On June 4, 2007, Dundas Data Visualization announced that SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) 2008 will include the Dundas suite of visualization products. According to the press release, Microsoft didn't acquire Dundas itself; instead, the company licensed its source code for integration purposes—Dundas will continue to operate and sell its SSRS visualization products. As of the SQL Server 2008 February CTP, Dundas Chart and Dundas Gauge have been integrated into SSRS 2008. (Dundas Calendar hasn't been integrated yet.) SSRS 2008 will no longer include the old charting capabilities; Dundas Chart has completely replaced them.

Related: Dundas and SSRS 2008: A New Visualization Platform, Part 2

Integrating the Dundas suite of visualization products into SSRS 2008 is a natural advancement. Dundas has been the premier SSRS visualization add-on since the reporting platform's debut in SQL Server 2000. Dundas has a long history of being a "gotta have" add-on for SSRS due to such features as enhanced charting and new gauge capabilities. By incorporating the Dundas suite into SSRS 2008, Microsoft gives customers the value of an enhanced report-visualization platform without the need to purchase and install additional software.

What Do We Get?

The first of several enhancements resulting from this integration is the greatly expanded chart type library. Chart types are the various chart formats that SSRS (or any reporting product) make available. SSRS 2005 contained native charting capabilities, but they were fairly limited when compared to those of Dundas Chart. Here's how SSRS 2008’s available charts compare to SSRS 2005's:

 

Chart Type

SSRS 2005

SSRS 2008

Column

Yes, 3 Varieties

Yes, 11 Varieties

Bar

Yes, 3 Varieties

Yes, 9 Varieties

Area

Yes, 2 Varieties

Yes, 8 Varieties

Line

Yes, 2 Varieties

Yes, 6 Varieties

Pie

Yes, 3 Varieties

Yes, 3 Varieties

Doughnut

Yes, 2 Varieties

Yes, 2 Varieties

Scatter

Yes, 3 Varieties

Yes, 1 Varieties

Bubble

Yes, 1 Varieties

Yes, 2 Varieties

Stock

Yes, 3 Varieties

Yes, 3 Varieties

Funnel

No

Yes, 2 Varieties

Pyramid

No

Yes, 2 Varieties

Range

No

Yes, 8 Varieties

Polar

No

Yes, 3 Varieties

 

In addition to charting enhancements, Dundas provides out-of-the-box gauge visualization capabilities. The new Dundas Gauge data region comes with nine varieties of the radial gauge, as well as eight varieties of the linear gauge. Gauges are frequently used in the construction of dashboards, in which a single gauge instance reflects a single key performance indicator (KPI). Some of these new visualization capabilities overlap and compliment the capabilities found in Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, including ProClarity.

The Dundas-SSRS 2008 integration introduces a few other features as well. Two of the most useful are secondary axes and runtime calculated series. Secondary axes let you display completely different metrics (e.g., price, volume) on the same chart. Runtime calculated series let you build formulas for calculating a new series of data points that are evaluated at runtime.

More Options, More Capabilities

Microsoft continues to leverage its best partners to strengthen the SQL Server product line. SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), Reporting Services, Report Models, ProClarity, and now the Dundas suite of visualization products have all been purchased and integrated into SQL Server. Integrating the Dundas suite into SSRS 2008 is a logical (and strategic) decision. Users always want more visualization options and capabilities, and with the integration of the Dundas platform, SSRS 2008 delivers on that goal.

In Part 2 of this commentary, I'll drill down into each of the new capabilities that the SSRS 2008-Dundas integration provides. I'll show you some of the new charts, gauges, and other out-of-the-box capabilities. In the meantime, if you want to start getting your hands dirty, note that prior builds of SQL Server 2008 (i.e., SQL Server CTP 5 and prior) required you to use the new Report Designer Preview authoring tool to author reports with the new SSRS 2008 functionality. For more on that, see "SQL Server 2008's Report Designer Preview."