Microsoft released SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services to the public last week, and now, every SQL Server shop is wondering how the new product can help its business. SQL Server professionals need to gain a basic understanding of Reporting Services' features and architecture because a non-SQL Server person will ask you about Reporting Services' capabilities. There isn't a business entity in the world that doesn't do some kind of reporting. You might not be the person responsible for reporting in your organization right now, but as a SQL Server professional, you might become the person your coworkers come to for help because Reporting Services provides at least 85 percent of most competitive solutions' benefits.

Reporting Services is loaded with features for creating, managing, and delivering paper and Web-based reports. I covered Reporting Services in October in my commentary "Reporting Services Is the Future," available at http://www.sqlmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=40545. If you're looking for more detail, you can go to Microsoft's Reporting Services home page at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/reporting/default.asp. Existing SQL Server users can order Reporting Services from http://www.microsoft.com/sql/reporting/howtobuy/retailfulfillment.asp, and MSDN Universal subscribers can download Reporting Services from a private subscriber area. Reporting Services is free for existing SQL Server users if you deploy it on the same machine as your SQL Server instance. I encourage you to read the FAQ at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/reporting/howtobuy/faq.asp for more information about licensing-agreement terms.

High-end reporting solutions can cost up to six figures to deploy, which is a substantial amount of money (even for Fortune 500 companies). Reporting Services might not provide all the features of the high-end reporting tools, but it does provide most of them--and the price is right. I'd be surprised if an organization ignored a free version of Reporting Services to drop $50,000 to $100,000 on a high-end product.

Only time will tell whether Reporting Services will see a wide-scale distribution, but it will have a significant effect on the reporting market. I have dozens of customers who use various reporting packages, including high- and low-end solutions. Every one of them plans to evaluate Reporting Services. Even if your organization decides not to deploy Reporting Services, the product will be part of your future as a SQL Server professional. Someone might even ask you to defend the decision to spend cash on a solution that you could have gotten for free.

To help me gauge Reporting Services' market acceptance, please tell me about your experiences with Reporting Services. Do you expect Reporting Services to make a big splash in the reporting market? Does Reporting Services lack features that prevent you from deploying it? Let me know what you think.