ready version?
We plan to release the production-ready version in the next SQL Server release wave. We won’t be releasing it in a Service Pack, Cumulative Update, or other form of update for SSRS 2016.
When will we have a production-ready version?
We’re targeting availability in mid-2017.
Can I deploy SSRS 2016 today and migrate to SSRS with Power BI reports when it’s available?
Yes, we aim to make it easy to migrate to SSRS with Power BI reports from SSRS 2016 and previous versions.
I recently needed to replicate all of the reports on one report server to a different server. I started downloading each report one at a time to a file system folder, moving them to the other machine and then uploading each RDL file. Needless to say, that’s a slow and painful process. Since a new set of PowerShell command lets (Cmdets) were introduced for Reporting Service just a couple of weeks ago, I decided to give them a try and share the results.
Aaron Nelson, long-time Microsoft Data Platform MVP and PowerShell fanatic, has literally been hounding me for the past few weeks to take some time and look at a new PowerShell library and scripts originally developed by Parth Shah from the SSRS product team. Jaime Tarquino also played a big role in automating the build process. It’s the personal commitment of folks at Microsoft like Parth and Jaime that really make a product like SSRS shine.
Aaron can be pretty persistent and I admit it’s ironic that I’ve been too busy finishing up the final editing work on the Wrox SSRS 2016 book and the new edX SSRS course to look at these RS PowerShell CmdLets but I’m glad that I did because they’re an absolute gold mine.
Back to my project… I have developed several demo and lab exercise reports for the new edX SSRS course: Analyzing and Visualizing Data with SQL Server Reporting Services. The development environment is an Azure virtual machine that I recently didn’t have access to while travelling and needed to move all the reports to a local VM to continue my work. I needed to make sure that current versions of these dozens of reports are on both servers. Using a couple of new PowerShell commands, this was quite easy. Here’s how it worked:
Step 1: I open the PowerShell ISE console on the server where I need to archive the reports (shown with the script I’ll run in the next few steps)
Step 2: run a command to download and install the rstools library (see line 1):
You need to be running PowerShell as Administrator in order to do this.
My favorite command among them is this one which will upload an entire folder worth of Reports & Datasets to an SSRS server for you. Here’s an example using Jamie Thomson’s SSIS Reporting Pack (attached):
Since the Reporting Services product team announced last year that it was their intention to provide an on premises deployment option for Power BI reports, there has been tremendous interest. Despite their determination to provide clarity around their efforts , there has still been some speculation about how and when we’ll see this capability. I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon and add to the rumors or debate the details. The fact is that product leadership have been more than forthright about their progress and must work through the usual rigor of packaging and supporting a major feature addition when it is ready for release.
At the PASS Summit in Seattle a few weeks ago, Riccardo Muti and Chris Finlan announced that the team planned to release a new preview of the enhancements to SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services that could support Power BI reports hosted within the SSRS web portal. Today, they are delivering the goods with an Azure virtual machine that we can use to preview these features. Riccardo was very clear that the VM would be a very early preview and that the actual released product wouldn’t be announced until it was ready. The question on the minds of several community leaders is whether these features will be available in some kind of update for SQL Server 2016 or whether it will be in the next version of SQL Server. I checked with Riccardo Muti, Group Program Manager for SSRS and he says “We’re releasing Power BI reports in ‘SSRS vNext’ as part of the SQL Server vNext wave, but don’t assume ‘vNext’ must mean a couple of years.“ …and, “it’ll be here in 2017“. Now we have a definitive answer.
Dan English posted about this today in an article titled On-Premise Power BI–A Microsoft Story. I encourage you to read his entire post and understand his thoughts on the matter. At the PASS Summit session, I had the impression that there would be an interim update for SQL Server 2016 but after reading a lengthy email thread today, that doesn’t seem to be the case. My conclusion is that plans can change and there has not been on official announcement on the release plan.
The official announcement was posted today on the Reporting Services product team blog by Chris Finlan, titled Technical Preview of Power BI reports in SQL Server Reporting Services now available. Chris told me about this plan a few weeks head of the announcement and said that they weighed their options carefully before they decided to go down this route. The trade-off was that this decision would likely raise unanswered questions and speculation out in the community. In the end, they decided it was best to err on the side of being open and transparent with their customers.
From Chris’ post on the team blog:
As we brainstormed creative ways to let people try this functionality as early as possible, we had three very specific goals we wanted to achieve:
Provide access to the new functionality publicly as early as possible while ensuring the end-user experience was something you’d find valuable
Create a self-contained experience and environment that allowed users of any skill level an easy way to get started
In no way disrupt or delay the initial preview of a downloadable and installable version
By using the Azure Marketplace to distribute this early technical preview, we feel we have not only met those goals, but also established a repeatable way to distribute content in the future. For users who would prefer to run this technical preview on an on-premises server, you are welcome to provision a virtual machine and then download the image as a .vhd file and use Hyper-V functionality to do so.
everyone who attended my session today titled “Reporting Services 2016, The Force Awakens” We had a packed house with attendees standing along all of the walls in two joining session rooms. This is indeed a very popular topic! The session was recorded and will be available to watch with all the Summit 2016 session recordings. You can download the slides deck here. Samples and demo material are available from these resources (which are on the References & Sample slide):
Professional Microsoft SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services and Mobile Reports Amazon (samples)
Self-paced online SSRS 2016 training EdX course DAT214x: “Analyzing and Visualizing Data with SQL Server Reporting Services” EdX.org (samples)
The Essential Guide to SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services SQL Server Pro Magazine / SQLMag.com Link (samples)
…now that I have your attention…
there aren’t any yet.
We (along with Aaron Nelson, Data Platform MVP & Chrissy LeMaire, PowerShell MVP) are working with the SQL Server product teams to recommend the first set of CmdLets that we would like to see added to the PowerShell libraries. Please help us by posting comments with your suggestions. What are the most important SSRS-related tasks that you would like to automate using PS? Give us your top five or so.
When asked to work on this recommendation, my first thought was to just duplicate the commands that are current exposed by the RE.exe utility. That might be a good starting point but this effort should be more deliberate than just copying what was evolved through the past product versions.
“Professional SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services and Mobile Reports” from Wrox Press is content complete! The book is well into the editing stage– still, another grueling phase of the publishing process, but there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. What is it like to write an 800+ page technical book? I’ve been trying to come up with the best metaphor to describe a year of persistent weekend-and-evening content development – building labs, demonstrations and exercises; performing research and and hounding my friends on the product team. A big thanks thanks to Chris Finlan, Riccardo Muti and Robert Bruckner on the SSRS product team for their continued help and support.
I’ve admittedly been a bit quiet on the community front for a while I’ve been heads-down on this book project but I hope to start redirecting more energy to community content.
Intense book writing can be a life-sucker:
This is Paul’s brain…
…this is Paul’s brain after writing a technical book:
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy book writing. I’ve spent a lot of my career writing technical books and courseware because I enjoy the challenge. Writing helps me see things from different perspectives and at different levels of depth and difficulty for different audiences.
Give my brain a couple of weeks to heal and I’ll channel some of that energy into blogging and producing more community-facing training content.
So, what’s in the book? This is the Fifth Edition of the Wrox Professional SQL Server Reporting Services series which I’ve been leading and co-authoring since 2003. Amazon still has a working title listed but this is normal. As a next-edition, some of the 2012 edition evolved forward but most of the book is all new material. Four chapters are dedicated to the new Mobile Report features introduced in SSRS 2016. Before someone asks… when will the book be out? I don’t know exactly; there’s still work to be done. Soon. How’s that?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll post excerpts from the book to give you a taste of what’s coming and provide some valuable information about SSRS 2016.
Here’s a short except from Chapter 2: What’s New in SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services?
Reporting Services was released as an add-in tool for SQL Server 2000 back in early 2004. At the time, the feature set was light by comparison to the product today but the foundational architecture was hasn’t changed significantly. Essential features included basic charts, sub-reports data regions and single-value textboxes.
The second release in 2005 added a self-service report authoring tool called Report Builder (later named Report Builder 1.0) paired with a semantic modelling tool in the designer. The original modelling and ad hoc report tool has since been deprecated but it inspired more capable replacement technologies like Power Pivot and the later generations of Report Builder. Not to be confused with the original Report Builder tool, Report Builder 2.0 and 3.0 produce report definition files compatible with the report project tools that are integrated with Visual Studio; originally called Business Intelligence Development Studio (or “BIDS”).
Report Builder and Designer Enhancements
The report design experience for standard “paginated” reports hasn’t really changed much over the past few product versions but there have been incremental improvements. Report Builder is restyled to conform to Office 2016 standards. The installation process for Report Builder changes to an “Evergreen” app. This means that Microsoft maintains updates for frequent download, rather than the old “ClickOnce” installation from your on-prem server. Similar to prior versions, users can elect to install Report Builder from the Report Portal menu. Report Builder is updated with a modern look-and-feel, simple and sleek, Changes are mostly cosmetic while the fundamental features are the same.
The Visual Studio integrated Report Designer is now part of SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT), a downloadable add-in for Visual Studio. Although the tool set hasn’t changed significantly, there are some subtle changes to the way SSDT is installed and the way updates are delivered. First of all, confusion about the name “SSDT” is dispelled because the former “SSDT” (the previous version add-in for database projects) and “SSDT for BI” (the previous version add-in for SSIS, SSAS and SSRS projects) are now a combined package, simply called SSDT. Secondly, you can simply download and install a version of SSDT that will work with the current version of Visual Studio or a few versions back. The SSDT add-in will be updated frequently and you will have the option to install updates on-demand from within Visual Studio.
Modern Browser Rendering
One of the most significant product improvements in 2016 may be one of the least apparent under casual observation. The entire HTML rendering engine has been completely overhauled across the platform. The report portal, used to navigate and manage report content, and the actual report content are rendered to modern HTML 5 standards, which are supported by all modern web browsers. The shift to modern HTML output means that web content produced by Reporting Services is consistently consumable on any device, regardless of the operating system or web browser, so long as it supports modern standards. The benefits are readily apparent when reports simply work on smartphones of any type, on tablets and laptop and desktop machines; regardless of the brand or operating system.
Parameter Layout Control
You will have improved control over parameter formatting and placement. Since the inception of Reporting Services about twelve years ago, parameters have always been arbitrarily arranged in a narrow bar at the top of the browser window, from left-to-right, and then top-down. The report designer has a grid to manage the placement of parameters, in the parameter bar, in any configuration, within definable rows and columns.
The addition of mobile dashboards to the SSRS platform is based on the Datazen product acquisition from ComponentArt in 2015. Mobile reports are primarily designed to enable data interactivity in dashboard-style reports created by a mobile report developer. Managing this expectation is important because this tool is significantly different than conventional Reporting Services.
Mobile reports can be viewed in the browser but are optimized for phone and tablet devices through native, installed applications running on all the major mobile OS platforms. They are not a replacement for high-fidelity paginated reports created with Reporting Services, or self-service analytics in Power BI; they serve an entirely different purpose.
At first, the mobile dashboard experience may seem to be a simple drop-in of the Datazen product; but, it is apparent that some integration with the SSRS architecture has already taken place, and more adaptations are likely on the horizon. The first notable difference is the Datazen server is entirely replaced by the SQL Server report server, and queries are now managed as SSRS shared datasets.
New Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) integrated with the new Report Portal are also based on the Datazen product acquisition. These KPI visuals are created and managed entirely within the portal. In additional to the standard traffic light style comparison of actual vs target values, KPIs can include a trend line or segment chart. The KPI is driven by data from one or more shared datasets that were created in the SSDT report designer. For ease and simplicity, any value of the KPI can be entered manually through the design page.
Although they are visualized in the Report Portal, KPIs are delivered to mobile devices through the Power BI mobile applications on every popular device platform.
Native Printing Control
The previous printing capability in SSRS replied on an ActiveX control which was only supported on Windows desktops and in certain web browsers. Even in tightly controlled Windows server environments, system administrators would rescind ActiveX support and disallow report printing from the server. The modern printing solution uses the PDF renderer to printable output and then the Adobe document viewer to perform the actual printing
Users have had the option to export and render report content to Excel for several SSRS versions. Output to Word was added in SQL Server 2008 and then both of these rendering options were improved and updated in the 2008 R2 version. Now a third Office application format will be supported with the introduction of PowerPoint document rendering.
Most report items and data regions are converted to individual image objects in the resulting PowerPoint sides with one side generated per report page. Additional slides are created based on the report content size and layout. Textboxes are created for titles and report text, which support some report actions and textbox properties.
Integrated and Improved Report Portal
A new Report Portal web interface is introduced to replace the Report Manager. Like Report Manager, the portal is an ASP.NET web application used to access, run and manage reports in the web browser. The new portal has a look-and-feel we are accustomed to seeing in other modern apps from Microsoft these days; with responsive design for constancy on different device form factors. Report Portal will be the home for mobile reports, KPIs and paginated reports – the new name for RDL reports authored with Reporting Services. In the future, we may see support for additional content types.
Report Portal supports in all modern web browser by emitting responsive HTML5 with adaptations for mobile devices and screen orientations.
New Charts and Visual Enhancements
With the addition of two new chart types, visualization improvements are inched forward in Reporting Services. The new Sunburst and Treemap charts apply multi-level field groups visualized in both color and visual boundaries.
New and updated report visuals are likely to be an area of focus for future Reporting Services enhancements, given the success of self-service BI tools like Power BI. The design interface is identical to existing chart types and the only real difference is that groups of rows are visualized in these unique formats. The Sunburst chart is also capable of consuming unbalanced hierarchies with slices generated for different levels only where data points exist.
Standardized, Modern Browser Rendering
At first, you may not notice significant changes from previous versions, but the HTML renderer has been completely overhauled and updated. Now, reports are rendered to HTML 5 standards whereas, they should consistently maintain the same appearance and behavior in all modern browsers that support the HTML 5 standard such as Microsoft Edge, IE 11, and newer versions of Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox. This change is a welcome improvement which should clear up many problems with inconsistent and quirky report layouts while using different web browsers and devices. By the same token, the change means there is no specific backward-compatibility for outdated browsers; consequently, reports that may have worked (or partially worked) in an old version of Internet Explorer may no longer work until the user upgrades.
Power BI Dashboard Pinning
For organizations who have invested in the Power BI cloud service, the Power BI integration feature allows users to pin graphical SSRS report visuals to their online dashboards. In order to use this feature, an administrator must register the report server with an existing Power BI subscription, and a report user must have access to the Power BI subscription.
Reporting Services Configuration Manager includes a new page to manage Power BI Integration. This is where you register the report server instance with the Power BI subscription. When a report with “pinnable” items (such as images, charts and gauges) is viewed in Report Portal, the Power BI icon is displayed on the toolbar.
“pinnable” items are highlighted in Report Portal. When a visual is selected, you are prompted to select a Power BI dashboard and the refresh frequency. This schedules an Agent job on the report server to push updated visuals to the dashboard at the selected frequency.
The Select frequency of updates option utilizes the SSRS subscription architecture by scheduling a SQL Server Agent job on the database server with the report server catalog. The Agent job re-queries the report data and then a report server component refreshes the Power BI dashboard tile with an updated report visual.
Pinned report visuals appear on the dashboard alongside the Power BI report and Excel visuals. Clicking on one of these visuals will drill-through to the report back on the on-premises report server. This gives users a seamless navigation experience between cloud-hosted Power BI content and selected report visual elements on your own report server.
The integrated Power BI experience is a big step forward in providing a completely integrated IT-hosted and self-service reporting, BI and analytics solution.
I’m thrilled to have been selected to deliver a session at the 2016 PASS Global Summit titled “Reporting Services 2016: The Force Awakens”. I’ve been speaking at SQL Saturdays and have done some training on SSRS 2016 this year but this new session has yet to be finished SO…. please let me know what you want to learn about Reporting Services in October. Please leave a comment in this post and let me know what’s most important and appealing to you. I’ll do my best to work the most popular topics into my session.
Here are some ideas:
What’s new in the web portal and how is it different then Report Manager
How is HTML 5 rendering different from previous versions
What browsers and devices are supported by SSRS 2016
What can I do (and can’t do) with mobile reports
How to use and create KPIs
How to create navigation paths with KPIs, mobile reports and paginated reports
How does SSRS integrate with Power BI
How does mobile reporting work and look with different types of reports and visuals
How have paginated report visuals changed and improved
Is there anything new or different about SSRS setup or configuration
Is programming with SSRS any different than before
I’ve recently seen a wave of questions from clients and peers about difficulties exporting reports to Excel lately. Every few weeks I get a call or question about this. This topic has been a recurring theme for a very long time and one that I have encountered many times over the past – oh, eleven years or more – using SSRS. Business users like Excel because it’s what they know and they can reformat and manipulate data in a workbook. People like Reporting Services because all the hard work of connecting to data sources, writing queries, totaling, grouping and formatting the results gets done once and then all they need to do is run the report. Users want the best of both worlds and they expect that when they export a report to Excel that they should have their cake and eat it. In other words; they should be able to get a report, with all the goodness of headers, scrolling regions, pagination, interactive sorting – you name it – to work exactly the same way in Excel. Many improvements have been made to all of the report rendering extensions over the years and the Excel export story is better than ever but here’s the deal – bottom line – the more rich formatting and advanced functionality that gets designed into an SSRS report, the less likely it is to export all that functionality to Excel or any other rendering format. Continue reading →
It was a great honor to be asked to join my associates from SolidQ at the Microsoft Virtual Academy Studios in Redmond and talk about how to upgrade to SQL Server 2012 and 2014. These recordings, which are also on my YouTube Channel, include the material I covered in these sessions. The entire series of studio presentations are hosted on Channel 9 and here at the MVA with accompanying assessment surveys and resources.
In these studio sessions, I am joined by my fellow authors of the 429 page SQL Server 2014 Upgrade Technical Guide; Richard Waymire, Ron Talmage and Jim Miller from SolidQ. Jim and I were responsible for the Business Intelligence content. In our sessions Jim covered SSIS and SSAS Multidimensional, and I covered SSAS Tabular, BI tools and SSRS. In this edited portion of the SSAS session, Jim begins with a brief summary of multidimensional upgrade options and I continue to discuss opportunities to implement SSAS Tabular solutions. BI topics apply equally to SQL Server 2012 and 2014 upgrades. Continue reading →
Please join my associates and I for an all-day SQL Server Upgrade workshop on November 3rd
If you are planning an upgrade to a newer version of SQL Server, you won’t want to miss this all-day, preconference workshop.
Join John Martin, Sr. Technology Evangelist from Microsoft, will spend the morning discussing migration planning from SQL Server 2005.
In the afternoon, SolidQ mentors Ron Talmage, Richard Waymire, Jim Miller and Paul Turley will talk about and demonstrate upgrading specific workloads (projects and features) from older product versions to newer product versions. We will introduce the comprehensive SQL Server 2014 Upgrade Whitepaper that we recently wrote for publication by Microsoft.
Additional to upgrading specifically from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2014, we will also talk about upgrading from SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 to SQL Server 2012 and 2014.
An upgrade and/or migration is far more than just a case of moving a database or installing a new version of SQL Server, there have been so many changes since SQL 2005 arrived that we need to do a lot of tasks to ensure we have a successful upgrade project.
This session will guide you through the process, looking at not only the technology but the methodology, processes and tools that we have at our disposal to make sure that when we do move from SQL Server 2005 to 2012/2014 or to the cloud with SQL Server in an Azure VM or Azure SQL Database that we do so in a way that we can be confident of success. We will take a special look at workload-specific upgrade needs for OLTP, HA, SSAS/SSRS, and SSIS environments.
In my afternoon section, I will demonstrate the capabilities of SSAS Tabular models and discuss upgrading and migrating Reporting Services from 2005, 2008 and 2008R2 to 2012 and 2014.