Microsoft Business Intelligence – our reporting roadmap

While each year has seen advances across our product line, this past year’s progress is truly unprecedented. We firmly believe Microsoft now offers the industry’s most complete and modern business intelligence product family – with unmatched breadth and depth.

At first approach, this depth can be overwhelming – how do all the components fit together? Where are things heading in the future? These are frequent questions from our customers and partners.

As we approach the release of SQL Server 2016 it’s a great time to tackle those questions in a definitive blog.

Where we are heading

Our goal is simple – we want to put the power of data in the hands of every business and person on the planet. It is our objective to serve over a billion users with the Microsoft business intelligence (BI) platform.

Data is coming at us from every direction. From traditional sources – on-premises enterprise applications and databases. From sources developed over the last decade – websites, mobile applications, social media and SaaS business applications. And from sources still emerging – data from the “Internet of Things.”

Maximizing the potential of one’s data requires a platform that can work with data from on-premises systems and from the cloud – of any shape, size and arrival velocity, that can deliver insights wherever users may be, and in a form most convenient and accessible; and that offers deployment options that best fit the needs of an organization, at any point in its journey.

To achieve these requirements, we are aligning our cloud and on-premises solutions. It is our intent that your reporting technology investments and expertise will transfer across these deployment modalities so you can easily mix and match on-premises and cloud components, and benefit from our unique hybrid scenarios.

Harmonizing report types

We intend to standardize reporting content types across Microsoft on-premises, cloud and hybrid systems. Our reporting path forward focuses on four report types:

  • Paginated reports built with SQL Server Report Builder or SQL Server Data Tools. Paginated reports allow for exact placement of elements on a page and are capable of complex display logic for creating printed reports or online operational reports. Paginated/operational reports have been a popular, invaluable foundation for day-to-day reporting and analytics for over a decade. These reports will continue to be a standard report type.
  • Interactive reports built with Power BI Desktop. Power BI Desktop is a contemporary visual data discovery application and the next generation of our Power View technology. It generates HTML5-based reports, ensuring compatibility across all modern browsers.
  • Mobile reports are based on Datazen technology. We believe dedicated reports optimized for mobile devices and form factors provide an optimal experience for users accessing BI reports on mobile devices. By specifically designing reports for different mobile form factors, we deliver on our promise and enable users to get business insights, any way, anywhere and from any device.
  • Analytical reports and charts created with Excel. Excel is the most widely used analytical tool today and it will continue to be an important report type, critical to our solution on-premises and in the cloud.

Reporting Services is our on-premises solution for BI report delivery

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to date has focused on paginated reports and offers class-leading capabilities for that format. With SQL Server 2016 we are taking a leap forward by adding support for mobile reports. The addition of this new report type in SSRS is accompanied by an entirely new web experience for Reporting Services allowing users to access both paginated and mobile reports in one centralized location.

This modernized SSRS web experience delivers the foundation for centralized report consumption, embedding and sharing of BI reports for those organizations that desire an on-premises option (versus using Power BI in the cloud).

Publish Power BI Desktop Reports on-premises

Power BI Desktop is a data discovery and interactive reporting tool allowing business analysts to connect, prepare, and visually explore data across a freeform canvas. It combines the strengths of Power Query to connect to a vast spectrum of data sources and easily shape data, Power Pivot for rich data blending and modeling, and next generation Power View to intuitively perform visual analytics and author compelling reports.

Based on the same technology as Power View, Power BI Desktop supports existing Power View reports and provides the future path to a HTML5 based interactive report experience on-premises.

Just as we’ve added mobile report delivery to SSRS in SQL Server 2016, we intend to add governed Power BI Desktop report delivery in the future. Today Power BI Desktop supports publishing of reports to Power BI; Power BI Desktop is free to use, experience it yourself today.

Unified Mobile BI experience

Whether using SQL Server Reporting Services on-premises, Power BI in the cloud, or both as your report delivery solution, we’ll have a single mobile application (for each of Windows, iOS and Android) for consumption of all report types. At PASS Summit 2015 we demonstrated a single Power BI mobile application delivering a combination of report types from both SQL Server Reporting Services 2016 and the Power BI service. All of your BI content will be at your fingertips from within a single, unified mobile app to deliver insights any way, anywhere and from any device.

Symmetry across on-premises and cloud

As we continue to harmonize our offerings across cloud and on-premises, we continue to align technologies and tools across all parts of our BI platform.

Mirroring technologies across on-premises and the cloud enables one to easily switch between the two. Our approach also offers unique hybrid capabilities needed in a big data world where data lives in many locations.

For example, you can use your existing on-premises SSAS multi-dimensional models with enforced row-level security as a data source for Power BI without moving your data to the cloud; or directly connect to data in an on-premises SQL Server database without requiring SSAS, again without requiring your data move to the cloud.

You can choose, manage and monitor on-premises-to-Power BI data connections using our forthcoming enterprise gateway capability. Pin your favorite chart from an operational SSRS report to a Power BI dashboard to leverage your existing reporting investments in SQL Server Reporting Services.

It’s your data. We are here to empower you to drive your business based on insights gained from that data, whether your data is on-premises, in the cloud or a combination of the two.

The future is bright

Let us know what you think, share your comments about our future direction, and of course try out the latest SQL Server 2016 CTP, and Power BI Desktop to experience the future of SQL Server BI today.

Lastly, if you are attending PASS Summit this week, join us for our on-premises BI sessions today and tomorrow:

Oct. 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm PST: What’s New in SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services [BIA-321-M] in TCC 304 by Riccardo Muti
Oct. 30, 2015 at 11:15 am PST: The Analysis Services Evolution [BID-311-M] in TCC 303 by Kasper de Jonge
Oct. 30, 2015 at 3:30 pm PST: Datazen Technical Deep Dive [BID-312-M] in TCC 304 by Chris Finlan and Paul Turley