Microsoft has gained supremacy in analytics and real-time reporting with Power BI, currently available only as an online cloud service. A revamped on-premises SQL Server Reporting Services 2016 will deliver rich features, including a new UI, delivery of KPIs and HTML5-based reporting. The integration of these two services has much potential, but for now, is only a statement of direction.The following is a synopsis of Redmond Magazine’s article, “SSRS Steps up in the Shadow of Power BI”. To read the full article, follow the link at the bottom of the page.
Last year, Microsoft released a major upgrade to its Power BI service and jumped to the head of the class in the crowded field of reporting, analytics, and self-service business intelligence (BI) in doing so. Microsoft reports that 5 million people now subscribe to the online tool for creating dashboards and reports. While Power BI is a good choice for people seeking a cloud-based solution, there is still demand for on-premises and hybrid solutions.
Microsoft’s next target is a rebuilt SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to extend and unify Power BI’s on-premises reporting, analytics, and BI offerings. Microsoft is not only updating and enhancing SSRS, but it’s potentially unifying it with the cloud-based Power BI. These improvements to SSRS and Power BI are empowering more workers by allowing them to leverage data to gain insight and solve problems. Self-service BI should be all about providing a tool that analysts want to use and this is why the updated Power BI has done so well.
Historically, Microsoft has struggled with the presentation side of data, aside from Excel. The company first released SSRS in 2004 as a capable, minimalist reporting tool kit, which was a nice start, but enhancements dried up. A few years later, Microsoft released Performance Point, which, while powerful, never gained market acceptance and was incorporated into Microsoft SharePoint. As competitors moved into the self-service and analytics space, the world moved to more powerful, user-friendly reporting and BI tools. In response, SSRS was relegated to other departments and low-budget projects.
You might think that Microsoft would ignore the SQL Server legacy SSRS components or simply abandon them while the company encourages Office users to migrate to Office 365 cloud and Power BI. Luckily though, Microsoft is offering an alternative path that potentially strengthens the on-premises version of SSRS and sets it up as a bridge to the cloud for those who work with SQL Server. If done well, this path will unify SSRS with Power BI.
The obvious solution for Microsoft is to take advantage of the advances of Power BI while leveraging the existing base of SSRS and completely rebuild SSRS to support the Power BI desktop reports. Starting with Release Candidate 1 (RC1), a feature-complete, totally rebuilt SSRS has been revealed. It has a clean and modern interface and targets all browsers utilizing HTML5. In addition, the Power BI mobile apps enable mobile presentation for SSRS mobile reports and custom brand packages can be loaded into SSRS, allowing it to have a look and feel to match any organization. These enhancements are great, but they position SSRS and Power BI as separate, distinct platforms.
It makes sense for Microsoft to support a single unified report file format long term. Accordingly, both the Power BI team and the SSRS team have indicated that their long-term goal is for Microsoft to support the Power BI Desktop reports in the rebuilt SSRS. For now, SSRS 2016 is becoming a powerful, on-premises reporting platform on its own, while Power BI offers one of the best cloud-based solutions. A unified SSRS/Power BI solution would offer a solid on-premises solution with a clear path to the cloud, but there is no clear timeline as to when this will be possible.
Should you consider SSRS? It depends on whether your organization intends to rely solely on the cloud, only needs an on-premises solution, or is looking for a hybrid that supports both on-premises and cloud-based reports.
Power BI Only
- Easy to use, powerful, inexpensive, and can access a vast array of on-premises and cloud-based data
- Cloud-based so scalability issues don’t require more hardware, plus mobile support is automatic
- Dashboard and reports display both in a browser and in the Power BI mobile app
SSRS On-Premises Only
- UI has been completely overhauled with a modern design
- Menus are well-designed and performance is improved
- Ability to create a custom brand image
- Reports are rendered using HTML5, allowing access by all modern browsers
- Development tools are fragmented, relying on multiple tools for the creation of reports and components
Hybrid SSRS On-Premises with Power BI Cloud (not available yet)
- An organization will be able to create a single Power BI Desktop report and deploy it both on-premises to SSRS and in the cloud
- Only possible if SSRS in the future supports the Power BI report format