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SSRS Datassets And Datasources

SSRS Datasets and DataSources By Mike Bennyhoff

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is a powerful tool in the business intelligence toolkit, offering a range of features to create dynamic, insightful reports. Central to effective report creation is the mastery of data sources and data sets. These elements are the backbone of your reports, acting as the bridge to the data that drives your analysis and decision-making.

What Are Data Sources in SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)

Data Sources in SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) refer to the connections set up to access the data that will be used in reports. These sources can include a variety of database systems, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle databases, or even ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) sources, among others. The configuration of a data source involves specifying the necessary details to establish a connection to the database server, which includes the server's address (IP), the specific database name, authentication credentials (username and password), and sometimes additional parameters depending on the database system and the network environment.

In SSRS, data sources are essential because they define where and how SSRS retrieves the data needed for reporting. They act as the bridge between the report designer or developer and the underlying data. Without properly configured data sources, reports cannot fetch the data they are designed to display, making the creation of accurate and insightful reports impossible.

SSRS Datasets and Sources Example

There are two main types of data sources in SSRS:

  • Shared Data Sources: These are reusable data source definitions that can be used by multiple reports within a project or across projects. Shared data sources are beneficial for consistency and ease of maintenance, especially when many reports rely on the same database connection settings. Changes made to a shared data source propagate to all reports using that data source.

  • Embedded Data Sources: These are defined within individual reports and are specific to that report only. While they offer flexibility, embedded data sources can lead to redundancy and more effort in maintenance if many reports connect to the same database but each has its own data source definition.

Data sources in SSRS are not limited to relational databases. SSRS supports connecting to various types of data sources, including XML files, web services, and even flat files, among others. This flexibility allows SSRS to be a versatile tool for creating comprehensive reports from diverse data origins.

The configuration and management of data sources are crucial tasks in SSRS, involving tasks such as creating, modifying, and deleting shared data sources, as well as understanding their dependencies within the SQL Server environment. Proper management embedded data source ensures that reports have reliable access to the data they need, ultimately contributing to the accuracy and effectiveness of the reporting solution.


Definition of Data Sources In The Report Server and Their Role

Data sources in SSRS are the connection strings to your actual data. They provide the information SSRS needs to establish a connection and retrieve data from your data storage system, whether that's a SQL Server database, an Oracle database, a SharePoint list, or another data-centric system.

Understanding how to configure, manage, and interact with data sources is fundamental to the report development process. A well-configured report data source also means efficient data retrieval and processing, leading to faster reports and a better end-user experience.

Types of Data Sources

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) supports a broad range of data sources, allowing for the creation of complex reports from diverse types of data. This flexibility is crucial for organizations that store data across different platforms and formats. Here's an overview of some of the key data sources available for SSRS:

Datasources in SSRS

Relational Databases, Including SQL server

  • Microsoft SQL Server: Native support for SQL Server databases is provided, as expected, given that both the database system and SSRS are Microsoft products.

  • Oracle: You can connect to Oracle databases using the .NET Framework Data Provider for Oracle or the Oracle client.

  • MySQL: Connection to MySQL databases can be achieved through ODBC or .NET providers.

  • PostgreSQL: Similar to MySQL, PostgreSQL databases can be accessed via ODBC or .NET data providers.

  • ODBC (Open Database Connectivity): Allows connection to various database systems that support the ODBC standard, making it a versatile option for accessing data stored in less common or older database systems.

  • OLE DB (Object Linking and Embedding, Database): A Microsoft data access standard used to connect to various data sources, including relational databases and legacy systems.

File Formats

  • CSV (Comma-Separated Values): SSRS can retrieve data from CSV files using the OLE DB provider for text files. This is particularly useful for reports based on simple flat-file databases or when importing/exporting data from systems that use CSV as an interchange format.

  • Microsoft Excel: Data stored in Excel spreadsheets can be accessed using the OLE DB provider for Excel. This is useful for reports based on data compiled or maintained in Excel documents.

  • XML Files: XML data sources can be accessed directly using HTTP or from files using the XML data provider. This is beneficial for reports that need to consume web services or process other XML data

Other Data Sources

  • Microsoft SharePoint Lists: SSRS can connect to SharePoint to generate reports based on lists and libraries within a SharePoint site.

  • Web Services: SSRS can consume data from web services by accessing XML data returned by SOAP endpoints. This allows for the integration of live data from various online services

  • Microsoft Azure SQL Database: As cloud computing becomes more prevalent, SSRS offers support for Azure SQL Database, enabling reports to use data stored in Microsoft's cloud database service.

It's important to note that while SSRS provides native or direct support for many of these data sources, others may require additional configuration or the use of intermediary providers (like ODBC or OLE DB) to facilitate the connection. The choice of data source will depend on the specific requirements of the report being created, including the location of shared data source reference name of the data, the format of the data, and the complexity of the data retrieval needed.


Connecting to Data Sources in Report Builder

To connect to a data source in SSRS Report Builder, you'll use the Data Source Wizard. This tool guides you through the process of creating a new data source or modifying an existing one. You’ll need to supply the necessary connection properties, which can include server names, database names, authentication, test connection type, and credentials.

The wizard's step-by-step interface makes it simple for you to establish the initial connection, and you can test the data source connection before proceeding, ensuring that you have set it up correctly before using it in a new report server project.

Understanding SSRS Datassets And Datasources

Significance of Data Sets in Report Retrieval

Data sets are queries that SSRS uses to retrieve data from a data source. They act as placeholders for the actual data that will populate your report. Datasets can be simple SELECT queries or complex stored procedures and can involve multiple data sources if required, allowing you to bring together data from different locations into a single report.

Types of Data Sets

In SSRS, there are two primary types of datasets:

Embedded Data Sets

These are defined within the report itself. Embedded datasets are useful when the query is specific to a particular report and is not shared among multiple reports.

Shared Data Sets

Shared datasets are maintained outside of the report and are reusable across multiple reports. This can be particularly beneficial for large organizations where multiple reports may draw from the same or similar datasets.

Query Designer for Building Data Sets

The Query Designer is a graphical user interface within SSRS Report Builder used to define what data you want to retrieve for your report.

The tool provides a visual way to build your queries, offering a drag-and-drop interface for selecting fields, adding conditions, and defining sorting rules. This can be a great time-saver and can help less experienced users to construct valid SQL queries. For those who prefer writing their queries, the Query Designer also accepts direct input.

Working with Data Sources and Data Sets in SSRS

Adding and Managing Data Sources

To add a data source in SSRS Report Builder, you start by selecting the "Data Sources" node in the Report Data pane. From there, you can either create a whole new report data source or point to an existing shared data source.

When creating a connection string a new data source, the Data Source Properties window will guide you through the configuration process. Here, you will input the type of data source you are connecting to, and the specific connection details needed.

Creating Your Data Sets

Once the data source is in place, you can create data sets to retrieve information from that data source folder. By right-clicking on the "Data Sets" node, you can choose to add either an "Embedded Data Set" or a "Shared Data Set."

For embedded data sets, you'll define the query directly within the report. For shared data sets, you’ll point to the existing report server or shared data set and specify the parameters, as necessary.

Employing Parameters in Data Sets

Parameters in SSRS data sets are placeholders for the values that will be provided at report execution time. They allow you to build dynamic reports where users can input or select criteria, narrowing down the data they see without the need for multiple versions of the same report.

To start using parameters, you'll need to define them in the Query Designer and then map them to report parameters in the dataset properties. This linkage ensures that the parameters you've set for your report are passed to the data set query and used for filtering.

Best Practices for Data Sources and Data Sets

Data Source Security and Access

Securing access to data sources is paramount. Ensure that only authorized users have permissions to view and manipulate the data through the data source connections you create. Empower your organization's security policies by using services accounts, using authentication method avoiding hard-coded credentials, and utilizing strong authentication methods.

Data Set Optimization

Optimizing your data sets can lead to more efficient report performance. This includes crafting queries that retrieve only the necessary data, minimizing data transfers, and leveraging indexes and query performance enhancements provided by your data source.

Consider the context of where your reports will be used. If they are going to be part of a real-time dashboard, for instance, you'll want to ensure that your data sets are optimized to deliver fast results.

Reusability and Consistency

Leveraging shared data sources and data sets contributes to report consistency and the efficient use of resources. With a shared dataset or data sets, you maintain one version of the query for use across multiple reports, reducing redundancy and the potential for discrepancies.

When new insights are discovered or business needs change, having a single source of truth in your shared data sets means that updating the logic in one place cascades across all connected reports, ensuring a uniform experience for users.

Advanced Topics in SSRS

Cascading Parameters for Dynamic Filtering

Cascading parameters in SSRS are a powerful feature that allows the values of one parameter to be dynamically updated based on the selection of another parameter. This advanced interactivity ensures that reports can adapt to dynamic user needs without compromising their structure or performance.

To implement cascading parameters, you need to set up the parameter dependencies correctly in the report and the query. The linked data sets must also be configured to refresh based on parameter changes, updating the report results accordingly.

Data Set Caching for Report Performance

Data set caching helps to improve report performance by storing data sets' results for a certain period. This can significantly reduce the time that data are retrieved, especially when a report is heavily used or when the underlying data doesn’t change frequently.

You can control caching at the dataset level or at the report level, and can define cache lifetimes to match the data freshness requirements of your reports. It's important to note that caching strategies should align with your reporting needs, as you wouldn't want to present stale data.

Custom Data Processing Extensions for Unique Data Sources

In situations where SSRS's standard data source options don't match your requirements, custom data processing extensions allow you to create connectors to virtually any data source. This is an advanced topic that typically involves developing custom code using .NET.

Custom data processing extensions expand the capabilities of SSRS, unlocking the potential to report on data that might be in non-standard or custom-built databases or storage systems.

Conclusion: Empowering Your SSRS Journey with Data Sources and Data Sets

In the realm of report building with SSRS Datassets And Datasources are the unsung heroes, enabling the creation of reports that speak to the data-driven needs of your organization. By understanding these elements deeply, you equip yourself with the knowledge to design powerful, performance-focused reports that can truly transform data into actionable insights.


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