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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a data mangler in London working for Dunnhumby

SSDT - What's in a name?

SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) recently got released as part of SQL Server 2012 and depending on who you believe it can be described as either:

  • a suite of tools for building SQL Server database solutions


  • a suite of tools for building SQL Server database, Integration Services, Analysis Services & Reporting Services solutions

Certainly the SQL Server 2012 installer seems to think it is the latter because it describes SQL Server Data Tools as "the SQL server development environment, including the tool formerly named Business Intelligence Development Studio. Also installs the business intelligence tools and references to the web installers for database development tools" as you can see here:

Strange then that, seemingly, there is no consensus within Microsoft about what SSDT actually is. On yesterday's blog post First Release of SSDT Power Tools reader Simon Lampen asked the quite legitimate question:

I understand (rightly or wrongly) that SSDT is the replacement for BIDS for SQL 2012 and have just installed this. If this is the case can you please point me to how I can edit rdl and rdlc files from within Visual Studio 2010 and import MS Access reports.

To which came the following reply:

SSDT doesn't include any BIDs (sic) components. Following up with the appropriate team (Analysis Services, Reporting Services, Integration Services) via their forum or msdn page would be the best way to answer you questions about these kinds of services. 

That's from a Microsoft employee by the way. Simon is even more confused by this and replies with:

I have done some more digging and am more confused than ever. This documentation (and many others) : expressly states that SSDT is where report editing tools are to be found

And on it goes....

You can see where Simon's confusion stems from. He has official documentation stating that SSDT includes all the stuff for building SSIS/SSAS/SSRS solutions (this is confirmed in the installer, remember) yet someone from Microsoft tells him "SSDT doesn't include any BIDs components".

I have been close to this for a long time (all the way through the CTPs) so I can kind of understand where the confusion stems from. To my understanding SSDT was originally the name of the database dev stuff but eventually that got expanded to include all of the dev tools - I guess not everyone in Microsoft got the memo.

Does this sound familiar? Have we not been down this road before? The database dev tools have had upteen names over the years (do any of datadude, TSData, VSTS for DB Pros, DBPro, VS2010 Database Projects sound familiar) and I was hoping that the SSDT moniker would put all confusion to bed - evidently its as complicated now as it has ever been.

Forgive me for whinging but putting meaningful, descriptive, accurate, well-defined and easily-communicated names onto a product doesn't seem like a difficult thing to do. I guess I'm mistaken!

Onwards and upwards...


Update: There is evidence that they (Microsoft) are seeking to rectify this situation. In a blog comment Janet Yeilding whom, I assume, is on the SSDT team says:

We recognize that our messaging on what SSDT is has been confusing and even contradictory and we're working on getting a cleaner story in the future.

Published Tuesday, April 3, 2012 2:44 PM by jamiet

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Pete said:

I totally agree with you - funnily enough I mentioned this to Gert Drapers yesterday via Twitter as I also found it confusing.

I originally wanted to play with Database Projects on my 2008R2 system, so downloaded SSDT from and installed. As expected this created "Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools" on my Start Menu and I could happily mess about with database projects.  At this point I didn't require BIDS functionality because I was still using the VS2008 shell as normal for R2.

I then did a fresh install of SQL Server 2012 on a new server, ensured SQL Server Data Tools was selected and was surprised to see that although the BIDS functionality was there, Database Projects had to be installed separately (the explanation from Gert being that it allows them to roll-out Database Project changes outside of the normal SQL Server service packs etc - at least that's how I interpreted his comments)

That's all very well, but I agree with you that the naming of the two variants is the confusing bit:

1) SQL Server 2012 installs "SQL Server Data Tools" under the "SQL Server 2012" Start Menu option - this includes BIDS but not Database Projects.

2) Database Projects installs "MICROSOFT SQL Server Data Tools" under the root of the Start Menu - this doesn't have BIDS functionality included if installed separately.

I think everything would be clearer if the Database Projects components were called something slightly different to "SQL Server Data Tools"

April 3, 2012 9:32 AM

RichB said:

Ok, now I am double confused... thanks Pete.... ;)

April 3, 2012 10:08 AM

James Serra said:

To add further confusion,  I had thought I installed SSDT when I went thru the SQL Server 2012 installation process since it was an option on the Features Selection menu that I selected.  However, this does not install the full SSDT product, but only a pointer to it that makes SSDT visible when you create a project in Visual Studio 2010. So you still need to follow the instructions at to install SSDT.

So in essence SSDT is nothing more than an add-in to VS 2010 that gives you database project functionality.  I think.

April 3, 2012 11:38 AM

jamiet said:

Hiya James,

I happen to think that's a good thing actually. My very first question when it was announced that SSDT would support Azure was "How are you going to keep this up to date with Azure releases every 3-to-6 months?" Distributing SSDT via an add-in is what enables this. I agree tho - it does serve to add to teh confusion.



April 3, 2012 11:42 AM

James Serra said:

Hi Jamie,

Yes, I agree it's a good thing also.  Just wish they did not make it so confusing.  I did not realize I was missing the database project functionality until I could not find the SQL Server Object Explorer window in Visual Studio.  Then after wasting much time I realized I still needed to install SSDT.  I'm still confused at what SSDT actually is.  

April 3, 2012 11:59 AM

jbooker said:

Clear as mud, but SSDT vs. VS2010 sounds the same as BIDS vs VS2008, no?  Depending on whether VS2010 is installed prior you either get project templates installed or project templates plus VS shell.

Can anyone say whether SSDT will break BIDS if installed on SQL 2008 R2 server?  I seem to remember VS2010 crashed my BIDS 2008 projects so I had to remove 2010 and reinstall BIDS.  Maybe at least that trouble is fixed this round?

April 3, 2012 10:23 PM

Simon Lampen said:

Hi Jamie,

It took me all afternoon yesterday but I have the answer the reinforces Pete's experience:

SSDT from the web platform installer is the new Database Design features with schema management etc.

SSDT from the SQL Server Reporting Services installation (eg SQL 2012 Express with Advanced tools) are report designer components.

So very confusingly there are 2 different components that are going by the same name. No wonder I am loosing hair and sleep.

By the way the report designer features seem to reference Office XP (!!) primary interop assemblies that are not included in the installation so trying to import Access reports fails.

Loving the whole experience of the BIDS team always being so far behind (Office 4 versions behind apparently and still stuck with VS2008 as the only working report designer).

April 4, 2012 12:49 AM

Pete said:

jbooker: Regarding your SSDT/BIDS2008 question, I'm happy to report that installing SSDT on my SQL Server 2008 R2 server doesn't seem to have broken anything in the 2008 R2 BIDS installation. Admittedly I haven't done anything overly-complex in BIDS since then, but I also didn't experience the original issues you've had with VS2010. Hopefully you'll be okay.

April 4, 2012 3:34 AM

Ian Yates said:

I have BIDS from SQL 2008 & 2008 R2 installed alongside VS2010.  I recently installed SQL 2012 developer on the same machine and both BIDS, and the new SSDT each function properly and independently.  Report designing is pretty much identical in both, as is analysis services cube design.  I haven't used SSIS much lately so I can't comment there.

The only issue I do have with the new SQL tools is that some visual studio extensions seem to try to work even though they have no business interfering with my SSMS query windows (some part of the design tools for entity framework) or reporting services expressions (Telerik Justcode & VS2010 code map both have issues with this).

So just to add more to Simon's comment - the new report designer is fine, although there aren't any new compelling features that jump out at the moment (it's not like the move from 2005->2008->R2 where great features appeared in each release).

April 6, 2012 3:56 AM

Graham Smith said:

So, I have SSDT(BIDS) installed and can create/edit SSRS and SSIS projects in VS2010. BUT, there sems to be a major snag in that although I can deploy SSRS reports to SQL Server 2008 R2 I CANNOT deploy SSIS packages to SQL Server 2008 R2 running SSIS 10.0. So, until I move to SQL Server 2012 I am stuck with using VS2008 to create/edit SSIS packages.

Have I got this right?

Cheers - Graham

April 12, 2012 12:32 PM

Frank Szendzielarz said:

To help add to the dismay and clear up the confusion, be aware that Report Model projects have completely disappeared from SSDT and the only way to maintain report models is by keeping BIDS 2008 around.

June 1, 2012 5:42 AM

SSIS Junkie said:

I discovered a peculiar little nuance in SQL Server yesterday that I think is worth sharing. Execute

July 19, 2012 6:03 AM

SSIS Junkie said:

If you don’t follow the SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) blog then you may not know that two days ago an

September 16, 2012 6:03 PM

SSIS Junkie said:

I have blogged previously at SSDT – What’s in a name? about the naming confusion that Microsoft have

January 16, 2013 5:05 PM

SSIS Junkie said:

SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) is released on a very regular cadence (note that I’m talking about the database

February 8, 2013 4:15 PM

SSIS Junkie said:

In March 2012 I published SSDT - What's in a name? where I lamented the mistakes that Microsoft made

April 3, 2013 3:49 AM

Bhupinder Singh said:

October 30, 2013 12:31 PM

I love you Bhupinder Singh said:

Bhupinder Singh, you are awesome. That link was exactly the kind of clarity I needed on the subject. May you live a long life and have many children.

March 19, 2015 9:59 AM

jamiet said:

That link would be great, if what the article said were true.

Start of the second paragraph:

"SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) is indeed the replacement for Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS)"

Not true.

March 19, 2015 10:09 AM

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