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Microsoft To Top Off Reporting Services - InternetNews.
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Microsoft To Top Off Reporting Services

Microsoft Tuesday took the wraps off of its highly anticipated SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services, a suite for providing enterprises with graphics and reports about how the company, its products and employees are performing.

The product is expected to compete with a litany of other software packages in the business intelligence (BI) arena, including Cognos' ReportNet, and products from other key players such as Business Objects and MicroStrategy .

BI is expected to rake in $4.7 billion by 2007, according to IDC.

Microsoft's Director of Product Management for SQL Server, Tom Rizzo, said beta 2 for the product had 23,000 testers tweaking the unfinished product, but until Tuesday, no pricing was available.

Pricing for SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services is the same as it is for the SQL Server 2000 database. Users can opt for the "server CAL (client access license)," which lets a customer buy a server, and client access licenses, or they can license per processor. Per processor starts at $5,000 for Standard edition and $20,000 per processor for the Enterprise edition.

Rizzo said this presents a greater value proposition than rivals' products because they offer lower licensing costs -- Cognos' ReportNet can cost in the $80,000 range. He also said Microsoft's goal is to make software that doesn't require "an army of consultants" to implement.

"We're going to come in and change the market by doing what Microsoft does best, which is to commoditize the software and just get it out to the broadest amount of customers with the greatest amount of flexibility and power," Rizzo told internetnews.com. "We can do that because we just distribute to the customers. We're all about volume."

Rizzo said using software to solve complex issues makes Microsoft's reporting services desirable over products such as ReportNet, which he said is less likely to appeal to small- and medium-businesses (SMBs) than SQL reporting services because of the cost and installation challenges.

There are four editions of SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services available: Evaluation, Developer, Standard and Enterprise. The Evaluation edition is designed for a customer to test in their lab. If they like it, they can upgrade to the Developer edition, which is basically the Enterprise edition licensed for development use only.

The Standard edition is the basic offering for the customer. The Redmond, Wash. software giant has grand designs for the Enterprise edition, which provides a user more than two gigabytes of memory and beyond four CPUs.

Enterprise edition also provides a "Web farm" scenario. Rizzo said this case provides network load balancing across 10 reporting servers. Custom authentication is also provided with the Enterprise edition, which allows for non Windows-based security authentication, or even another LDAP directory.

Enterprise edition also allows for data-driven subscriptions, according to Microsoft SQL Product Unit Manager Jason Carlson. He said these allow massive distribution of personalized reports across a variety of channels.

"Say you have 30,000 sales people in your organization and every month you want to send them their updated sales information," Carlson said. "What you want to do of course, is you've got a single report defined -- a nice template that takes an employee ID and then what you have is your HR system or sales system that has a list of e-mail addresses and employee ideas for all of your sales people. With a single subscription and a single report you can define a query that's going to return the e-mail addresses and the employee ideas and the report server will actually generate all 30,000 reports and distribute them to all of your employees."

Carlson said a user can also tweak the logic in the report definitions to include only the top 1,000 sale people.

"So it's really a manageability and scalability feature in the Enterprise edition we think a lot of customers will be interested in," Rizzo added.

Moreover, SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services will work with databases other than SQL, including Oracle database software and IBM's Universal database, Rizzo said.

For the final release, Microsoft has some customers who have used Microsoft's finished product, including electronic components manufacturer RF Micro Devices, and Menlo Worldwide, which rolled out a solution based on SQL Reporting Services to 300 users in the logistics company for tracking packages in transit.