I have sold my soul. I have crossed over – joined the dark side. I have started recommending a Microsoft tool.

I cannot tell you how much this disturbs me. I started my development life on Unix systems. I know how to chmod, chown, ls ‘lt, even ps ?ef | grep ajacobso | 2>&1 | more for crying out loud. I have years of experience with IBMs midrange systems, also known as AS400. I can wrkqry, strdpm, wrkacjob. I like good old fashioned text based interfaces. Mice are for wimps. I’ve made jokes for years about the need to reboot Windows server – some of which can still get a laugh. I talk about the annoying Microsoft tax where people have to spend hundreds of dollars on Office for every PC they buy.

But nonetheless, I made a deal with the devil.

The reason is simple: SQL Server Reporting Services. We spend over 80% of consulting work developing and distributing reports for our customers. Their data sits in all kinds of systems – Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, MySQL? And I’ve found that using Microsoft SRSS is the easiest way for us to get reports to our customers quickly and efficiently. It’s cheaper than Crystal Report Server, and what’s better, almost every customer has an SQL license for something, , even if they aren’t majorly a SQL Server shop. So it’s really cheap.

But still, I can program perl. I like open source! We’ve used apache, for goodness sake!! How could I?

Like so many things in life, the road to perdition didn’t happen all at once. It was subtle. It all began when we started writing complex macros for Excel. Our clients love that stuff. Even if they have a million dollar ERP system behind them, getting the data in and out of it through Excel just thrills them. I was making them happy. Everyone has Excel. What was the harm?

Then we started doing a few large projects on SQL Server, as in dozens of stored procedures, views, and queries. And we really liked SQL Server Management Studio, it’s both useful and easy to use. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty nice. Again, what was the harm? The client made the choice and we are glad to work with pretty much any database. So my soul was still intact.

But then we were asked to make a choice for a client, and we recommended Microsoft SRSS and SQL Server, largely because it the cheapest option. It worked just fine, and we made money. Then we started playing with Analysis Services, and while it doesn’t do everything that the most sophisticated BI packages do, it gives you far, far more than most customers will ever use.

So we crossed over.

This does NOT mean that we are going to push all of our clients onto SQL Server. We are still dedicated to the idea that we’ll make the reporting tools you have work – “The reports you need from the software you already have.” ® And it’s not a magic tool that makes the detailed query building any easier. But it does mean that when we need to create and distribute reports, we’re recommending SQL Server, and that our development environment of choice is Microsoft.

I think I need a drink.


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