ON-DEMAND REPORT DELIVERY in Visual C#.NET

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visibility, document maps, navigational features, and the HTML Viewer. When a report with interactive features is requested in HTML, the Report Server embeds the request-specific details, such as the parameter values, in the report page. When the interactive feature is requested by the end user, for example, to perform a drilldown, the report spawns an HTTP-GET request to the Report Server to refresh itself. Performance The performance advantages of URL access are several. First, the report payload is smaller compared to requesting a report by SOAP. When the report is requested by URL, the Report Server doesn t have to serialize the report payload to a byte array before sending it to the consumer. Second, URL access doesn t require any preprocessing by the report consumer to render the report. In contrast, if you request the report from the Web service, in most cases you will need to save the report payload to a disk file and shell out to it so that the user can see it. Finally, report sessions are handled automatically by the browser, which can speed up subsequent requests to render the same report. Cons of URL access Restricted to report rendering You can only render reports using URL access to the Report Server. For all other tasks, you will need to use the RS Web service. Not object-oriented Crafting these query parameters can be difficult! However, you can get around it by creating a wrapper, which will generate the right URL syntax for you. For example, the RS Catalog Explorer demonstrates this approach by using a helper class, called URLAccessBuilder. We will use a similar approach in chapter 10 to abstract the URL syntax technicalities. Not suitable for server-side report rendering The URL access option is more suitable for interactive applications that generate reports on the client side. For example, you cannot programmatically catch exceptions and react to error conditions. In addition, requesting reports by URL requires direct access to the Report Server. This could be an issue in cases where there is a fa ade between the consumer and the Report Server and you need to validate business rules validation, provide custom security, or abstract the Report Server. URL length limitations Many browsers impose restrictions on the maximum length of the URL address. For example, Internet Explorer has a maximum URL length of 2 KB (2,084 characters). This makes passing large data structures as report parameters impossible. For instance, you won t be able to pass application datasets as a report parameter from a WinForm front end to a report. Although the custom dataset extension, which we are going to create in chapter 15, allows you to report off application datasets, the serialized dataset payload may often exceed 2 KB. As a workaround to this limitation, you can use HTTP-POST, as we will demonstrate in chapter 11.
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EVALUATING URL AND WEB SERVICE ACCESS OPTIONS
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Evaluating Web service access On the other hand, the Web service access option may be more suitable for generating reports on the server side of the application. Pros of Web service access Broad set of features Unlike the URL access option, the RS Web service is not limited to report rendering. It exposes the full functionality of the Report Server as a series of web methods. An industry standard for exchanging messages between heterogeneous platforms This increases the RS client base to applications running on other platforms. Object-oriented access Requesting a report via SOAP is as easy as instantiating the Web service proxy and calling its methods. In addition, the Report Server exposes exceptions as SOAP faults, which allows developers to code defensively. Flexible invocation As we ve seen, interfacing with the Web service doesn t require user interaction. Cons of Web service access HTML Viewer not available Unlike the URL option, a report rendered via SOAP doesn t include the HTML Viewer toolbar. For this reason, development effort will typically be required upfront for interactive client applications, for example, to get the report parameters, export format, and so on. Interactive features rely on URL access In general, you will find that requesting reports from the Web service will give you a reduced interactive feature set. For example, although interactive features, such as drilldown, hyperlinks, and document maps, are available when reports are rendered via SOAP, they rely on URL access to the Report Server. This could be a problem if the Report Server is behind a fa ade and direct HTTP-GET access to the Report Server is impossible. More involved report rendering Extra steps are required for report rendering and maintaining report sessions. Slower performance Report serialization results in an increased report payload. The percentage of increase varies based on the export format and the report itself, but experiments show an added overhead of about 20 30 percent. This could be an issue with low-speed connections between the client and the Report Server.
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Choosing an integration approach So, where does this chapter s discussion leave us in terms of integrating client applications with Reporting Services We saw that there are two options available when adding on-demand reporting capabilities to client applications: URL and SOAP. How would you choose between them In some cases, the application requirements will dictate the access option and you won t have much choice. For example, as we have seen,
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