Just what SQL Azure needed? A compelling business feature–Reporting

Those of us who let ourselves be the target of Microsoft’s marketing will be very aware that SQL Azure has been around for a year now and that a (very) small number of people are using it for their cloud based apps and a few more as a development test bed.

In summary, the reason for this is because what we’ve yet to see for SQL Azure is:

  • mass adoption by developers therefore taking the service into production
  • it become a default deployment option for commercial shrink wrapped applications
  • a list of compelling quick win features which makes SQL Azure a no-brainer for businesses to migrate to

As with all new technologies and versions there are generally three major reasons why people generally adopt them:

  • They have to – for example Microsoft announce the end of support for the current version or the only version you can buy is the latest
  • They want to – the developers on a project might, given the chance,  want to use the latest version with the newest features because they can
  • They need to – a feature the business must have might only be available in the latest version

So looking at the two sets of three points above we can see that SQL Azure has yet to have a compelling ‘must have’ feature which has driven noticeable adoption, although to be fair its still a developing product.

SQL Azure Reporting

However, recently we’ve seen talk about the CTP of SQL Azure Reporting.  According to hearsay, the most requested feature of SQL Azure was a  cloud version of the on-premise Reporting Services.  And when you consider what a business  user has to go through to get Report Designer and web based reports available to them you can see why a black-box cloud based reporting service is big ask from the data community.

In the future, data analysts won’t need to worry about servers, installations or configurations, they’ll all be done in bulk by Microsoft in the Azure cloud.  It’ll also remove the dependency the business analysts have on the IT department.  Could life be any better for those people?

A big but

But, and its a big but, the CTP of SQL Azure Reporting lists “SQL Azure databases” as its only supported data source, unlike on-premise installations of SSRS which can pull data from almost anywhere.  This will be a big hurdle if the requirement for your reporting data to be in the cloud stays.  The question is, will businesses be willing to jump that hurdle?

Will SQL Azure Reporting’s requirement to have your reporting data in the cloud be the compelling event which kickstarts the migration of on-premise data to the cloud?  The tools are already there,  for example SQL Azure data sync, however the data businesses are most likely to want to report on will be their most sensitive data, so they will also have to ask themselves sooner than they expected about how much they trust Microsoft’s cloud services.  That isn’t a technology driven decision. 

So what next?

If adoption of SQL Azure Reporting is to go beyond the CTP businesses need to answer these questions:

  • Am I happy with all of my reporting data being in the cloud?
  • Am I happy I can get my data, on a regular basis, to the cloud? (Let’s hope its’ only MBs a day not GBs)
  • Does my business understand the consequences of the two questions above?
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