Upcoming Speaking Engagements – Spring 2012

While the blog has been quieter than usual for the past couple of months, owing to a hectic schedule, I do have a number of speaking engagements coming up that I wanted to promote. All of them are related to SharePoint Business Intelligence in one way or another, and all are in the Toronto/South Western Ontario area. If you’d like to come out and talk SharePoint, Business Intelligence, or just indulge in a SharePint or two, I would love to see you there.

Hamilton SharePoint User Group
Thursday, Feb 16 2012
SQL Server Reporting Services with SharePoint
SQL Server Reporting Services provides a rich reporting environment, and integration with SharePoint makes it seem seamless to end users. How does Reporting Services impact the SharePoint environment? This presentation will walk through the basic features of Reporting Services, and architectural considerations when installing in a SharePoint farm. In addition, some of the differences included in the upcoming SQL Server 2012 version of Reporting Services will be discussed.
 
Toronto SharePoint User Group
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
What’s new in SQL Server 2012 for SharePoint
SQL Server 2012 brings a wealth of new features to the core database used by SharePoint. However, it also brings a number of exciting new Business Intelligence features right to your SharePoint users.

This session will walk through a number of the new features that have a direct impact on SharePoint administrators, designers and end users, with in depth demonstrations of how to configure and use them. These features include significant architectural changes to Reporting services, the new BISM or tabular engine for Analysis Services and PowerPivot, and the new end user focused reporting tool, PowerView.

SharePoint Summit
May 15, 2012
Reporting for Duty – Best Practices for Reporting Services with SharePoint

 

Reporting Services and SharePoint have been working together since SharePoint 2003. SQL Server 2005 SP1 brought the ability to use Reporting Services in Integrated Mode through a SharePoint Add in, and with SQL Server 2012, Reporting Services is a fully fledged SharePoint Service Application, and some features, the new PowerView in particular, are only available through SharePoint Integrated Mode.

Reporting Services bring a wealth of benefits to your SharePoint farm, but can also have a significant impact on it. This session will discuss the do’s and don’ts for a successful Reporting Services implementation. It will cover architectural considerations through to Report design, for both the Reporting Services Add In (SQL Server 2005-2008) and the new Reporting Services Service Application (SQL Server 2012).

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Upgrading and Moving Integrated Mode Reporting Services With SharePoint

There is a plethora of instructions out there on upgrading from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010, but relatively little on doing the upgrade where Reporting Services has been set up in SharePoint integrated mode. Given that there are a few gotchas that you can run into when doing this, I decided to put together this step-by-step, complete with the gotchas.

The most common scenario that will be encountered, given the vintages of the products will be an RS upgrade from SQL Server 2005 to 2008 R2. In addition, the in place upgrade is relatively painless (in the short term….) so I’ll be walking through a DB attach upgrade, which is just as applicable to RS as it is to SharePoint. Finally as I’ve written about previously, in a small farm, it’s likely a better idea to add the Reporting Services bits to a SharePoint front end server, than to add the SQL server to the SharePoint farm, and that will also be a part of our scenario.

The first question to answer is “why bother”? One of the advantages to using RS in SharePoint Integrated mode is that unlike Native mode, the reports, data connections and models are stored directly in SharePoint. It is therefore possible to just create a new RS database, and move forward. However, since subscriptions, schedules, and cache profiles are still in the database, it’s likely worth it to do the upgrade.

Step 1 – Back Up The Asymmetric Key

Reporting Services itself uses 2 SQL databases. One of the databases is for temporary operations, but the other database stores a number of important, and sensitive items for this reason, all sensitive items in the database are encrypted with a key. If we want to get access to these items, we need the key. To do so, we need to back it up from the source server before we move ahead.

Run the Reporting Services Configuration Manager on the source RS server, and select “Encryption Keys”. Click the Backup button, select (and remember) a password, and then save the key to the file system. 

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Once saved, copy the key file to the destination RS server (likely your SharePoint 2010 front end server).

Step 2 – Back Up the Reporting Services Databases

Run SQL Server Management Studio on the Server where the Reporting Services databases are located. Run full backups of the two RS databases. When complete, copy the backups to the destination SQL server (likely the server that will host the SharePoint 2010 databases).

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Step 3 – Restore the Reporting Services Databases

Using SSMS, restore the two databases to the host SQL server. Once restored, it’s likely a good idea to set the recovery model to Simple, and the Compatibility level to SQL Server 2008. These steps aren’t required, but are recommended, unless you have a reason for not doing so.

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Step 4 – Run the RS Configuration

If Reporting Services hasn’t yet been installed on the SharePoint server, do so, otherwise, proceed to configuration by running the Reporting Services Configuration Wizard on the destination RS Server. Configure the basic steps, and then when it comes to Database configuration, select the option to choose an existing database.

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Select the server where you restored the files in step 3, and select the primary RS database (the one without the word “Temp” in it”).

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Complete the configuration wizard.

Step 5 – Connect SharePoint to Reporting Services

From SharePoint Central Administration, select General Application Settings, and then Reporting Services Integration.

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Complete  the integration configuration, and then select OK

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So far so good – now we’re ready for some gotchas. If you now click on the “Set Server Defaults” link in the Reporting Services section, you likely get a rather nasty looking error. You’ll also experience this error if you access ewither of the two RS URLs defined in the RS configuration wizard. The error is:

The report server installation is not initialized. (rsReportServerNotActivated)

This error happens when the server can’t access configuration information, and the most common cause of that is that it can’t decrypt the content. In our case, it can’t because we haven’t yet restored our key.

Step 6 – Restore the Asymmetric Key

On our new RS server, we need to run the RS Configuration Manager, Select Encryption Keys, and then click the Restore button. You will be prompted for the file that you created and copied in Step 1, and this is where remembering the password comes in very handy.

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Once this is done, we can close the configuration manager and return to Central Administration. However, now when we try to access access any aspect of RS we get a new error:

The feature: “Scale-out deployment” is not supported in this edition of Reporting Services. (rsOperationNotSupported)

The reason for this error is that when we restored the key, it added an entry in the Keys table in the Reporting Services database, causing RS to think that we’re using multiple Reporting Services servers. This is what’s known as a scale-out deployment, and is only supported in the Enterprise version of Reporting Services. Obviously this isn’t a problem for anyone running Enterprise, but if not, it’s a showstopper.

The way to fix this is to remove the old server entry in the Keys table. Using SQL Server Management Studio, connect to the Reporting Services database, and open the dbo.Keys table. The old entry should be easy to spot as it will have the old server name. Simple delete the row.

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Once the offending entry is deleted, RS should be good to go.

7. Fix up the content type names

I have posted about this already, but often, an upgrade will break the Content Type names for the Reporting Services content types. Just follow the steps in this post to clean them up.

8. Reconnect Reports with Data Sources And/Or Republish

In addition, moving connection files and reports around in SharePoint can cause them to be disconnected from each other, or for the connection files to be disabled. It’s a good idea to navigate to all of your reports to make sure that they are connected, or better yet, to republish from the source if you had previously used BIDS to publish reports.

How To Fix Broken Reporting Services Content Type Names

Recently, after helping to upgrade a customer from SharePoint 2007 to 2010, we noticed some oddities around the Reporting Services content types. The RS content types are deployed into a  farm when the RS add-in is installed. The observed problem was that the names of the content types, and the content type group was all messed up.

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The names displayed were the internal names that are used to support multilingual installations. What I believe caused this problem was the the content database had been upgraded to 2010 prior to the add in being installed on the farm, so the English names could not be resolved.

All existing items using the types continued to work, and reports could still be deployed using Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS). However some UI dependent functions, like Report Builder could not be used without the proper names. Luckily, the fix is relatively straightforward. All that we need to do is to set the correct names manually. To get the correct farm, all that is necessary is to inspect an unaffected farm to see the section below.

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In order to fix this, you need to first navigate to the root of your site collection, and then select Site Actions – Site Settings, and then click on Site content types in the Galleries section.

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At this point, you should see the affected section, it will be right at the top. We need to fix the content types one at a time, so click on one of the affected content types. The Content type editor window will appear.  From that Window, simply select Name, description, and group.

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You will then be able to edit the values for Name, Description, and Group.

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For the first one that you edit, you’ll need to select the New Group option, and enter the correct name of the group, as indicated above. For the other two content types, you’ll be able to select the correct group from the existing group list.

Once you’ve edited all three content types, that’s it! You’re done.

Well, sort of…

Unfortunately the name change will only affect new libraries , or newly configured libraries. For libraries that already have these content types attached to them, you’ll need to repeat the process for each library that has been affected. I imagine that it’s quite possible to write a PowerShell script that will do this for all libraries, but so far, the remediation effort hasn’t warranted it.

Reporting Services Reports With Sparklines Running Very Slow

I recently encountered a fairly significant performance issue with SQL Server Reporting Services 2008 R2 and Reporting Services Azure. After having built out an electoral report that broke down election results poll by poll, I used what I think is a fantastic new feature in Reporting Services 2008 R2, sparklines.

A sparkline is essentially a mini-graph – a visual representation of a single row of data. In my case, it is the results, by party (as indicated by colour) for a given poll. It looks like this:

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Once I got this report looking the way that I wanted it to, I deployed it to Azure Reporting Services. However, when I ran the report, it took an incredibly long time to load (3 minutes and 30 seconds). I immediately blamed Azure RS for this, as it’s still a preview edition. However, further testing revealed the same behaviour on an on-premise deployment. The puzzling thing was that it rendered very quickly using the preview in BIDS or in Report Builder.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that the report renders fairly quickly when called from the Reporting Service web service to create a PDF file, or even an HTML file. I managed to discover this when I decided to pre-create a number of these reports in PDF format to reducre the load time for users (more on how I did this in an upcoming post).

The oddest part is precisely where the performance problem shows up. When the report is run using a browser, the browser thread’s CPU utilization goes up to 100% of available resources (a 2 core machine CPU runs up to 50%). This is happening on the client side.

On a hunch, I tried removing the sparklines. Presto, the load time dropped to 20 seconds. So I don’t get to use my sparklines in the live report which is unfortunate, but at least I found the culprit. What I wish I knew was why this was happening, or if there’s something I’m simply doing wrong.

If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.

How to Get SharePoint Data Into a Data Warehouse (And Back Again)

With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien……

Yesterday, as part of the ongoing Panellist Spotlight series for SharePoint Shoptalk, I presented a session on how to move your data from SharePoint, and in to a data warehouse, and then consume the warehoused data directly within SharePoint. These presentations are recorded, and posted online, and if you’re interested, you can view the entire presentation below:

In it, I demonstrate how SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) can be used to extract the data from SharePoint, and to store it in a SQL Server data warehouse. Then I walk through the creation of an external content type, and an external list using SharePoint Designer and SharePoint Business Connectivity Services (BCS). Finally, I create a report using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) in SharePoint Integrated mode.

Thanks to Jamees Wright for organizing the session, and to my fellow panellist, Laura Rogers.