Installation Considerations for Reporting Services in SharePoint Integrated Mode

Ever Since SQL Server 2005 R2, it has been possible (with varying degrees of difficulty) to tightly integrate Reporting Services with SharePoint. What this means is effectively discarding the management and user interfaces that come with a Reporting Services native mode installation, and managing and use all reporting through the SharePoint interface.

This has really nice benefits for those managing the Reporting Services environment, mainly because you can simply leverage your SharePoint storage and security infrastructure instead of having to create and maintain another one simply for reports. Users benefit from a consistent user experience, and are easily able to create filtered reports through the Report Viewer web part.

Integrated mode is however not without its complications, and with the release this week of SQL Server 2008 R2 (which includes some very nice Reporting enhancements), I thought that I’d go over them. Here are some of the more important moving parts:

  • Reporting Services Add-In must be installed on EACH front end web server in the farm
  • Reporting Services database must be created in SharePoint integrated mode
  • Anonymous access must be disabled for the target application
  • The machine hosting Reporting services must be a member of the SharePoint farm

If everything that you’re running is on a single server, you really don’t need to read any further. In that scenario, everything is straightforward. But if you’re not on a demo system, or you have more than 3 users, chances are that your farm is distributed, and least broken out into one Web Front End (WFE) and one SQL Server.

As I’ve mentioned previously,The Reporting Services add in now installs as a prerequisite with SharePoint 2010,which makes the first point a no brainer. However, if you have SharePoint 2007 and multiple web front ends (your query servers count), you need to install the add in. Also if you add a new Front End server down the road, don’t forget the add in.

If you’re currently have a Reporting Services server running in native mode, and you’re looking to upgrade to SharePoint Integrated mode, don’t expect an enjoyable experience. You can’t upgrade your existing native mode database to integrated mode, you’ll need to export everything, create a new database in integrated mode, and move everything into it. You can however switch back and forth on the server side if you need to, but as you do, it’s all or nothing.

One thing that I wanted to do was to take an election results analysis demo that I’ve recently done with SQL Server 2008 R2 mapping and expose it to the world. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be an option because you can’t run the application in anonymous mode with the plug in. If you have this requirement, then Integrated Mode is not for you.

Finally, the big requirement is that the machine running Reporting Services must be a member of the SharePoint farm. Typically you only install the SharePoint bits on the WFEs and the Index servers, and the SQL Server itself is left alone. Basic guidance from Microsoft indicates that now you need to install the SharePoint bits on the SQL server and then join the farm. This may be daunting to those that have yet to “enjoy” the challenges of running a multiple WFE farm. It also might be a particular challenge if you don’t “own” the SQL server itself.

My preference (typically, not always) is to take the other approach, and install Reporting Sevices itself (none of the other services, database engine, etc) on one of the SharePoint front end servers. In our case, we have a 3 server farm (one front end, one indexer/query/central admin, and one SQL, and Reporting Services is on the Indexer/query/central admin box (I need a better name for it).

In this scenario, the Reporting Services databases themselves still live on the main SQL server, but the services and rendering all happen from the WFE machine. This makes for a very low touch solution in terms of your SQL server, and is much easier to maintain. This model also also allows you to get going with the new features available in SSRS R2 without having to first upgrade your central SQL server.

One caveat – with 2007, I always found that it was a requirement to also run the Central Administration application on the machine with Reporting Services. I don’t know if that was a true limitation, or something that I was missing. I haven’t yet tried it using R2 and 2010, but when I do, I’ll come back here and update this. Also – if you know something I don’t, please feel free to enlighten me!

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