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SQL Server 2012 Developer Tools: New and Familiar

For developers, the release of SQL Server 2012 provides both new and familiar capabilities. More specifically, in SQL Server 2012 there is a new development tool, another tool has been replaced with a new one, while the remaining tools have largely been left untouched.

First, let’s take a look at the new tool. Power View is a new powerful, interactive report format which provides business users with ad hoc reporting capabilities for the first time; capabilities that were previously unavailable in Microsoft SQL Server itself.

This developer tool incorporates elements of both Report Builder and Microsoft Excel, providing the user with an intuitive and familiar design experience. Power View reports are created, edited and developed from a SharePoint PowerPivot Gallery. The report designer opens as a Silverlight application within the browser and provides a simple, yet powerful, interface to allow the user to create a report that incorporates text boxes, slicers, tables, matrices and charts.

The Power View report designer makes good use of the screen real estate with sidebars on the left and right of the report canvas, giving the developer easy access to the attributes from the data source, the list of views in the current Power View report while the Microsoft ribbon provides the formatting, layout and styling options that any Excel user will be familiar with. The report uses live data as it is being created, providing immediate feedback – one doesn’t have to preview on a separate screen, allowing for fast development.

Power View is a great addition to Self Service Business Intelligence in SQL 2012, allowing non-IT users to create impressive looking reports and export them to SharePoint or PowerPoint where they can still remain interactive.


Power View

Power View


The Replacement

SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) replaces the Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) as the developer tool for creating solutions for Integration Services, Analysis Services and Reporting Services projects.

Using the Visual Studio 2010 shell, this is convenient for both .NET Developers and Business Intelligence Developers as it allows database changes to be made within the shell. It also includes a schema compare tool, T-SQL debugging, and can be integrated with Visual Studio 2010 for enhanced team development, source control and change tracking. SSDT can connect to SQL Server 2005, 2008, 2012 and SQL Azure databases.


Evolution, not revolution

The remaining development tools in SQL Server 2012 have received minor updates.

The user interface is untouched for Analysis Services (SSAS) and Reporting Services (SSRS) projects, but there are some changes with the development layout of Integration Services (SSIS) projects. The new SSIS Parameters tab is positioned alongside the Control Flow and Data Flow tabs, allowing for easy configuration of the package parameters.

The SSIS Toolbox sidebar has also had a bit of an overhaul, with the addition of two new sections: Favourites and Common. The tools in these sections are customisable, allowing the developer to choose which tools belong in these sections, which I think is a nice touch, allowing developers to personalise their development environment.


SSIS Toolbox

SSIS Toolbox sidebar


Likewise, SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) is mostly unchanged. There are some formatting and font changes, but someone who is used to SSMS 2008 won’t notice many changes.

Report Builder still remains at version 3, with no new features being added in SQL Server 2012. It is still easy to learn and use but still offers most of the functionality of a SSRS report in the new SSDT environment.

In summary, most of the tools have stayed the same, which is good for consistency and training budgets. The SSDT does provide some advantages to BI and .NET developers, but the experience will be quite similar overall. I find the new Power View tool the most exciting, as it provides a familiar user experience while allowing quite a different style of report than any other Microsoft has in the past.

Posted by: David Lyes, Developer, Enterprise Applications | 19 June 2012

Tags: Business Analysis, Business Intelligence, SQL Server, SQL Server 2012, Power View

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