Eclipse to unveil updated BI tools

The Eclipse Foundation open-source community will this week unveil the second version of its Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT), a move designed to expand the use of the tools from Java developers to a wider audience, including report developers.

BIRT 2.0, which will be available for download today, includes a reuse library with reporting and analysis components that can be shared among user groups, and enhancements to its reporting engine and report designer tool, said Mike Thoma, vice president of product marketing at San Francisco-based Actuate Corp. Actuate is a strategic partner with Eclipse for the business intelligence and reporting project.

While the first version of BIRT, released in June, was purely focused on Java developers, 2.0 adds features targeted at the 15 million report developers, Thoma said. In addition, because Zend Technologies Ltd. plans to add reporting to its PHP development tools using BIRT 2.0 this year, the 2.5 million PHP developers will also have access to the open-source tools.

"From a report developer's perspective, it is a drag-and-drop paradigm versus the coding approach in 1.0," Thoma said. "This will give people a very good alternative to commercial products in the report development space."

The second version of BIRT includes a new report component library that allows application developers to store report components for headers, charts or data transformation, according to Thoma. "A report developer could just drag components out of there and generate a report in a few minutes," he said.

This library also will allow BIRT to be more easily used by various communities of users, Thoma said.

Steven O'Grady, senior analyst at Denver-based RedMonk, said in a statement that the library is important because in the open-source world, the community behind a project is at least as important as the source code itself. As a result, the BIRT code will be available to a much broader audience than in the past, O'Grady said.

BIRT 2.0 also includes an enhanced reporting engine that Thoma said can handle much larger reports and can scale to thousands of simultaneous users. The report design tool adds drag-and-drop capabilities for business users, including the ability to access top selling products and sales people with one click, he said.

While the code will be available today, Actuate said it will begin providing indemnification, maintenance and support for BIRT 2.0 by the end of February.

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