Data Analytics in the Cloud – Microsoft Azure SQL Reporting

First, let me say I have been looking forward to using this service for some time. As a long time user of SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) I was eager to use this technology in some of my cloud computing projects. I was disappointed a few months ago, however, when I started down the path but then discovered that the minimum cost I could achieve would be in the order of around $600 per month. I could not in good conscience recommend that to my client. At the current cost of $0.16 per hour I think it is still a little expensive but may be preferable to building an on-premises solution. In this post I will take a quick look at using Azure SQL Reporting as a cloud-based business intelligence tool.

We can start from the Azure portal. Select the SQL REPORTING tab. A wizard walks you through the process of creating a Reporting Services service. Once the wizard completes you will have provisioned a Reporting Server on Azure. We can then go ahead and create reports and publish them to this server in exactly the same way we would publish to any SSRS server.

To create reports I usually use the Business Intelligence Template for Visual Studio 2012 (aka BIDS). I have also used Report Builder 3.0 but I find that I am more comfortable in Visual Studio and it offers more flexibility. For my report data source I created a database on Azure SQL DATABASE. In this way my whole solution is in the cloud. When you are finished creating the report to your specification all you then have to do is just deploy it to your Azure SQL Reporting service using the Web Service URL shown on the dashboard.

The only issue I found here is that when you create the data source in BIDS you need to specify that the connection type is Microsoft SQL Azure. If you don’t do this you will get an error when you deploy the report.

Figure 1. Data Source Properties

Once it is deployed you can view the report in a browser:

Figure 2. Report hosted on Azure SQL Reporting service

So, all in all, the process is pretty straightforward and painless. In this way you can easily deploy SSRS reports without the administrative requirement of having to install and configure a Report Server on-premises. I think that it is likely, however, that there may be some incompatibilities that I haven’t discovered yet. I will continue to look for these in the days to come.

Kevin Kell

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