Tools for on-demand reporting and Business Intelligence give companies a competitive edge by keeping a pulse on the operational data that drives strategic business decisions. Jinfonet's JReport is a Java operational BI reporting solution that can be embedded into customer applications. It provides real-time information and analysis in its pre-defined, interactive, or self-service ad hoc reporting. In an exclusive interview with Robin Davies, a Jinfonet spokesperson, DZone found out about JReport 9.1's new platform and cloud capabilities. We also asked him how JReport compares to other BI tools such as IBM's Cognos and Oracle's Report Services.
JReport in the Cloud
The JReport Enterprise Server can be deployed in a cloud with support for Amazon EC2, KVM, or VMware. A customer can start a cloud instance and provide static and dynamic (user modifiable) reports using a web enabled wizard. Davies explains, "A customer with a new SaaS application or new self-service reporting feature for their existing application may not know how popular it may be to start with. An investment company or bank may provide self-service reports but not know before hand if 100 of their customers will want to use it or 1000s. By deploying JReport Enterprise Server in the cloud, the infrastructure for JReport services can be expanded within minutes to meet any demand." He says this is much better than adding physical servers, which could take months of planning.
For server additions, JReport has clustering software that automatically recognizes new servers and proportionally increases system performance based on new system resources. Report level load balancing is supported so that each server does its fair share of work.
The JReport load balancing is compatible with most J2EE application servers. JReport Server also has fail-safe mechanisms. Davies explained, "To ensure system availability and ready access to JReport functions and report output, JReport Server enables fail over mechanisms that are fault tolerant to any single point of failure. Should the JReport Administration Server fail, all of its functions are automatically transferred to another server that is promoted to be the new cluster Administration server, and workload is re-distributed to the remaining servers in the cluster."
JReport for Eclipse (JR4E)
JR4E is a platform for Eclipse users. The main advantage of this platform, Davies says, is the ability to develop Java or Web applications and reports for those applications in the same IDE. Some major new features for JR4E include multiple format exporting (PDF, HTML, Excel, XML, etc.), more supported data source and component types, and a report wizard. Davies says, "JReport’s major advantage over competitors is that the JReport Enterprise Server can be fully integrated into their Java and Web applications via jar and war files and the Eclipse plug-in architecture makes it even easier for them to integrate JReport features."
DZone asked Davies how JReport distinguishes itself in competition with other products. He says report integration with Java and web applications is key. "Some competitors such as SAP with Crystal, IBM with Cognos and Oracle with Report Services can not be seamlessly integrated with customer’s Java and web applications," said Davies. "Other competitors such as Jasper and Pentaho have a minimal solution they position as open source, but to get the more advanced features you must purchase their commercial products which are not open source and are not the same source code as their open source offerings." Davies says JReport is position between the high-cost, high-learning curve BI tools and the "often lacking" open source offerings. He adds, "JReport is a single product designed from scratch in Java starting in 1998 to work together to provide full service reporting. Many competitors have a hodge-podge of open source or purchased commercial products which are not seamlessly integrated and the customer must choose from a large menu of components to put together disparate tools to provide canned reports, security, ad hoc reports, OLAP functionality, etc. "
When DZone asked Davies what we can expect in future versions of JReport, he said that version 10 will have a highly interactive report studio that's based on Web 2.0 and Flash technologies. "A new architecture will also shift more report server workload to the client and achieve even higher scalability," Davies said.