MS Reporting services vs Business Objects


We have Business Objects 5.x . We are planning to migrate the
existing Business Object based reporting to MS SQL server reporting services. We are looking for the advantages and disadvantages of moving from Business Objects to Reporting services.

Thanks for your time in advance.
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In my opinion, I believe B.O. is the better choice overall because it's a more mature product that has a wider range of available features.  So simply comparing apples to apples you get a better product with B.O.

Reporting Services however will most likely continue to improve.  If you're closely tied to SQL Server as a db platform and/or to .Net as an application platform then the inevitable continued integration with Reporting Services may turn out to be an advantage in the future.  If you look at how Visual Studio has optimized the development environment for SQL Server it's not a big stretch to guess that VS2005 will include the same optimization for Reporting Services.

So bottom line it depends on what you want.  If you're deeply into SQL Server / .Net then Reporting Services will probably turn out to be the best long-run choice for you.  Otherwise I'd stick with B.O. at least for a while until Reporting Services is more mature.


Greg RowlandSoftware Designer, SysDBA, WebMaster OwnerCommented:
I agree with Frodoman.

While we are developing in Delphi 7.0 presently, we are dependant on SQL 2000 as a database plat form.
One of the greatest advantages I have had personally, “Report Services” leverages my existing transact SQL skill set.
SQL script can be written and debugged in the query analyzer, then simply pasted into report services. After that it’s all formatting.
It takes a little while to get familiar with the editing tools, however the “Report Services” newsgroup is really busy with lots of history on most issues.

Beyond that the biggest draw back for me has been that “Report Services” is server based, so there is no real client/desktop solution at this time. Although it is rumored to be coming in future releases.

Couldn't agree more, although I see the dedication to servers more of an advantage than a drawback...but's that's just the way we run our software.

MSRS is a bit 'young' at the minute for us to take it on full pelt, however, if you are not distributing reports to run on other servers and have in house development resource then it's definitely worth a look.

In the long term I think one of the biggest advantages of MSRS is the dissolving of the mythical report specialist.

Good BO 'consultants' are hard to come by and expensive in the main, MS entering this market will soften the reporting designers bills and improve availablilty of cheap designer training courses.

I should have started that last paragragh with I hope...

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As a heavy user of MS RS, I would say your decision must be made based on where you're coming from and where you are wanting to go.

We chose RS as I inherited a mixed bag of technologies - Crystal, Excel, Access, ASP (ADO) pages.
All our databases are MS SQL Server 2000, so cost (or lack of it) became a major factor, an enterprise version of crystal was getting on for £30k. If you have a SQL Server (not Personal Edition) licence, RS is effectively free. Centralised control and web based delivery were the two other goals and RS fits this perfectly.
It is not designed for end users to be able to write their own reports (to us that's a strength but to you it may be a major weakness!). Although there are third party add-ons (see Cizer) for instance, MS have just bought ActiveViews which will fill this hole in the future.
I find RS is very stable, but if you do want to wait for V2, it's likely to coincide with the release of Yukon (SQL2005) - due mid-2005 (and the rest!).
Many of the 'cons' I've listed will be addressed by the new version.

I've not used BO so can't comment on that but I'll give you the Pro's and Con's of RS in order of their relevance to us.

Web based delivery is the default and very easy to set up - uses IIS. You can use URL access to run reports too.
It can be very quick and easy to create powerful, good looking reports if data is organised properly to start with.
Extensive delivery rendering options - PDF, Excel, Web Archive.
Flexible scheduling & delivery methods - email, file share
Security - fully integrates into both Active Directory and SQL server security.
Report activity logging.
Development is in VS.Net or VB.Net.
Stable (now on SP1).
Extensible - you can use much of the .Net functionality, even write your own renderer if you're so inclined.
All reports definitions are actually XML documents.
End users can't (currently) write their own reports without a third party add-on.

Excel rendering quite limited (generating formulas is patchy).
Discrepancies between rendering engines can be frustrating, a report may look quite different when rendered in HTML compared to when it's rendered in PDF.
Passing data between different areas of a report can be tricky.
You don't always have a fine control over some aspects of the way parts of a report will look. e.g. Gaps between different data regions.
End users can't (currently) write their own reports without a third party add-on!

Chris McGuigan

You've received several good answers here.  Please award or split points and close this question.


Ok, my two cents as a BO Guy.

I've not had a lot of experience with the ms product yet.

I agree with most of the previous posts here.  My Company is not investing in ms reporting services yet because it's just too early.  The other thing that bugs me is that Microsoft, over and over, has proved that it will, at some point, make decisions that funnel it's customers into it's product line (stong integration with sql server, etc.).  I've worked with Pro-Clarity a bit, which I believe originated as an ms product (not now though).  It works only with ms databases.  While ms is no doubt the king of the hill, it's just not good business to funnel yourself that way.

BO, while it certainly has it's quirks, is mature at this point.  Integration into existing is architectures, with disparate dbms's is it's lifeblood.  It's the major thing that can set it apart from the competition.  They have no investment in tying themselves to any one dbms (or architecture).  One could say that, with the acquistition of Crystal, that's changed, but I've seen BO's integration roadmap, and it appears that connectivity, with equal integratioin capabilities, across disparate architectures will continue to be it's focus.  PDF rendering is also done well.

Chris's point about some limitation regarding customization of look and feel is well taken.  BO also has some limitation in regards to making it look "exactly like it looked" when the mainframe pumped it out 10 years ago.  But this is the tradeoff for quick development time.  Any product, BO, MS, Cognos, etc.  can be customized to do exactly what you want IF you're willing to spend the time diddling with the sdk.  It's a cost vs. value issue.

Sorry for the long winded comment.  I just find these types of threads interesting.


Interesting comments from chrismc.  I can tell you that in BO's Version 6.x products, the con's mentioned regarding msrs don't exist in current bo product.  Rendering to Excel is particularly good in BO.  I was surprised.  Not only did reports render well, charts and graphs were rendered with the underlying data table (BO result set) set up on a separate worksheet so that the chart and data could be manipulated within Excel.  Cool, not just a picture of a report.  

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Wow, my paragraphs got twisted around in the previous post????
Just a quick clarification on the connectivity front regarding MS RS, it is true that currently you will need a SQL Server to run Reporting Services but it can access any datasource with OLE-DB compliant data. It is also Microsofts intention for the next release to remove this restriction so that it can run standalone like Crystal. But if you're already running BO I guess it's the enterprise stuff (i.e. central report distribution, integrated security) that you want.

I also take jdharris's point about funnelling all your eggs into Microsofts' basket, but the luxury to avoid that 'generally' only comes when a company gets to a certain size.

Chrismc:  True enough.  I work for a large company.  Thank you for the info on ms rs connectivity.  I've got to get up to speed on the capabilities of Reporting Services.  I want to make sure that I understand you -

In order to run ms rs, you must have it on a box with SQL Server installed, but once you have that, you can access any ole/db compliant source?  I realize this is a bit off-topic, but thanks.

Yes, currently RS must be installed on an MS SQL Server 2000 box. But the reports themselves can access ANY OLE-DB compliant datasource.
On top of that in SQL Server you can 'Link' other OLE-DB Data Servers so one query could pull data from various servers, some of which could be Oracle for instance.

RS comprises the Reporting Service DB, Report Manager Web Application, Reporting Services development add-on.
The DB is un-surprisingly an MS SQL 2000 DB, it holds data on all aspects of serving up reports including snapshots, execution history, the deployed reports themselves, security settings, data connectivity settings. This is the reason for the tie-in to SQL Server.
The Report Manager Web Application runs in IIS, it doesn't have to be on the DB server but does have to be in MS IIS. It provides the reporting portal and allows full management of the environment with the exception of report developement.
Development is done via Visual Studio.NET 2003 or VB.Net 2003 - not 2002! Again it doesn't have to be on the same PC as the RS DB. Expressions and code can use any .Net language. The report definitions themselves are saved as XML documents. When deployed they are embedded in the Reporting Services database. It's a system that works very well.
RS is served to end users entirely in the browser with no software required at the users end - its' major selling point. This requirement is likely to be removed with the next release, but I would imagine it means you wouldn't be able to have the portal without it!
I am certainly not a lover of Microsoft but I do feel this product is a real gem (for once they've been innovative themselves) - you should take a look, you can download an evaluation version. If you already have a SQL Server licence, the only other cost is VS.Net or VB.Net. VB.Net can be picked up for around £80. Crystal Enterprise which can provide the portal was going to cost us getting on for £30,000.

Thanks Chris for the valuable info.

I would like to add that BO also serves reports via browser only.  There is also a java applet (I'm running Apache/Tomcat) that allows report creation/editing in the thin client environment.  I wonder if we should start a separate thread here, this is good information that a lot of folks would find valueable, but not pertainent to the original question.
Sure John, where do you suggest! Is expert exchange the right place for this discussion?

Chris.  Thanks so much.

If you wish, drop me a line at <email removed by PE mlmcc>.  It would be good to discuss this further.

Sorry, didn't know.  

Here is another paper

Hi mlmcc,

I guess it would be fair to share the points out amongst the responders.

gvsunilAuthor Commented:
I am really really for delay in accepting the answer. I was out of country..
Can i integrate MSRS in my web forms (ASP .NET)?
gvsunil - Thank you for closing this question.

aosexpert - You really need to ask your own questions.  On the left column is a link to ASK A QUESTION

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