Skip to content

Month: April 2015

SQL Server Data Tools, BIDS, Visual Studio – What Do You Need?

The Business Intelligence design components of SQL Server have an identity crisis.

What I’m talking about are the tools that are used by designers to create BI objects in the SQL Server Business Intelligence stack, specifically Analysis Services (SSIS) OLAP cubes and tabular models, Integration Services (SSIS) ETL packages, and Reporting Services (SSRS) reports. These tools have always been bundled into a single product as part of the SQL Server distribution. The original incarnation of the tools was called Business Intelligence Development Studio, or just BIDS. It was originally introduced with SQL Server 2005, and was included on the SQL distribution media as an optional install component.

BIDS was a distribution of the Visual Studio shell, and a set of bundled project types for creating cubes, SSIS packages and SSRS reports. The original version was based on Visual Studio 2005, and subsequent releases of SQL Server stayed in step with more recent versions of Visual Studio. The projects were tied tightly to the Visual studio versions. If, for example you had Visual Studio 2010 already set up, installing BIDS would still install a different Visual Studio to support the projects. BIDS maintained its own identity. Installing BIDS is straightforward, you simply run setup from the SQL Server media, and select “Business Intelligence Development Studio”.

When SQL Server 2012 was released, a change was introduced. In addition to the projects required for tabular models in SSAS being added to the tools, they also received a new name. Henceforth they were to be known as SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT). As expected, the requisite level of Visual Studio was incremented and SSDT was based on Visual Studio 2010. The installation experience didn’t change fundamentally, the installation option just took on the new name.

So far so good. Products get renamed all of the time. Simply substitute SSDT for BIDS, and everything is pretty much as it once was.

SQL Server 2014 is the latest SQL Server version, and it introduced another major change. Data tools is no longer available from the SQL Server installation media.

This is where it gets very confusing. It was always possible to download BIDS or SSDT directly from Microsoft. These products don’t require a license to deploy and use, so they were freely available. This is also true with SQL 2014, but now, a download is the only way to get the tools. That’s simple enough. However, if you search for SQL Server Data Tools and download the version for either Visual Studio 2012 or Visual Studio 2013, you won’t find the projects that you were looking for. You’ll instead find projects for deploying databases and DACPACs. So what’s going on here?

As it turns out, a separate Microsoft team put out a separate set of VS project templates in the SQL Server 2012 timeframe that were also called SQL Server Data tools. Apparently there are a finite quantity of names.

The product that we originally knew as BIDS, and then SSDT was renamed one again for the SQL Server 2014 wave of products. Well, only sort of renamed. It’s now called SQL Server Data Tools – BI. Apparently this was intended to avoid confusion…. SSDT-BI is available for either Visual Studio 2012 or Visual Studio 2013. If you don’t already have a Visual Studio installed, it will install a VS shell for you.

The summary of all this is to say that if you want to build BI projects for SQL Server, you’ll need to have the right tooling for your target server, and that tooling is as follows:

Server Toolset Name Location
SQL Server 2008 R2 and below Business Intelligence Development Studio On SQL Media
SQL Server 2012 and 2012 SP1 SQL Server Data Tools On SQL Media
SQL Server 2014 SQL Server Data Tools – BI Download for Visual Studio 2012
Download for Visual Studio 2013

The complete current Data Tools product set is laid out and can be downloaded from here. The Data Tools team blog is here.

I hope that this helps to clear up some confusion. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in V.Next….