Microsoft has is to embed an analytical reporting engine in the upcoming 64-bit version of its SQL Server database, adding another element to the decision-support capabilities it offers to corporate users.
In the exisiting SQL Server, Microsoft supported the ability to launch online analytical processing queries. But the reporting services technology planned for the latest 64-bit release, codenamed Yukon, will also let users create business reports and distribute them across corporate networks, said Sheryl Tullis, product manager for SQL Server.
Although the reporting engine is aimed primarily at developers within corporate IT departments and at software vendors, end users will be able set up their own report parameters, Tullis said. The software will include web services hooks for developing reports using Microsoft's Visual Studio .net tool kit and .net Framework programming model.
The software it will also be able to interoperate with any data repository that has OLE DB or Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) interfaces and publish reports to web browsers or Microsoft's Office desktop applications. Reporting services is scheduled for initial release in a beta-test version of Yukon due by mid-year.
Microsoft acknowledged that there would be some overlap between reporting services and reporting tools sold by business partners such as Crystal Decisions. But Microsoft said that it will continue to provide partnership opportunities for other reporting tool vendors.
The tight integration promised among Microsoft's SQL Server, reporting services and server management software makes the technology especially appealing to ProClarity, a developer of business analytics software.
ProClarity, a Microsoft partner and SQL Server 2000 user, has been testing an early version of the reporting services software, said Clay Young, the company's vice-president of marketing. ProClarity planned to roll out the reporting tools internally when the beta release becomes available.
Young said ProClarity hoped to use reporting services to create reports that did not require further analysis after distribution. The company uses Crystal Decisions' software, but Young said ProClarity plans to standardise on Microsoft's technology to save money, since reporting services will be bundled as part of SQL Server licences.
Microsoft's move makes sense as reporting tools become more of a commodity that decision-support suppliers can embed into their products, said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting.
Microsoft should have no problem convincing users that it can develop reporting software that is technically sound, Greenbaum said. But it may be harder for the company to prove that it has reporting expertise in individual vertical markets.