Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Microsoft SQL Server 2008, aka "Katmai", gives SQL Server shops plenty of reasons to get excited.
It's not without its faults, but Microsoft SQL Server 2008 easily passes our own five-point test for upgrades by bringing at least five significant improvements to a data environment. It's a winner.
SQL Server Reporting Services
SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services) has received a major overhaul. For starters, it no longer relies on IIS for its report server capabilities.
This is a huge leap forward for SSRS shops because as we've found many times, it can be difficult to get approval for Windows changes, such as installing IIS. Often, these shops don't like to make major changes to a Windows install, and adding a component such as IIS, which is perceived to be difficult to secure, makes them doubly hesitant; not requiring IIS is a good thing.
Another major enhancement, called Tablix, is a new data element type that combines table, matrix, and list. Tablix gives you an easy way to work with grouping by allowing you to group on columns or rows as well as define adjacent or parent/child groups.
All of this sounds fairly intuitive, but it does take a little training. We quickly found that building groups the way we did in the previous version left us out in the cold. We had to slightly change the way we authored reports to be successful.
Report Builder has come a long way as well. Microsoft has removed a number of limitations that could make it difficult to work with. Now, you can do almost anything in Report Builder that you can do in Visual Studio, and Report Builder comes with wizards that make formatting data and charts automatic.
We have almost no reason to write reports in Visual Studio anymore. This new version of Report Builder (2.0) wasn't available when Katmai shipped, but it is available as a separate download now.
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