At its core, the process of designing reports hasn’t changed substantially in the past 15 years. The report designer lays out report objects, which contain data from a known data source, in a design application such as Crystal Reports or Microsoft Access. He or she then tests report execution, verifies the accuracy of the results, and distributes the report to the target audience.
Sure, there are enough differences between design applications to mean that the designer must become familiar with each particular environment. However, there’s enough crossover functionality to make this learning curve small. For example, the SUM function is the same in Crystal as it is in Access as it is in Structured Query Language (SQL).
With Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services (referred to as SRS throughout the book), there is, again, only a marginal difference in the way reports are designed from one graphical report design application to another. So, if you do have previous reporting experience, your learning curve for SRS should be relatively shallow. This is especially true if you come from a .NET environment, because the Report Designer application for SRS is in Visual Studio .NET.
Having said all this, several differences set SRS apart from other reporting solutions:
It provides a standard reporting platform based on Report Definition Language (RDL), which is the XML schema that dictates the common structure of all SRS reports. This allows for report creation from any third-party application that supports the RDL schema.
If you already have a SQL Server license, then SRS is essentially free, because it comes as an add-on to SQL Server 2000 and will be an integral part of the SQL Server 2005 release.
SRS offers features out of the box that in other products would be expensive additions to a basic deployment. These features include subscription services, report caching, report history, and scheduling of report execution.
SRS, being a web-based solution, can be deployed across a variety of platforms.
This book was written in parallel with a real SRS deployment for a healthcare application, so it covers almost every design and deployment consideration for SRS, always from the standpoint of how to get the job done effectively. You’ll find step-by-step guides, practical tips, and best practices, along with code samples that you’ll be able to modify and use in your own SRS applications.