BI brews with Java

SAN FRANCISCO (10/10/2003) - The Java platform's maturity is driving the emergence of embedded BI reporting tools that infuse applications with critical reporting.

These embedded tools take advantage of Java's security, stability, and administration. They are seen as a boon to productivity because decision-making can be more closely aligned with operational data.

Actuate Corp., Crystal Decisions Inc., and Information Builders Inc. are integrating reporting components -- via Java engines or Web services -- into Java application-development environments to leverage the J2EE stack.

ReportingEngines, a division of Actuate, will roll out an integrated Java reporting toolset in the fourth quarter of this year to provide BEA Systems Inc. developers to design, compile, and deploy reports without leaving the BEA WebLogic Workshop environment.

The new Formula One e.Report Engine for WebLogic Workshop leverages the security, scalability, and administration of the Java platform, and can embed reports within an application directly to WebLogic or the BEA Portal, said Tom Stafford, director of ReportingEngines.

"If you buy a separate enterprise solution, you would have a separate administrative process to manage that solution," Stafford said. "With the (ReportingEngines) toolset, you don't have that added complexity."

The e.Report Engine essentially creates a reusable piece of logic that enterprises can distribute and pull into their development environment to ease the integration of reports into applications, said Dave Cotter, BEA's director of WebLogic developer product marketing.

"Before, you had to write J2EE code below the API line to pull in reports and incorporate them," Cotter said. "You had to do a lot of heavy lifting and infrastructure code to wire those together."

The emergence of embedded reporting reflects the importance of infusing applications with reporting at the start of their lifecycle, said Philip Russom, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

"Before embedded reporting you had two technology stacks, but embedded reporting puts the report right there in the user interface of the application," he said. "There's an obvious productivity boost, and it also keeps the tactical decision-making very closely tied with the use of the operational app."

Crystal Decisions in June announced a new Java reporting engine and a partnership with Borland to distribute Crystal Reports with Borland Software Corp.'s JBuilder and its CBuilder for the Microsoft Corp. .Net Framework.

"We believe that the market for embedded reporting could be a bigger opportunity than BI itself," said James Thomas, senior product director at Crystal Decisions. "There are a lot of apps deployed out there today that don't have the fundamental tools and ability to extract information."

For its part, Information Builders announced in July an extension of its Web services strategy via a new Java API that enables developers to make BI calls directly from within the Java environment using the API.

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