This week, at Microsoft TechEd in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft turned a complete 180 in the way the company will license SQL Server Reporting Services and Report Builder. Microsoft was planning to include Report Builder in SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition but not Standard Edition or other less expensive SQL Server SKUs. I thought that was going to be a big mistake for Microsoft, and many people in the SQL Server community agreed with me. But this week, Microsoft Senior Vice President of Server Applications Paul Flessner announced that Reporting Services will be included in all editions of SQL Server 2005. In addition, the Workgroup and Standard Editions of SQL Server 2005 will include Report Builder.
Report Builder is Microsoft's answer to end users' need for an ad hoc report writer they can use to build their own reports. Reporting Services is a great platform, but the product's current tool set for developing reports is geared toward the developer audience. It's not easy for an average reporting system end user to use to do their ad hoc report creation. I don't mean to oversimplify the issue, but Report Builder will provide an interface for average end users (i.e., users that have limited technical knowledge) to effectively build their own reports. Report Builder is nice, but it's probably not worth paying the $20,000 premium it would cost to move up from SQL Server Standard Edition to SQL Server Enterprise Edition. Instead, if Microsoft had stuck to its original plan, most customers would probably use third-party tools to fill their reporting needs. I suspect that Microsoft's turnaround concerning Report Builder means that the company recognizes there's tremendous benefit to letting all SQL Server users--including those using Standard Edition--standardize on Reporting Services as the reporting platform of choice (i.e., Reporting Services becomes the only reporting solution they need).
Report Builder's inclusion in SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition, and the inclusion of Reporting Services itself in all editions, arguably gives the SQL Server community the ability to manage their entire reporting infrastructure, including ad hoc end-user access, with features that ship in the box. I think offering that ability is a wise decision on Microsoft's part.