PHP to get enterprise reporting

Popular scripting language PHP will get integrated XML reporting following the release 2.0 of open source business intelligence tool BIRT, according to PHP developer and support provider Zend Technologies.

Zend's co-founder and VP of technology, Andi Gutmans, said reporting has been an "under-filled" need in PHP, and as part of supporting PHP development on Eclipse, the company will be adding the ability to execute a standard BIRT XML report design from within PHP.

BIRT, or business intelligence reporting tool, is an open source J2EE reporting system for Web applications designed for the Eclipse framework. The general availability of BIRT 2.0 was announced this week by its founder Actuate at EclipseCon 2006 in Santa Clara, California.

"The BIRT Report Designer's graphical, Web design paradigm for creating standard report designs will appeal to the Web application developers that typify the PHP community, both in the commercial and open source arenas," Gutmans said. "Bringing reporting capabilities to the PHP community will be a win-win situation for all."

Actuate claims BIRT 2.0 delivers "out-of-the-box integration" for several commercial data sources in a "one button download" fashion. Also new is a reuse library for multiple report designs, page-on-demand HTML for viewing large report documents over the Internet, CSS support, a Java scripting editor, and persistent reports.

Actuate's senior vice president of engineering, Mark Coggins, said with BIRT 2.0, developers have a powerful alternative to non Web-oriented "'banded report writers' such as Crystal Reports".

"Report developers will now be able to benefit from a unique Web-page design metaphor, import of styles from existing Web site CSS files, report component reuse capabilities and access to an extensive collective knowledge base only possible with an open source-based technology," Coggins said. "Actuate BIRT 2.0 will enable developers of any experience level to quickly build complex customized reports, such as multi-pass analytic reports or reports that access multiple data sources, that once required expensive proprietary tools and teams of highly technical developers."

Vice president and research director at Ventana Research Eric Rogge said research on the acceptance of open source BI shows that the market now sees it as a viable alternative to commercial BI.

"The market is quite willing to use both open source BI and commercial BI simultaneously," Rogge said.

Director of research and services at The Data Warehousing Institute Wayne Eckerson also commended BIRT by saying many BI tools are "too expensive and don't have the flexibility that developers want", adding there will be a strong market for low-cost, highly flexible BI tools, and open source BI tools are part of that trend.

Actuate BIRT 2.0 is available immediately with annual subscription-based pricing beginning at $US95 per developer.

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