Reporting Services

Radius90 from 90 Degree Software

Continuing the theme of free stuff I’ve received, the nice people at 90 Degree Software have been chatting with me on the phone, inviting me to webcasts and sending me eval versions of their Reporting Services report generation tool Radius90 for, oohhh, over a year and a half now. So why haven’t I blogged about the tool yet (ok, I did mention it once but only briefly)? Because it didn’t support Analysis Services as a data source. But now with the release of Radius90 Version 2 it does at last, so it’s review time.

Radius90 is one of those tools that has appeared to meet the need for an end-user friendly means of creating Reporting Services reports. BIDS is all very well for developers but you wouldn’t give it even to a power user; while Report Builder is a bit simplistic in terms of the reports it can generate, its UI is confusing and as far as its support for Analysis Services goes it’s very poor (see this white paper for a complete list of the limitations of Report Builder on an AS data source). Radius90 gives you a nice Office 2007-style interface that combines the power of BIDS with the kind of ease-of-use that Report Builder was aiming at. I like it a lot, and to be honest it’s hard to see how you could come up with a better tool for the job. It’s so good, in fact, that anyone who’s seen what Microsoft have got planned for Report Builder in RS2008 (see this entry on Brian Welcker’s blog or this webcast if you haven’t) will notice some very strong similarities with Radius90. I guess, in the long-term, this could cause problems for 90 Degree but they’ve got enough time before Katmai arrives and people start migrating to put in place some more distinguishing features, and as it is they already have some nice collaboration functionality whereby you can reuse pieces of your own and other people’s reports via a peer-to-peer network plus a good extensibility story.

What about their Analysis Services support? I found the following video which demos this and also acts as a good basic introduction to the report design process:

As you’ll see if you watch the video, MDX queries are generated with a wizard and while it’s easy to use I’d have preferred to see a drag-and-drop interface where you can see the results your query returns as you build it – they’ve taken a much more relational database-type approach rather than an OLAPy one, and I guess it’s down to what your users are comfortable with and not a major issue anyway. Once the wizard has completed you don’t seem to be able to change the query except through editing the MDX (or at least I haven’t worked out how to, I could be wrong) which is a bit of a pain, although it’s pretty quick to delete a query and create a new one and binding a query and the fields in it to table is very easy to do. It doesn’t enforce the whole ‘only put measures on columns’ nonsense when you supply your own MDX, and I got all excited when I used a query which had a non-measures dimension on columns and it not only worked but gave me comprehensible column names, but as soon as I tried to crossjoin more than one dimension on columns it soon broke down… hohum. Of course the users that this tool is aimed at aren’t going to be writing their own MDX anyway, so again I’m not too bothered about this. I also noticed that query slicing has been implemented using subcubes rather than the WHERE clause so that any calculated members that rely on looking at the currentmember on a hierarchy that you’re slicing by won’t work properly – it’s a fairly common mistake and one that Mosha mentions here, but I’ve reported it to them and I’m sure it’ll get fixed pretty soon. It’s the only real showstopper I found, though, and in general the MDX it produces is clean and efficient. UPDATE: it turns out I was using a pre-release version and this problem has now been fixed – sorry…

Overall, then, Radius90 is definitely recommended. Its AS support is still a bit immature but even in its present state it’s still adequate for most tasks; perhaps going forward they can make sophisticated support for AS data sources one of their selling points over Report Builder?

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