Opinion: SQL Server Reporting Services – The reports of my death…

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is a wonderful product, that's still really important, even though the product group in Microsoft hasn't been showing it much love lately.

I was at a client site the other week, and while we were using Power BI (PBI) for their dashboards and general visualizations, we were looking to use SSRS for part of the solution.

What fascinated me, is that when they talked to the local Microsoft field staff, they kept being told how SSRS was old technology, and asking why they'd look to use such old technology.

Worse, when I looked at what they were suggesting, it was Power BI Premium, combined with Azure Automation, which was launching Azure Functions, and/or using Power Automate.

Really?

Way too much Kool-aid drinking has been going on there.

Awesome image by Benjamin Voros
Awesome image by Benjamin Voros

Let's make something clear:

I love Power BI, but there are still many, many scenarios where SSRS is the best solution available today.

Power BI Premium isn't for everyone, and in a number of areas, it's still quite a distance short of where SSRS already is. For a start, quite a number of things that are commonly used in SSRS just aren't available in PBI Premium's implementation of Paginated Reports.

Some other things will no doubt come but until they do, it's also not the same development and maintenance story. (A good example is the current lack of shared data sources, report viewer controls, etc.)

Smaller Companies

At present, the pricing of Power BI Premium is simply too high for most smaller companies. We've been saying that since it first appeared. That might change, and alter the balance, but we can only consider the situation today.

And even if it does change, I also don't see any solution at all except SSRS for all the people currently running the Express or Standard editions of SQL Server.

Having paginated reports available in Power BI Pro would help a bit with this but it's still not the whole story.

Licenses

With SSRS, you have a single license for the report server. With Power BI, unless you're using Premium and/or embedded, you have a Pro license for everyone using it.

For some companies, this is a major difference. Many companies have far more report recipients than people who want to browse reports in a dashboard.

And even though the client was a tier-1 financial, only around 40 people needed access. There's a major difference in price between 40 Power BI Pro licenses and an SSRS license, and a Power BI Premium license.

Subscriptions

Data-driven subscriptions in SSRS are powerful. Do you have a whole lot of users who just need a pixel-perfect PDF of a report, or an Excel spreadsheet sent to them periodically (perhaps every Monday morning)? SSRS is perfect for that.

Do you need to send a pixel-perfect report to a whole lot of people, with different parameters for each? SSRS and data-driven subscriptions are perfect for that.

Summary

Power BI is wonderful and it's going in great directions. I'm really disappointed that the product group hasn't given SSRS much love in recent times, but there are many scenarios where it's still the best solution.

Don't discount it yet.

And if you find yourself proposing a convoluted set of services, just to start to achieve what SSRS already does, please think again. You owe it to your customers.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Opinion: SQL Server Reporting Services – The reports of my death…”

  1. Agreed! SSRS allows for passive information consumption through data driven subscriptions exceptionally well. Distributing mhtml reports to hundreds of users who simply have to open an email to get actionable data is powerful and shouldn’t be overlooked.

  2. What a releif to read this article! I am (an old) sql dba and when I see new scenarios coming up which is perfect for Reporting services and get a suggestion that this platform is dead then I shake my head.

    Most users want plain reports – and if you can use a colorscheme to have some values green, yellow or red then fantastic. The subscription for clients is also very useful as mentioned by the others. The problem is often the younger generation of developers has been told that Azure and Power Platform is the only way forward – but there are so much great features in SSRS and SSAS right out of the box.

    What I also appreciate much is how simple it is to administer, and the platform is very stable (once you have limited memory consumption…).

    1. Hi Rune, glad to help. Just last week, I was at a site where, to generate a regular PDF for a supplier, they were using ADF to fire up Azure Automation, to then fire up a Power BI Premium embedded instance, to generate that one report, save it to storage, then using Azure Functions and ADF to pick it up and email it to the client. I wish I was joking.

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