Letters, September 2003

Reporting Services Within Reach

I'd like to thank Brian Moran for his July News and Views article, "First Look: Reporting Services" (InstantDoc ID 39215). Moran explained Microsoft's upcoming Reporting Services platform play in a way that helps corporate decision makers plan their information-delivery budgets and set mid- to long-term strategy for contract renewals, upgrades, and other considerations surrounding existing business intelligence (BI) applications—contracts often worth a huge amount of money. The article provides an excellent summary, helping me advise clients to postpone renewals and upgrades with existing BI vendors and to study Reporting Services' options. I've already seen dramatic interest in adjusting strategy to take advantage of Reporting Services' promised functionality and cost savings.

In my more than 9 years in the BI arena, I've been excited to watch Microsoft grasp the fact that OLAP is moving toward a commodity market and away from the highly specialized, expensive empire ruled by a handful of dominant players. By including Reporting Services as part of SQL Server, Microsoft is putting integrated OLAP and transactional reporting within the reach of any business—just as Microsoft's Analysis Services is bringing OLAP to the mass market. These product offerings represent tremendous potential for companies of all sizes to understand their businesses, without the cost and complexity of the current limited selection of largely proprietary solutions.

Text in Cube Measures

Russ Whitney's article "Analysis Services Actions" (July 2000, InstantDoc ID 8758), which explains how to use actions to link structured or unstructured data or commands to an OLAP cube, might point to just the solution my company needs. I'm creating a cube for a statistical information team. I need to link external meta information for some of the data to certain parts of the cube. Are actions the way to go about linking this external information, or can we use text fields as measures in a cube?

Analysis Services' actions are designed exactly for what you're trying to do: link external (usually unstructured) information to parts of your cube metadata. The only issue you might run into is your application's support for actions. As long as the application or business intelligence (BI) tool that you're using supports actions, you're headed in the right direction. Otherwise, you can set up a text measure or a separate relational table to hold this information and access it through a custom application.

ADO Best Practices

I just read William Vaughn's "ADO Performance Best Practices" (February 2001, InstantDoc ID 16272). Finally, someone delivers an article that really goes into detail about how to use ADO more effectively!

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