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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?