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We have a web app that uses SQL Server on the back end. We decided to add reporting capability in our app. Currently, at my suggestion, we're using SQL Server Reporting Services.

After repeated discussions with our CEO, his concerns are:

  • SSRS Report Builder is too confusing.
  • End users aren't intelligent enough to write SQL.

Multiple times he has suggested redash. I haven't actually used redash, but I did watch a video tutorial on how to set up a simple report. My response to our CEO was basically:

  • The redash report editor seems to have a nearly identical editor as SSRS for setting up data sources. Editing the report itself does seem like it's quite different, but I'm not really seeing how it's any less confusing.
  • It appears regardless of whether we use SSRS or redash, users have to supply a SQL query.
  • I pointed out that both products have a point and click SQL builder tool.

I think how complicated the UI is in these tools is subjective. I honestly don't think SSRS is that complicated and my feeling is users have to learn one tool or the other so what does it matter. Theoretically they will be starting from scratch with either. I really think our CEO just hasn't bothered to try writing a report with SSRS. Though I guess you could say the same about me with redash.

The issue with SQL is kind of a sticking point. To me, SQL is such a simple language I'm kind of surprised our CEO feels it's that complicated. Our product is used by very intelligent scientists. And some/most of those people use python at least occasionally. I would think if they can pick up python, SQL should be easy.

One benefit of redash is it seems to be more web-focused. I'll admit it's kind of clunky to set up Report Builder. We basically have it deployed using AWS AppStream. That's because obviously we don't have our database open to the world and we don't give out VPN access. I believe this setup requires logging in twice which is annoying. I suspect that could be cut down to one login, but our AWS person either didn't know how or didn't want to spend the time.

Regardless of my feelings about SQL being the right tool for the job, I guess I'm kind of asking for a way to abstract away the SQL database some way. Maybe some kind of middleware to achieve one or the other of the following:

  1. Provide access to a data source for SSRS Report Builder that doesn't require using Report Builder over AppStream or a VPN. And possibly make this be some kind of data source that isn't SQL.

  2. Provide some kind of data source for use in redash that doesn't require SQL.

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