Top 3 open source business intelligence and reporting tools | Opensource.com

Top 3 open source business intelligence and reporting tools

Posted 23 Jun 2014 by 

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This article reviews three top open source business intelligence and reporting tools. In economies of big data and open data, who do we turn to in order to have our data analysed and presented in a precise and readable format? This list covers those types of tools. The list is not exhaustive—I have selected tools that are widely used and can also meet enterprise requirements. And, this list is not meant to be a comparison—this is a review of what is available.

BIRT

BIRT is part of the open source Eclipse project and was first released in 2004. BIRT is sponsored by Actuate, and recieves contributions from IBM and Innovent Solutions.

BIRT consists of several components. The main components being the Report Designer and BIRT Runtime. BIRT also provides three extra components: a Chart Engine, Chart Designer, and Viewer. With these components you are able to develop and publish reports as a standalone solution. However, with the use of the Design Engine API, which you can include in any Java/Java EE application, you can add reporting features in your own applications. For a full description and overview of it’s architecture, see this overview.

The BIRT Report Designer has a rich feature set, is robust, and performs well. It scores high in terms of usability with it’s intuitive user interface. An important difference with the other tools is the fact it presents reports primarily to web. It lacks a true Report Server, but by using the Viewer on a Java application server, you can provide end users with a web interface to render and view reports.

If you are looking for support, you can either check out the BIRT community or the Developer Center at Actuate. The project also provides extensive documentation and a Wiki.

BIRT is licensed under the Eclipse Public License. It’s latest release 4.3.2, which runs on Windows, Linux and Mac, can be downloaded here. Current development is shared through it’s most recent project plan.

JasperReport

TIBCO recently acquired JasperSoft, the company formerly behind JasperReport. JasperReport is the most popular and widely used open source reporting tool. It is used in hundreds of thousands production environments. JasperReport is released as Enterprise and Community editions.

Similar to BIRT, JasperReport consists of several components such as the JasperReport Library, iReport Report Designer, JasperReport Studio, and JasperReport Server. The Library is a library of Java classes and APIs and is the core of JasperReport. iReport Designer and Studio as the report designers where iReport is a Netbeans plugin and standalone client, and Studio an Eclipse plugin. Note: iReport will be discontinued in December 2015, with Studio becoming the main designer component. For a full overview and description of the components, visit the homepage of the JasperReport community.

A full feature list of JasperSoft (Studio) can be viewed here. Different from BIRT, JasperReport is using a pixel-perfect approach in viewing and printing it’s reports. The ETL, OLAP, and Server components provide JasperReport with valuable functionality in enterprise environments, making it easier to integrate with the IT-architecture of organisations.

JasperReport is supported by excellent documentation, a Wiki, Q&A forums, and user groups. Based on Java, JasperReport runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac. It’s latest release 5.5 is from October 2013, and is licensed under GPL.

Pentaho

Unlike the previous two tools, Pentaho is a complete business intelligene (BI) Suite, covering the gamut from reporting to data mining. The Pentaho BI Suite encompasses several open source projects, of which Pentaho Reporting is one of them.

Like the other tools, Pentaho Reporting has a rich feature set, ready for use in enterprise organisations. From visual report editor to web platform to render and view reports to end users. And report formats like PDF, HTML and more, security and role management, and the ability to email reports to users.

The Pentaho BI suite also contains the Pentaho BI Server. This is a J2EE application which provides an infrastructure to run and view reports through a web-based user interface. Other components from the suite are out of scope for this article. They can be viewed on the site from Pentaho, under the Projects menu. Pentaho is released as Enterprise and Community editions.

The Pentaho project provides it’s community with a forum, Jira bug tracker, and some other collaboration options. It’s documentation can be found on a Wiki.

Pentaho runs on Java Enterprise Edition and can be used on Windows, Linux, and Mac. It’s latest release is version 5.0.7 from May 2014, and is licensed under GPL.

Summary

All three of these open source business intelligence and reporting tools provide a rich feature set ready for enterprise use. It will be up to the end user to do a thorough comparison and select either of these tools. Major differences can be found in report presentations, with a focus on web or print, or in the availability of a report server. Pentaho distinguishes itself by being more than just a reporting tool, with a full suite of components (data mining and integration).

Have you used any of these tools? What was your experience? Or, have you used similar tool not listed here that you would like to share?

See my list of top 5 open source project management tools.

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14 Comments

Joseph John

You did not mention about SpagoBI

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robinmuilwijk
Open Sourcerer

Thanks for the feedback Joseph, it looks like a great addition. For those interested, see http://www.spagobi.org/.

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Virgil Dodson

Thanks for the mention of BIRT and Actuate in your review... Watch for changes July 10th - they're not quite public so I can't say exactly, but the announcement will be exciting and shake things up.

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robinmuilwijk
Open Sourcerer

Thanks for the heads up Virgil, I'll be sure to check on news then.

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Jean Sagi

I don't see Talend in your list. I sligthly prefer it over pentaho.

J.

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robinmuilwijk
Open Sourcerer

Thanks for this addition Jean! I'll be sure to check it out.

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Don

I like NextReports (www.next-reports.com) . It's more user friendly and has great potential.

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robinmuilwijk
Open Sourcerer

Thanks for the suggestion Don.

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Don

If you are open-source minded, you should not delete others posts. I will let you be ...

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Arno Mittelbach

I'd like to mention a fairly new OSBI tool called ReportServer (http://www.reportserver.net). Besides many other features it allows to run both, reports generated with Jasper and with Birt.

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robinmuilwijk
Open Sourcerer

Thanks for mentioning this tool Arno. What I like about it, is the integration with JasperReport, BIRT and Crystal Reports. And of course, that it is open source.

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Arno Mittelbach

Hi Robin,
the new version (2.2) is out, and besides Jasper, Birt and Crystal, ReportServer now also offers OLAP (Mondrian) and extended JXLS support. I'd be happy to hear any thoughts.
Arno

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Fabien Pinckaers

Since version 8, Odoo has a great BI module: https://www.odoo.com/page/business-intelligence

But it is limited to reporting on Odoo apps.

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robinmuilwijk
Open Sourcerer

Thanks Fabien, for adding this to the list.

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Robin Muilwijk is Advisor Internet and e-Government. He also serves as a community moderator for Opensource.com, an online publication by Red Hat, and serves on the board for the eZ Publish community. Robin writes and is active on social media to promote and advocate for open source in our businesses and lives. Follow him on Twitter @i_robin or on LinkedIn.

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