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Which Enterprise Java Reporting Tool to use for Dynamic Reporting?

I am working on a decently big J2EE based project for the finance domain. I have been assigned the responsibility of identifying a reporting tool to meet some of the project's requirements. The specs go like this ...

1. Should be a pure java solution, so deployable on all Java enabled platforms
2. Should not have any dependency on any specific J2EE server. It is ok if it has its own reporting server.
3. The template for generating the reports should be editable at run time. Editable means the following
            a. User should be able to add or remove columns from the report template. The columns to be added can be from a pre-fixed list for a specific report template
            b. User should be able to add, modify or remove formulae
            c. User should be allowed to add, modify or remove grouping conditions
            d. User should be allowed to add summary / footer columns
            e. User should be allowed to add customer filters to control the records that will be out put.
            f. User should be allowed to change the view - font, width of columns, positioning of columns, color, font weight etc.

This means that some users should be allowed to totally modify the reporting template, from some sort of UI - like an Applet.
            
4. Should have facility to export reports to Excel, RTF and PDF formats.
5. Report should be totally web-based, not a quasi-web solution, derived from a client-sever model.
6. Should be capable of generating large number of reports.
7. Should be capable of generating reports from sources other than a database - ex Java Beans, XML etc.

Please suggest the best tool for meeting this.

Hari
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SHari
Asked:
SHari
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1 Solution
 
bochgochCommented:
As you probably realise, this is a new and developing area, for platform indepenence, then espressreport's is one of a few options that looks good although I have no experience of it:
http://www.quadbase.com/espressreport/

There are a number of open-source options:
http://java-source.net/open-source/charting-and-reporting
...of these JasperReports looks to be the pick of the bunch and worth further investigation...
http://jasperreports.sourceforge.net/
http://informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=160901636
http://www.opensymphony.com/webwork_old/views-jasper.html

There are other options that rely on a specific platform Actuate solution (WebSphere):
http://www.reportingengines.com/index.jsp
& Oracle has an number of options Reports / HTMLDB / Discoverer (Oracle App Server / Apache):
http://www.oracle.com/technology/index.html
& of course Microsoft Reporting services...

bg
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bochgochCommented:
A better link for Jasper...
http://www.jaspersoft.com/
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SHariAuthor Commented:
Hello bochgoch,

Thanks for the directions, I will check out espressReports.

I was evaluating Actuate's formula one. Youhave mentioned that it is platform specific (Websphere only) but I could not find any documentation to this effect (I know that Actuate wouldn't advertise that :) But still... ) Are you sure about this?

Jasper - I have used Jasper earlier and I did like it, but the client for whom the project is being done is very particular about using a tool that will have tech support (price is not a criteria). The client has also suggested that we take a look at Brio and Hyperion. Do you have any idea about these tool's capabilities. I know that they are big companies (and that H has taken over B). The website was intimidating (to say the least).

Thanks again,
Hari
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bochgochCommented:
Sorry, I think I overstated the Actuate platform constraints -- it integrates 'best' with Websphere BEA WebLogic Workshop, but can be used in other J2EE environments.
http://www.reportingengines.com/products/bea/overview.jsp

I was involved in a similar process a couple of years ago, but without the need for platform independance. Business Objects actually came out best, but was not selected due to cost (due to the 'per-user' licencing model that used at the time), we discounted Brio quite quickly as it didn't messure up to the competition -- we went with Oracle App Server (for mainly financial reasons). A BI consultancy I have worked with are moving away from Brio (actually toward Reporting Services).

By the way, Jasper now offer support:
http://www.jaspersoft.com/SupportOptions.html
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SHariAuthor Commented:
Hello bochgoch,

"By the way, Jasper now offer support:" - That is a very good thing to hear. I will surely check that out and keep you updated. The following are the tools that I am evaluating, in the sae order of preference. Let me know if I am on the right track.

1. Reporting Engine - Formula One
2. Jasper
3. EspressReport
4. InetSoft - Style Report (they offer adhoc reporting, which is very imprtant to me)
5. Brio + Hyperion
6. Crystal (I am under the imperssion that this is very tightly tied to the MS platform. Am I right on this?)
Oracle is a strict No-No because the client has had an extremly bad experience with Oracle 9iAS (starting from version 1.0.2..2.1 upto the 10g release)

Thanks in advance,
Hari
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bochgochCommented:
...I'd consider Crystal Report Server XI rather than just standard Crystal...
http://www.crystalreportsxi.co.uk/Crystal_Reports_Server.htm
...the product it's based on (Crystal Enterprise) was a very promising product prior to the Business Objects take-over -- Yes Crystal is pretty well tied to Windows, but has now got some Java pretensions.

Also, (without your Java only requirement) I'd look at Reporting Services (part of SQL Server) which is very functional and capable of some pretty rapid, impressive results.

...I can empathise with your client regarding 9ias -- I've spent the last two years working around its bugs with a wide array of solutions (many non-Oracle), we now have I very effective web-based MI / BI / Analysis solution, but not without a great deal of pain!

...Your list looks to be pretty well complete.

Good luck,

bg
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SHariAuthor Commented:
bochgoch,

Thanks again for the prompt answer.

I somehow have this feeling that you may have missed one of my most important requirements, which is "The template for generating the reports should be editable at run time".
This means that I will have to give the user a UI (something like an Applet or some sort of HTML/DHTML) to be able to edit the report template (like add or remove a column, increase the width, change the font, add a new grouping rule, add a summary column etc.) Have you any experience with this.

Point noted about 9iAS and Crystal Reports Enterprise.

Cheers,
Hari
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bochgochCommented:
As reporting tools all of these will offer that type of funtionality to some degree -- provide the user with an editable version of a report and allow them to amend the report. All provide a web based front-end to achieve this. What will vary is the way in which these user amended reports are stored / managed & the level of technical skill needed to amend the reports. I can say quite confidently that Brio will probably handle this in a relatively integration, effective manner, whilst the other options will tend toward requiring higher levels of technical skill...

bg
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SHariAuthor Commented:
Thank you bochgoch, your help is really appreciated. I think I will go with EspressReports. Thanks again.
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