During the PASS Summit Microsoft released the community technology preview (CTP) of SQL Server 11, codename “Denali”, and demonstrated some of the new features. One such technology that I found particularly exciting is codenamed project “Crescent” and appears to be a giant step forward in self service reporting. This browser based technology is built on Silverlight and at first glance resembles SSRS report builder, but the resemblance ends there as the features and functionality FAR out reach anything currently available. Users are able to build and format reports based on “models” that are deployed to the server. The formatting available, ease of use, animation(s), and rendering to PowerPoint is truly amazing. Multiple reports can be created into a “story board” and then deployed to Power Point to create a fully animated Power Point presentation.
Crescent is currently still in development and is not yet available in the CTP1 of Denali, but is scheduled for CTP2. The technology builds upon PowerPivot and each Crescent report is based off of a PowerPivot model that can be created within Excel or VS 2010. The models are deployed to SharePoint and from there users can create their reports through the web front end. As of right now Crescent is only available by installing SSRS in integrated mode into SharePoint 2010, don’t kill the messenger, which means that there is no ability to install this in native mode and enjoy this new feature. Discussion/concern as to licensing and implementation costs were voiced during a breakout session and it was said that this is still new in development and Microsoft will take all input into consideration.
The reports created are stored in a format called “rdlx” and not “rdl”, report definition language, which is the traditional extension for SSRS reports. The two different schemas prohibit users from modifying the report in BIDS or the report builder which raised some objections. The reasoning behind the different formats is programming limitations and, more importantly, Crescent is not meant to replace the report builder or BIDS, but is meant to provide a user friendly interface for the end user to facilitate self service reporting. I AGREE!! BIDS and report builder have evolved and are the tools for information worker and/or developer, but Crescent appears to fill the gap between the end users. I think creating yet another report building tool would only confuse the issue.
I would love to go into more detail and show demonstrations and screenshots, but gotta wait till CTP2. Until then here is a video posted on YouTube that shows Amir Netz demonstrating project Crescent: