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Sunday, December 18, 2011

AX 2012 - AX-SSRS Report Design Concepts

Recently I have been focusing on the BI and reporting aspects that come as part of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. There is a lot of great resources for this topic, and it's a topic that drives a lot of value, when speaking about AX 2012.

Since this is the case, I wanted to continue my focus on reporting, with this blog post, focused on the two categories, if you will, of types of AX-SSRS reports. These are Model Driven Solutions and Code Driven Solutions.

Model Driven Solution Diagram

First up, lets talk about the model driven solution, in terms of AX-SSRS reports. When speaking about the model driven approach to AX-SSRS report development, the focus is around the use of Query objects, from the AOT, to model your report with. The idea, with such reports, in that very little X++ code is needed to enable them.

This path, should be favored as much as possible, as it's the least amount of TCO in terms of report development. With this approach, and with report design in general, we have the report itself, and surrounding it is the design, data and control aspects of the report.

When talking in terms of the model driven approach, the design, as you can see from above is created within Visual Studio 2010. Further, the data aspect, is represented via a Query object, and a good example of the control for such a designed report is ranges.

Keep in mind, when thinking about such design patterns, that the Query object is meant to be a re-usable API in AX 2012. The same query object that powers a AX-SSRS report design, could also enable a PowerPivot report, or could be used to help define and deliver Contextual BI elements, say for an InfoPart.

Moveing forward with this thought process, lets look to the next category, for AX-SSRS report design. This is the Code Driven Solution.

Code Driven Solution Diagram

With this concept, we have our basic design elements, or constructs for reference. It's the design, data and control points. Looking at the above diagram and comparing the code driven solution vs. the model driven, we see that at the heart of the design, is still Visual Studio 2010.

Beyond that though, these are much different than the Model driven solution, and the use of queries. The idea for this concept, is when code is needed to create the data behind a report. When this is the case, the data, for the above is represented by RDP, or Report Data Provider. This is a new class type for AX 2012, that enables the ability to design more complex reports, when the need to "mash" data from different sources arises.

Moving along with this concept, we also see that for the control, we have a Data Contract. This too is new to AX 2012, and we have seen some of these, in my coverage of services in AX 2012..

The data contract, when used in a design pattern that is laid out in the above, is meant to act as a simple class, that ties extended data types, that represent the data contract properties, to the report design itself. Enabling, therefore, the correct formatting of data, based on underlying table and data type designs.

With these two concepts in mind, we can start to move forward with report design. A big focus, and understanding point needs to be seen here. That is, you don't see the mention of BIDS, or Business Intelligence Development Studio. That is the standard SSRS design piece. The reason this is the case, is that VS2010 and a special project type are used to enable the creation of AX-SSRS reports. BIDS is actually hosted within VS2010, at least the design space is, so once in the VS2010 project, it's very familiar process for those use to using BIDS. However BIDS, and standard SSRS reports are not meant to be used in delivery data, with AX 2012.

To help you further, with learning these concepts, there are a couple of resources I would like to point you to. First, the Microsoft Dynamics AX BI team blog: Dynamics BI Team Blog. This is a resource I have highlighted before, and one I want to make sure everyone is aware of and makes use of.

Also, the same team, behind that blog, creates YouTube videos, at the following YouTube channel: Dynamics AX BI YouTube Channel. Here again, we have another great resource, in which the main topics of this post are discussed more fully, and taking to a deeper level. Some really great video's out there, so I highly recommend reviewing them, as you can.

Finally, Microsoft recently published the Whats New: Reporting for Developers in AX 2012. This is a really great resource, espically for those that have done AX-SSRS report development in AX 2009. All the concepts contained within that page, need to be fully understood, so that you can take full advantage of all the great improvements Microsoft has given us with this release, around report development.

Well that's all for this post, check back soon though as there is a whole lot more to come.

Till next time!

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