In my April 23, 2008 Essential BI UPDATE commentary "Dundas and SSRS 2008: a New Visualization Platform," I discussed the integration of the Dundas Data Visualization platform into SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) 2008. By integrating the Dundas suite of SSRS visualization products into SQL Server 2008, Microsoft is enhancing SQL Server 2008's out-of-the-box visualization capabilities. In this follow-up article, I'll demonstrate some of the new visualization capabilities in SSRS 2008 and wrap up with a prototype AdventureWorks dashboard.
New Chart Types
A plethora of new chart types will be available in SSRS 2008. (For a full listing of the new chart types, see "Dundas and SSRS 2008: a New Visualization Platform.") One of the new chart types is called a pyramid. A pyramid chart is great for showing the relative "weight" of one data point compared to another. For example, Figure 1 shows a sample pyramid chart that displays AdventureWorks Internet sales order quantities for seven days in 2004. As you can see in the first figure, the best day in terms of order quantities for the sample week was July 31.
SSRS 2008 also includes a new gauge data region and associated gauge types. As I mentioned in "Dundas and SSRS 2008: a New Visualization Platform," two gauges types are available in SSRS 2008: radial and linear. Gauges are a great way to visually represent a critical business metric (e.g., a key performance indicator—KPI). The next two figures show two gauges; the first gauge represents the AdventureWorks average Internet sales amount for the last seven days, and the second gauge represents the AdventureWorks average freight amount.
Constructing a SSRS 2008 Dashboard
Now that you’ve seen a handful of samples built using the SSRS 2008 advanced visualization component, you might be wondering, "How do I take these individual visualizations and create composite dashboards?" Creating SSRS 2008-based dashboards is a fairly simple process. First, create your datasource(s) and associated data sets. Both datasources and data sets can be accessed in the Report Data pane of the Report Designer. Next, drag-and-drop individual data regions (e.g., charts and gauges) onto the report designer surface. Finally, configure the various data regions with the data provided in the associated data sets. The figure below shows the completed AdventureWorks Internet Sales Dashboard.
Easily Create Rich Dashboards
Dundas is a great visualization platform that aids business intelligence (BI) developers in creating rich dashboards. Prior to SQL Server 2008, a BI developer would have to either purchase a copy of the Dundas software or use a similar dashboard package to create dashboards. With just a few queries and a few minutes spent in SSRS 2008's Report Designer, you can quickly create a basic dashboard.