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Crystal Reports Server 2008Last week Business Objects announced the release of Crystal Reports Server 2008, a companion release to last years release of Crystal Reports 2008. Crystal Reports Server 2008 brings a number business intelligence platform features from BusinessObjects Enterprise 3.0 to customers at a very minimal price, while allowing the end user to still take advantage of the many features and enhancements to Crystal Reports 2008.

Specifically Crystal Reports Server allows administrators to quickly and easily publish, and manage their reports over the web. Administrators can then take advantage of Crystal Reports Server to schedule and distribute reports via the web, e-mail, or FTP while taking advantage of a very fine grained security authorization system which controls who can view, run, or schedule reports against your production data source or warehouse.

With the addition of some nice new features, and pricing changes, Crystal Reports Server 2008 is very similar to previous versions of the product. The value proposition for Crystal Reports Server very much stays the same. For IT it’s a very cost effective and easy way to distribute and manage Crystal Report files. For developers it solves a large majority of the   build versus buy’ scenarios that they have to weigh in order to get Crystal Reports into the hands of their end users.

As I mentioned earlier Crystal Reports Server uses the same platform as BusinessObjects Edge Series, and BusinessObjects Enterprise.  The main difference between Crystal Reports Server, Edge and BusinessObjects Enterprise is that Crystal Reports Server is primarily for managing Crystal Reports content and not other types of content like Web Intelligence for ad-hoc query and analysis, and it can only be deployed on one machine.

For those of you who are like me and don’t like marketing speak(honestly I try to keep marketing out of my blog but I’m sure it creaps in) there is a very good functional architecture diagram which gives you a good review of what is in the product. The diagram breaks the product into 6 organization areas:

  • Report creation
  • User interaction tier
  • Developer Services
  • Data Services
  • Platform Services
  • Managemtent tools

I think it will be useful to give a brief explanation of functional grouping to help explain what you get in the product. The document also contains a more detailed description than I provide.

Report Creation

Probably the most compelling reason to purchase Crystal Reports Server 2008 is that it fully supports all of the new features or Crystal Reports 2008. For those not familiar with Crystal Reports 2008 features they are well documented on the Crystal Reports book on Diamond community site. For those purchasing Crystal Reports Server 2008 keep in mind that you will need to purchase copies of Crystal Reports 2008 separately, this is a change from previous versions.

User Interaction Tier

One of the main benefits of Crystal Reports Server 2008 is that it provides an out of the box web application interface for end users to discover, view and manage reports via the web. This allows IT to simply install and easily deploy the application to end users in a matter of a few hours. A web application named InfoView is the default and most popular interface, but a J2EE Portal Integration Kit is also available for web distribution. Crystal Reports Server 2008 now includes BusinessObjects Live Office which allows you to integrate the trusted data inside of your Crystal Reports and Crystal Report instances with Microsoft Office. This allows Office users to update documents like Excel and PowerPoint with trusted data that can be tracked back to specific instances of crystal reports. This allows MS office users to continue to use their favorite desktop tools but embed data from trusted sources.

Developer Services

Although the applications of the User Interaction Tier are very useful they do not fit every need or use case. To fit more custom and specific interaction needs Crystal Reports Server provides to sets of APIs for use with custom scenarios. Java developers can use the J2EE services to develop applications that have similar functionality to InfoView, or they may want to integrate Crystal Report Server functionality into existing applications. Crystal Reports Server also includes a comprehensive Web Services SDK for those who would prefer to leverage web services to integrate report viewing into custom applications and workflows.

Data Services

One of the strengths of Crystal Reports over the years has been its ability to connect to virtually any data source. Crystal Reports Server builds on that legacy and adds an optional data layer called Business Views for IT to hide the complexities of data source creation for report designers while also enabling features like column level data security.

Platform Services

A major benefit of the Crystal Report Server is that it is built on the same platform as BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 and BusinessObjects Edge series. This allows it to inherit a number of features of the platform while also making upgrade migrations easy and seamless if your needs where to grow beyond Crystal Reports Servers ability. The platform services comprise a number of specialized services that handle the report processing, caching, meta data and other services connected through a highly performant communication framework.

Platform Services provide

  • Security – integration with LDAP, Active Directory/Windows NT, Kerboros, Siteminder for Authentication services
  • System Management – Manage rights for users, folders, reports and other objects published to the repository
  • Scheduling – An advanced scheduling system allow scheduling based on time, events, or recurring business calendar to a number of formats and output locations.
  • Report Processing – Crystal Reports Server has a number of services that support the most optimized ways of processing and caching data and report jobs ensuring reports return to end users in the fastest way possible.

Management Services

Crystal Reports Server provides a web application called the Central Management Console that provides to administrators with access to set rights and permissions to reports, folders, users and applications as well as a number of other features.

There is currently a 30 day free trial which I would suggest to anyone who has already purchased Crystal Reports 2008 or is currently investigating it. It adds a large number of features at a very low price when compared to similar report server offerings. And for many they have simply been waiting for this launch so they could get back to publishing reports via Crystal Reports Server.

Click here for more resources on Crystal Reports Server 2008

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