If you’re new to SSRS 2012: new book, new travelogue

Packt Publishing has once again suggested that I review their book on SSRS, in its 2012 version.  Frankly I was surprised, considering that the review I wrote last time wasn’t entirely flattering. 

Learning SQL Server Reporting Services 2012, by the same author as the 2008 version, is really not written for me. There is still little discussion of “why and when” instead of “what”.  But…

A lot of SSRS users are not me.

As the author says, many users enjoyed the style of his previous book, and this book continues that style.  You can learn to navigate the ever-expanding SSRS universe of features and moving parts, and travel through the wizard-driven world of MS installation, configuration and use.

This book is useful for building up a comfort level with that universe, if you have never touched it and need to get started.

You will even learn — and IMHO this was a very brave move on the part of the author — to put together a full evaluation installation of SSRS and SharePoint on your Windows 7 dev box.  I’ll caution you that most of his instructions for installation and configuration would not serve you very well in the real world.  Still, if you just want to get your hands dirty, and don’t mind running a browser with escalated permissions, and making various other dev-box security compromises, you can get up and running following all his advice.

Many people really don’t need to administer SSRS and SharePoint, but they need someplace safe to start development.  I suppose this is a fair approach — although it’s an open question. 

Should we be encouraging this kind of sandbox installation or should we, instead, make pre-configured VMs available?  And at what point is it necessary for a developer to understand the full cycle of installation and configuration and environment maintenance, including proper security considerations, for that developer to grow into a senior?

I have some concern about the fact that the author was, as he admits, working with evaluation software at an early stage of 2012 release.  The same people who really like all these Wizard screen shots might be uncomfortable when their UI doesn’t exactly match what they seen in the illustrations.  Similarly, the discussion of the differences between BIDS and SSDT is somewhat muddled, and maybe would have benefited from a little longer experience with the latter product.  (Of course Microsoft doesn’t do a good job of articulating these changes either.)

And maybe I’ve even mellowed? (hah)

Maybe it’s because I don’t work with SSRS much in my present gig, but I did find things to enjoy, in this book:

  • I’ve stayed away from SharePoint integration in SSRS like the plague, and sections in this book made me feel as if, in 2012, it might just be worthwhile (finally).  The introduction to using PowerShell with SSRS-SP integrations in Chapter 8 was particularly helpful.
  • I’m glad to have some introductory material related to PowerView… just in case.
  • Ditto, Azure Reporting.
  • I’m hungry for any information, and all perspectives, on where MS is taking BI Semantic Models next, because this is a really promising area.

I was also glad to see somebody taking URL Access seriously and pointing out its capabilities, which I think MS doesn’t publicize enough.

All in all…

This book is still not a great way to “get the most out of SQL Server Reporting Services 2012”, as its subtitle has it.  But it could be your start of your travels.

It’s a way to judge the lay of the land, and a list to help you pack some of the right clothes for the spelunking that you could, if you wanted to take more than a sight-seeing cruise, decide to do on your own.

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