Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Introducing SQL Server Reporting Services

In an earlier post I introduced the SQL Server umbrella and briefly discussed a number of products that make up the SQL Server stack. One of those products and a key element of the SQL Server family is SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). SQL Server Reporting Services is Microsoft’s enterprise reporting platform.

SQL Server Reporting Services compliments the other components that sit under the SQL Server umbrella. Your reports can be developed to present data from both the SQL Server relational databases and Analysis Services cubes. However it is important to note that the data source doesn’t have to be a SQL Server database or analysis services cube. It can be any data source that SSRS can connect too using OLE DB or ODBC connections. I have many clients who run other database platforms such as oracle but utilise SSRS as their reporting solution.

Competitor products and tools available on the Market that compete with SSRS include but are not limited to 
  • Crystal Report
  • Business Objects

The report life cycle can be broken down into three phases and depending on the job you do and what responsibilities you have will influence the phases in the life cycle that you are involved with. It might be you are involved in all phases end to end, in some sort of dev-ops capacity that is you write reports, deploy reports and manage reports.  However it’s not uncommon,, depending on your job role for you only to be involved in one or perhaps two of the life cycle stages. It might be that you are developer writing and authoring reports or DBA deploying and managing them.


Authoring is the first stage in the reporting life cycle, after collecting user requirements including what data needs to be presented; in this stage you go about putting your report together. This will involve: 
  • Defining the data source – specify where the data to be included in the reports lives
  • Define the data set – write the query that will retrieve and extract the data from the data source
  • Layout the report define the look and feel

The resultant document is written in Report Definition language (RDL) which is XML document that contains the report metadata. Just a note no actual data is contained in the report. It's metadata on the report itself. The data is retrieved from the data source when the report executes.

There are two tools that can be used for authoring reports
  • Report Design – which is integrated into SQL Server Data Tools
  • Report Builder – which is standalone application
You can actually write in any tool that produces a correct RDL document


When the reports have been written they get deployed to a central reporting server, which will allow you to make the reports available to those users with permissions to view them. SSRS has a robust role based security model allowing you to lock down your reports and implement a robust security model. Once deployed there are many other management tasks that you might need to complete including setting up execution and delivery schedules

The tools involved in the management of SSRS include:
  • Report Manager – Which is a web application. This web application can also be used to view reports
  • Reporting Service Configuration tool which is used to manage the setup of SSRS

There are some command line tools too. RS.exe can be used to run scripts against the report server which allows you to automate and programmatically control things like report deployment and auditing.


How reports are delivered will very much depend on how your SSRS instance is installed and setup. If you are using Sharepoint integrated mode you can view and consume your reports on demand through Sharepoint. If you are using a native instance then you can view reports on demand through the Report Manager Web portal. Different report  formats are supported. You might have two users who consume the same report in different formats. One might have the report rendered in an excel format and another user might consume the report in pdf. There are several report formats available ‘out of the box’. User can also setup subscriptions to reports allowing them  to automate the report delivery. E-mail is probably the most common type of report delivery mechanism but a file-share location can also be used a second delivery option.

This is a short introduction to SQL Server Reporting Services. Learning Tree course 140 provides a hand-on look at reporting services from report authoring through to deployment and management. We have done a great deal with Learning Tree and we are offering seats on the 140 SSRS course running at the London Education Centre staring on the 2 August at just £750 plus VAT. If you are interested please email for more information

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

BREXIT…IT professionals need a plan… much like the UK government

The events that have unfolded over the last few days since the shock result that the BRExit referendum delivered, has, quite rightly caused a huge amount of press coverage in the UK. The remain camp are very upset and angry at the result, mainly because they can see possible negative connotations that BREXIT and leaving the European Union might bring in economic and social circumstances to people in the United Kingdom. The leave group seems quite shocked that they have actually won and got the outcome that they wanted.

It seems that the result came as a shock to everyone especially the leave group. Having got the result they wanted however, they don’t actually seem to know what to do next and nobody it turns  out actually has a plan for what to do next. With potentially  3 months of a sitting duck Prime Minister and nothing actually happening doesn’t sound like a great plan…more likely 3 months of uncertainty, political wrangling and of course Boris.

I read a great Facebook post over the weekend from a remain supporter who suggested in a rather satirical way that we, the UK, now we are up the smelly creek, we are in need of a paddle. That is we need a plan for the future and called out to various different people and groups involved in the political process suggesting what each should do and what contributions they need to make next to make BREXIT work for everyone. Including the 16 million or so people who voted to remain in the European Union.

I was in a telephone conversation on Friday morning and like so many conversations I had Friday it started with the referendum result…moving the conversation on to proper work my friend and colleague said “Lets talk about something that we can control” which got me thinking…With so much uncertainty about the next few months, a government vacuum around the exit strategy, uncertainty around who will actually be Prime Minister and the opposition party in melt-down and a general lack of strategic plan, its bound to leave IT professionals whether they were for ‘in’ or ‘out’ or ‘didn’t know what to do for the best’ worried about their future and what it may entail.

Whatever happens with BRExit, if article 50 ever gets triggered or not, the UK leaving the EU is not something many of us will have direct control over. However, if you are an IT professional with a clear career plan you will still have a successful future. This you CAN and SHOULD control.  Despite the political campaigns of both leave and remain suggesting to the contrary, BREXIT or staying in the EU should not represent Armageddon or Doomsday. Change always brings opportunity, and if approached correctly arming yourself with the appropriate skills and knowledge that allows you to add value you will still have a bright and successful future. Read blogs and websites, read books and if you can get some training in the technology that you’ll be working with going forward get it. Make yourself valuable and I think you’ll have a very successful future.

We’ve done a  deal with Learning Tree UK to offer you Great Value IT Training, whatever your role in IT – I reckon there will be a course on our offers page that your could benefit from and at £750 plus VAT represents great value for money

Monday, 27 June 2016

IT Training: Super Duper Deal!!

In the wake of last week’s BREXIT vote and subsequent fallout, I decided to delay making this announcement until today. I wanted to ensure that this deal didn’t get lost in the shockwaves of the referendum result. has been working in collaboration with Learning Tree since 2010 writing, developing and delivering high quality SQL Server training courses around the world. Learning Tree delivers a range of high quality IT Training courses on a range of topics from SQL Server, Windows, .NET, Networking, Security, Agile, Project Management, Sharepoint and the list goes on.

After some discussion in recent weeks here at we have come to agreement with Learning Tree UK, who have very kindly agreed to make available a range of seats on its public course summer schedule to readers of this website and to our social media connections. These will be made available at a superb rates of £750 (Plus VAT)  which I think you’ll agree is suitable for most training budgets large or small.

The list of courses can be found on the Great Value IT  Training page and will be updated weekly,   please check back here regularly to see what courses have become available on the super duper deal next week.

The multi-day courses are being offered at £750 (Plus VAT) which represents a significant saving on the book price/website price so in the age where training budgets are stretched this could be a great way get some great training, delivered by instructors who are actively engaged on consulting assignments in the field within which they teach and therefore have update, real world experience that they will share with you in class. The courses are available at a fantastic price to make those training budgets go further.

The courses can be attended in class, at the London Education Centre which is on Eversholt Street, directly opposite Euston Station. If you prefer the classes can be attended online using AnyWare. In which case you don’t even have to leave your home or office.  This can negate the need to travel to London if you live a distance away or perhaps not residing in the UK.

There are lots of courses in the list, and this being a SQL Server blog I’d like to draw your attention to the SQL Server Reporting Services course which is starting on the 2nd August. Course 140: SQL Server reporting Services is great course that will give you an excellent knowledge and experience in report authoring deployment and administration.

The other course in the list that I think is amazing value and likely to interest many people would be 177 PRINCE2® Achieving Foundation & Practitioner Certification. If you work in Project Management or would like to work as a Project Manager then PRINCE2 is the must have qualification for project managers in the UK. At £750 which includes the exam fees this represents excellent value.

The list includes a link to the course site page on the Learning Tree website, so  if you want to know more about what the courses with cover feel free to check out the link.

If you would like to take advantage of this deal then please email me at the following email address with your name and contact details (email/phone number) and the course number and title that you would like to attend and we’ll ensure that get you booked on at the great offer price.

Places are limited so book early to avoid disappointment.
The list of courses available is

Project Management

177 PRINCE2® Achieving Foundation & Practitioner Certification
Starting 01/08/2016

3702 Microsoft Project Introduction
Starting 20/07/2016

296 Project Management: Skills for Success
Starting 19/07/2016

923 Project Time and Cost Management
Starting 26/07/2016


1531 SharePoint 2013 Technologies Introduction
Starting 02/08/2016

SQL Server/BI

2191 Designing an Effective Data Warehouse
Starting 02/08/2016

901 Introduction to Business Intelligence: Designing a Successful BI Programme
Starting 27/07/2016

140 SQL Server Reporting Services
Starting 02/08/2016

ITIL and Other

1197 Achieving ITIL® Foundation Certification
Starting 18/07/2016

211 Business Analysis Introduction: Defining Successful Projects
Starting 27/07/2016
993 ITIL® Intermediate: Service Design
Starting 27/07/2016


503 Visual Basic Programming for .NET
Starting 26/07/2016

2323 ECMAScript Programming: The Next Generation JavaScript
Starting 02/08/2016


468 System and Network Security Introduction
Starting 19/07/2016

2056 Identity Management
Starting 02/08/2016

The Great Value IT  Training page and will be updated weekly

Monday, 6 June 2016

SQL Server 2016 RTM – Is Anyone Still Waiting for the First Service Pack?

Well most of the SQL Server news last week focused around the launch of SQL Server 2016. SQL Server RTM dropped on 1st June and a quick twitter poll, suggests that some  people at least will be deploying SQL Server 2016 in production before the end of the year.


Twitter Poll


These findings, granted on a very small sample, imply that least some people will be deploying SQL Server 2016 in the next six months. I still hear some people say, that they will wait for the first service pack of new SQL Server release  before looking to deploy and migrate their production datatbases to the latest SQL Server release.

Back in the day, probably SQL Server 2000/2005, possibly even later than that with SQL Server 2008,  I generally recommended waiting for the release of the first service pack, mainly because SP1 usually fixed all the bugs that was included in the RTM version, things howver have moved on since then.


These days having the first service pack mentality is probably slightly backward thinking.  Microsoft has the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) and Rapid Deployment Program   (RDP) you can read more about these on James Serra’s blog  but basically these initiatives provide Microsoft with early feedback on new product and the product goes through more rigorious testing than in years past. The RTM version of SQL Server has been thoroughly tested before release and most of the bugs should have been caught before RTM.


Microsoft’s attitude to service packs is changing or maybe has changed already. For example with Windows Server 2012 they introduced the concept of update rollups. Instead of service packs they release regular/frequent updates. These are explained in this blog post so with the old “wait for SP1 mentality” You’ll still be on Windows Server 2008R2.


From a SQL Server perspective the landscape is also changing. Back in March Microsoft announced the SQL Server Incremental Servicing Model (ISM) in the following blog which basically means instead of installing cumulative updates (CU) if they fixed a problem you were experiencing with SQL Server Microsoft  now want you to apply CUs regularly and proactively, the reason for this as quoted from the ISM blog post is “This is because CU’s are certified and tested to the level of SP’s”. With this in mind you have to question how frequently there will be a service pack release for SQL Server 2016, if ever. It might be that service packs are a thing of the past. So if you wait for SP1 before deploying SQL Server 2016 then you might have a long wait.


You can still vote in the twitter poll


If you are thinking of upgrading your version of SQL Server and you need some help  check out of consultancy services and get in touch

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