Adventure Works brand package now available!

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Super short post today.

With the release of an updated test/demo Azure VM for Power BI Report Server on Monday, we thought it made sense to provide a new Adventure Works brand package for everyone to use in their demos/presentations to go along with it.  Feel free to download and use with Reporting Services 2016/2017 or Power BI Report Server – https://1drv.ms/u/s!Au6-0xX27UdgnOIapntXPaoPcqqOWQ

Thanks!

Ten tips for the August Preview of Power BI Report Server

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Happy Friday all!

Last week, we announced the latest preview of Power BI Report Server, which included new functionality like additional data source support and support for viewing Excel Workbooks.  As you’re trying these new features out, I wanted to highlight some items you might find useful as you get started testing –

1. Keep in mind Office Online Server requires you be part of a domain when you set it up on a server, or else installation will fail.  This is additional requirement beyond what Power BI Report Server requires on its own, where it can run on a server that isn’t domain-joined.  Keep that in mind if your demo environment is your personal laptop.

2. If you’re setting up an environment for test/dev/demo purposes, you can install both Office Online Server and Power BI Report Server on the same machine if you’d like.  This isn’t a supported scenario for production purposes, obviously, but might simplify the setup of your test/demo environment.

3. You can embed Excel Workbooks into other applications using the simple embed functionality at the end of your report URL – for example, I embedded the following live Excel workbook into a PowerPoint slide using the web viewer app from the Office Store, so I can interact with the report during presentations.

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4. When installing the version of Power BI Desktop (August 2017) we shipped with the preview, it will normally upgrade the June 2017 version of Power BI Desktop for Report Server if you have that installed.  For some people, they’d like to run it side-by-side with the GA version of desktop for PBI Report Server and not upgrade it.  You can do that – just install the “x64” version if you are running the 32-bit version of desktop on your machine, or vice versa.  This should leave you with both versions (in addition to the version for the service if you have that installed as well).  Please note – this should only be done on machines you are using for testing or development purposes, as this isn’t an officially supported configuration.

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5. If you have multiple versions of Power BI desktop installed, the behavior is designed to always default to the last version you installed when you double-click on a Power BI Desktop file to open it.  If you’d like to use a different version of the desktop you have installed on your machine with a particular report, make sure you open that first, then open the file you’d like to work with.

6. Have you tried the comments feature yet?  You can add comments to any report in Power BI Report Server (including Excel Workbooks) by clicking the comments icon on the right hand part of the screen and then add your comments, along with an attachment file if you’d like.

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7. If you want to use a live Analysis Services connection with an Excel Workbook in Power BI Report Server, you’ll need to make sure the machine running PBI RS is an administrator on the Analysis Services instance for this to work, since we’re using EffectiveUserName in Office Online Server to make the connection.  John White talks more about this in his blog for SharePoint 2016 and OOS setup as well.

8. If for some reason you need to access the more advanced settings for Power BI Report Server via SQL Server Management Studio, you’ll need to connect using the reportserver endpoint, like in the following example –

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9. One item you can turn on via Management Studio in Power BI Report Server is the “My Reports” functionality.  This is a simple way to enable access for your organization to a personalized area where users can store and author content in and have immediate access to the report server as long as they exist in Active Directory.  It’s a little different than “Favorites”, where users can tag reports that they want to see in a single view.  Definitely check out it if you haven’t already and see if it makes sense for you and your organizational needs.

10. Don’t forget to apply a brand package to your report server if you’d like to personalize it with your company/team/personal logo and colors!

With that, I’m happy to wish you a great Labor Day weekend (here in the USA, anyways), and thanks as always for reading!

Learn more about Power BI Report Server at SQL Saturday Vancouver

Quick blog post today to let you all know I’ll be presenting at SQL Saturday Vancouver next Saturday, August 26th about Power BI Report Server.  This will be a chance to hear more about exactly what it is, how it can help you and your business AND discuss what new features and functionality will be coming soon.  And if you decide to attend, there’s probably a good chance you’ll see demos of the latest functionality we have planned for the next product update coming later this year!

If you’d like to attend SQL Saturday next week to see me or many other more talented presenters, you can learn more at the link here – http://www.sqlsaturday.com/635/EventHome.aspx

Look forward to seeing you there and being as confused by the funny looking money in Canada as I am.  See you next weekend!

How to use SQL Server on Linux to host your Reporting Services catalog

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Let me get this out of the way upfront before we get to the good stuff.

**This is not yet officially supported by Microsoft.  We will do an official post when it is**

There we go.

While you can’t run the front end of SQL Server Reporting Services on Linux, many folks would potentially like to host the backend catalogs on SQL Server on Linux.  I was wondering over the weekend if this worked quite yet, considering that SQL Server on Linux had just introduced SQL Server Agent support as of CTP 1.4.  So, thanks to Microsoft Azure and some spare time, I decided to give it a go.

First, I used the SQL Server vNext on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.2 image in Azure to setup my Linux VM.  This is the easiest way to get started by far, and there is a complete walkthrough how to set this up end to end here – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/linux/sql-server-linux-azure-virtual-machine

Search filter for SQL Server vNext VM images

I used PuTTY to connect to my Linux instance via the IP address, and I didn’t install the SQL Server Tools on the Linux box.

You’ll need to install the SQL Server Agent on the Linux box as well, which I did by following the steps here under the part titled “Install on RHEL” – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/linux/sql-server-linux-setup-sql-agent.  Go ahead and do this right after you get SQL Server up and running and are still logged into the machine with PuTTY.

To confirm everything was up and running properly, I connected to the server using SQL Server Management Studio on my local PC.  Everything looked good so far.

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Now, I had to setup my new SSRS instance on a separate machine.  I did this using an Windows Server 2016 Azure VM and simply installing the latest Technical Preview from January on it.  Next up, you need to set the database catalog location in the Reporting Services Configuration Manager.  Keep in mind, you’re limited to using SQL Server authentication to connect to the Report Server database in this scenario (and SQL Server on Linux in general right now).  Everything looked good until I got an error at the “Generating rights scripts” part of the config process for the new database.

I figured I was stuck here until I found this really old blog post from Adam Saxton about the error message I was getting.  The blog post itself wasn’t relevant (sorry Adam), but the very last comment in the thread WAS helpful from Carlos Shepardos.

“If you use a SQL alias to connect to the SQL Server server you have to ensure that the local computer is also able to resolve the SQL alias name via a DNS resolution request. If the local computer is not able to do this you get the error message shown above.

The easiest way to ensure the SQL alias name is resolvable to the IP address of the SQL Server is to create an A record entry in DNS or add a line to the local hosts file.”

So with that in mind, I went to my HOSTS file on the server and added an entry for my SQL Linux instance.  You can navigate the the HOSTS file on your RS server here – C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc

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I then used that name instead of my IP address for my SQL Server instance entry for Reporting Services, and the wizard finished without issue.

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I navigated to my report portal, and it loaded just like you’d expect.

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To test the SQL Server Agent, I created a simple report and dataset while also setting up some subscriptions and cache refresh plans.  Sure enough, they ran successfully and the jobs showed up as expected when I looked in SSMS as well!

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As I mentioned earlier, this still isn’t officially supported quite yet, but I was able to use it without any issues in my (admittedly limited) testing.  Would love to hear about your experiences trying this scenario out as well.  Thanks for reading!

Using URL parameters with Mobile Reports in Reporting Services

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One area I’ve found folks looking for additional information recently has been how to use URL parameters with Mobile Reports in SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services.  This was a fairly popular feature in Datazen, so naturally people want to use it in SQL Server 2016 as well.

Quick background for folks who don’t know what URL parameters are in the context of mobile reports.  You can create a mobile report with parameters in SSRS 2016 so you and your report readers can filter your reports.  This is helpful when you have a large dataset, for example, so not all the records are loaded at once (If you aren’t familiar with how to write a shared dataset query with parameters in Reporting Services, you can learn more about that at this link – https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd239345.aspx).  Sometimes, you’ll want to provide those parameters as part of the URL for the report.  This can be useful if the report is a drill-through target from another report you’re viewing, for example.

First off, there is support for this feature.  You can find documentation on MSDN for it here – https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt772301.aspx

The article, however, only covers the basic scenario around using a dataset parameter.  Dataset parameters are passed on to the shared dataset that they were specified for when you created the mobile report. The parameter name must be specified as:

<Dataset Name>.<Parameter Name>

Below is a sample URL for supplying a value for the @Reqtype parameter of for an ExecutionLogs dataset:

http://rsserver/Reports/mobilereport/ExecutionLogs%20with%20Filter?ExecutionLogs.@Reqtype=Subscription

There are also parameters that are tied to the selection state of the control in the mobile report it was specified for.  These can be thought of as selection control parameters.  An easy way to find the name of the selection control to use in your URL is on the “Set drillthrough URL” screen in Mobile Report Publisher.

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Like dataset parameters, the parameter name must specified in the following manner:

<Control Name>.SelectedItem
<Control Name>.SelectedItems

Below are sample URLs for specifying these:

http://rserver/Reports/mobilereport/ExecutionLogs%20with%20Filter?SelectionList.SelectedItem=Subscription

http://rsserver/Reports/mobilereport/ExecutionLogs%20Multi?SelectionList.SelectedItems=Subscription,Interactive

A special type of selection control in Mobile Reports is the Time Navigator control.  The time navigator control supports the following properties you can set in your URL –

– SelectedStartTime
– SelectedEndTime
– ViewportStartTime
– ViewportEndTime

The values for these properties are date time values formatted like this – “2017-02-15T00:00:00”.

Please Note: the “:” character needs to be URL encoded as “%3A” (browsers will usually do this automatically for you).

Now please read carefully the following item, because here’s where folks often run into trouble – if a user specifies a dataset parameter value via the URL and there is also a selection control wired up to supply values for the very same dataset parameter, a conflict occurs. The mobile report resolves this conflict by applying the dataset parameter value supplied via the URL (and discarding the initial selection control value). Note that this is true even as the user starts interacting with the report and chooses other selection values!

You can easily avoid this by supplying a selection control parameter via the URL instead of a dataset parameter.  The MSDN article is being updated to reflect this information as well, but keep this in mind when you are designing your mobile reports.

Finally, there is an item you can apply to your entire report via URL, and that’s to enable/disable showing the report title.

To disable the title, simply add “?title=false” to your URL, so it looks like the following –

http://rserver/reports/mobilereport/Claims%20Trends?title=false

If you want to show the title, just don’t add this to your URL.  Simple enough, right?

Hope this has been helpful for you and helped clear up a few things on this topic.  I want to give a special thanks to Andre M. from the engineering team for helping me with this blogpost.

Why Mobile Reports and Power BI Reports aren’t a zero sum decision in SQL Server Reporting Services

There are two questions I’ve gotten for months.  And with the first public preview of Power BI reports in SQL Server Reporting Services, they’ve grown louder in the past week or so.

“Will we be able to view Power BI reports hosted in SSRS in the Power BI mobile app?” (Yes, we’re planning to support that scenario)

“If so, why should I still use mobile reports?” (Sigh)

I’ll admit, I understand one of the biggest driving factors around this question is not wanting to “bet on the wrong horse”.  And yes, a major reason people are concerned about doing that is because of, well, Microsoft and some decisions made at various points in the company’s history around certain products.  But I can only offer my opinion on this particular question and what I’d tell a customer if they asked me question two today.

Recently, Power BI added the ability to create mobile optimized layouts for reports.  But no one has been asking if they should still create mobile optimized dashboards now that they have this new functionality.  Why not?  Because they aren’t really an either/or proposition.  You have a dashboard to give you an overview of your business metrics, and then can dig into more detail by clicking a tile and jumping into a report.  In the context of SQL Server Reporting Services, it’s probably better to compare the mobile report use case to Power BI dashboards rather than Power BI Reports.

By doing so, it helps customers avoid the single biggest issue people run into today with mobile reports (and previously Datazen).  What’s the issue exactly?  Well, they’re trying to use it to build reports the same way they do with Power BI Desktop.  They want interactive reports that allow drag and drop, ad-hoc analysis and can handle hundreds of thousands of records in a data model they build on the fly.  They did this previously because they didn’t have an option to run Power BI reports on-prem.  Now that they will, that shouldn’t be an issue any longer and they can use the best tool for that purpose, which is Power BI Desktop.

Similarly, there are certain use cases today where it may be advantageous to build a mobile report as my “dashboard”, instead of just building it in Power BI Desktop directly.  Today, a few of these include –

– I need my mobile report to be available for my users offline and still be fully interactive.  Power BI reports are viewable offline, but have certain limitations.

– I like having the thumbnail view of my mobile reports on devices for my users to see a quick preview of what the report looks like, especially in combination with KPI’s I’ve created.

– I can add URL’s that link to other content from items on my mobile report, or add url parameters to pass with that as well.

– Some users have specifically told me they like the fact they can add content from different data sources to a mobile report without building another data model.  Why?  They can then filter across all of those data sources in a mobile report, which I know some folks have wanted to see in the dashboards in Power BI.

– I need to view the reports in a mobile phone browser vs. the app.  For on-prem customers, there are often additional challenges having users leverage native apps to view the content vs. a web browser on the device.  The Mobile Reports will look the same in a phone browser as they will in the mobile app, and for some customers, that’s pretty important.

Sure, there are other benefits I get from mobile reports as well, including the whole “design first” option.  But doing a “feature shootout” as of today misses the point – I see mobile reports as a complimentary item to Power BI Reports, just as they are a complimentary item to paginated reports.  They give users an additional way to meet their customer’s needs, and could play a huge part in a customer’s solution, or no role at all.  And since we’ve already stated that adding Power BI dashboards is not on the short term roadmap, I feel very comfortable telling users there is a lot of business value you can derive out of using both options with SQL Server Reporting Services for the foreseeable future.

Now, could that change down the road?  Could Power BI Desktop becomes the single tool used to create mobile and paginated reports in addition to what it does today?  After all, we stated in our blogpost last year that “We intend to standardize reporting content types across Microsoft on-premises, cloud and hybrid systems.”  Does that mean we could consolidate everything into one tool as well?  I guess, but there’s a pretty healthy debate you can have on whether its better to have one tool to do everything, or specialized tools for each report type.  Trust me, I’ve been in this debate many times already.  And it’ll really depend on what it always does – what do our customers think is the best option moving forward?

There you have it – one man’s opinion on the subject.  And I’m sure there are people who will read this and disagree completely.  Great – I wouldn’t have it any other way.  🙂

Feel free to let me know what you think in the blog comments, and have a great week!

Ten things you might have missed in the Technical Preview of Power BI Reports in SQL Server Reporting Services

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Whew – this is my fourth (and final!) blogpost in four days around the Technical Preview for SQL Server Reporting Services.  It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun putting these together.  For my final post, I wanted to touch on ten items you’ll see (and can try) in the preview to ensure you don’t miss them.

Before I do that, however, I wanted to take a moment to say “Thank you”.  This past week at PASS Summit 2016, and the reaction from the community to this entire preview, has been one of the highlights of my entire career.  I got to meet several of you for the first time at PASS, and as you learned very quickly, I’m not someone to sugarcoat things.  You all embraced this very unique preview and made the engineers who were on-site at PASS from the Reporting Services team feel like the rock stars they are.  That type of passion and energy is so infectious, again, I can’t thank you enough for letting the team know how excited you were with what we’ve delivered to date.  Our customers are the reason we fought so hard to bring this to you, and I promise, this is the just the first step.  We’re already back at it, working hard to bring you the first installable preview of this functionality as quickly as possible.

1. You can access your VM in Azure through a web browser

If you’d like other users to view and interact with the technical preview without remoting into the VM.  This is helpful if you’d like to show it to additional people in your organization, give users read-only access, etc.  Keep in mind, you’ll still need to do all creating/editing of Power BI Desktop reports on the VM directly using Remote Desktop.

To try this out, find the public IP address of the VM in Azure listed in the essentials section

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Open a web browser on your local machine and type in the address/reports in the following format – http://8.8.8.8/reports (enabling https for the VM is something that is a little tricky to do, so I’ll have to decide whether that’s worth doing a future post around or not).  Enter your username and password for the VM, and you’ll be granted access to the report portal.
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2. You can use embed the Power BI Reports just like mobile and paginated reports.

If you’d like to see your Power BI Report in an iFrame, you can add ?rs:Embed=true at the end of the report url.  For example, here is the embed url for the Sample Sales Report when connected directly to the VM via remote desktop – http://localhost/reports/powerbi/Sample%20Sales%20Report?rs:embed=true

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3.  Mobile Reports and Power BI Reports both are available in the execution logs.

This is a common request for those folks interested in seeing when people ran certain reports and how often they did so.  If you go into the ReportServer database catalog via SQL Server Management Studio and run a query using the ExecutionLog3 SQL view, you’ll see log entries for both of these report types now show up –

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4.  Direct url navigation is now available for KPI’s.

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Users have so liked the new reporting services interface, they’d asked for an easy way to link to other content directly from the portal homepage so everyone can use the new portal as a starting point in their organization.  With this in mind, we added an additional option to KPI’s called “Direct Navigation”.  This allows you add a custom url as related content, just like you can in the portal currently, and simply bypass the current KPI pop-up action you get when you click on the KPI and go directly to the linked content.

For any KPI’s that you use this feature with, you’ll a little “link” in the upper right-hand corner of it so you can tell that it is enabled.  This will give the ability to create “dummy” KPI’s that you use just to link to outside content.

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5.  You can turn report comments off for certain users by creating a custom role in SQL Server Management Studio and assigning it to them for folders/reports.

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One piece of customer feedback we got when considering the comment feature was the need to give report owners the ability to restrict certain users from adding or viewing comments.  To accomplish that, we added new tasks for comments in Reporting Services that are assigned to security roles.  Security Roles in Reporting Services are managed through SQL Server Management Studio.  You can create a new role without these permissions and assign them to users accordingly by following the steps in this article.  (We’d recommend you hold off on changing the security roles for the Power BI reports in the Technical Preview, since we’re aware of an issue that was reported on another blog.)

6. You can favorite Power BI Reports just like any other report type

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7. You can install another instance of Analysis Services on the same machine to have both Multidimensional and Tabular running simultaneously.

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During setup, you get the option to run the VM with either Tabular or Multidimensional mode already running (along with demo Power BI content tailored for it).  However, if you really want to have both modes available on your machine, the developer edition installation files used for both the database engine and Analysis Services are located here on the VM – C:\SQLServer_13.0_Full

Simply add a new stand-alone instance of Analysis Services on the same machine and you’ll have both options available to build reports against.

8. You now have the option for a “List” view of your items in the portal

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Simply toggle the layout option in the View menu in the portal to switch view types.

9.  A new, expanded context menu is available when you click the ‘…’ option for that item.

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You’ll hear much more about items 8&9 in a future blog post on the Reporting Services team blog.

10. The Technical Preview VM will expire in six months.

Also note, the expiration date is six months from the date it was first made available in the portal.  Just be aware of this, and keep in mind you’ll probably want to migrate any content you put on there prior to this date.

And we’re done – finally, I can take a few hours to relax and watch the big Eagles/Cowboys game this evening.  I’m in such a good mood, I might not even care if the Eagles lose to Dallas.

Yeah, no, I’ll care – Go Birds!

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