Searching for a Reporting Platform

Here at Crisp we need to find a new Reporting Platform. We are a mobile advertising company. Regularly we generate reports for our clients detailing how their campaigns are running. What we are talking about here is your basic tabular reports, charts and graphs are nice to be able to show, but for the real data we need to show tables of data. It also needs to be attractive and be compatible with the latest web standards. It also needs to be embedded later into our application. It should be deployable in the cloud and run on Linux and the designer tool should be easy to use, and hopfully to be Mac friendly.

A number of years ago we went on this search earlier and had identified Actuate's Birt-on-demand service, which was cost effective and open to working with a company of our size. We are much like a startup in size with a small team. We had invested a substantial amount of work building reports for Actuate's platform, which now after the work, look great and work well. Unfortunately we discovered that Actuate is dumping the Birt-on-Demand platform and the SMB market. Prices to continue with that will be going up about 10 times, which we can't sustain. We need to move on.

When we started looking we had been using a custom built reporting solution, which in general worked well, and customers and users like to use, but in the long term is proving expensive to maintain and not flexible enough.

What worked well with Actuate is being able to separate the report from the rest of the services so it can be designed. If you have a large budget Actuate has their iHub 3 system that has very nice capabilities, but is expensive. Actuate has also been offering the F-Type which is a very basic install of the iHub 3, but with limited data access out. You pay for data out over a certain point. If you don't want their server, or an only open source solution, Birt open source is much more limited, and much more basic. F-type says's it's a free server, but it's not, it's a come on. It's unfortunate as Actuate has one of the best packages available. It has some work to do, but is better than most.

Tabular reports aren't very sexy and it appears that most of the BI industry is moving to systems that are geared toward dashboarding, self-service and self-discovery platforms, which are all the rage right now examples of this trend are Birst, Qlik, Minitab, Vero Analytics, Microstrategy and Tableau. Tableau's system is beautiful, but I can't see it being used to generate reports for our customers. Charts are very nice, but not what we need. We may later want to explore one of these platforms, for internal analysis, but first we need to build reports for our customers.

Some other solutions such as Microsoft Reporting Services provides a limited feature set, and are oriented around windows and SQL Server. We are a MySQL shop at the moment, with substantial size databases. We also don't want to do .net development. This is also an example of a solution that is very OLAP data warehouse oriented, with it's MDX queries, rather than relational queries.

Pentaho is another company with a similar orientation, focused on data warehouses and large development budgets rather than Agile solutions. Their reporting designer seems rather limited with no scripting support, and have recently become focused around big data. Although they have an open source presence, the open source package is much more limited.

Of the companies open to smaller companies, we see two. One is Jaspersoft, which seems like a possibility, particularly with their commercial packages have nice capabilities. However they are very Java focused. Your report designer should have Java background. Their AWS package also does dashboarding well and for basic reporting, can be designed in their server environment, which seems very powerful. They are like Crystal Reports band oriented, everything is about bands. One of the limitations is their user interface, although it is powerful, it's more difficult to use and a bit clunky. I think they should do more work improving the interface on this product. Another company is LogiAnalytics, which if your needs are more basic may be a good fit. It however doesn't seem to be able to build reports that are very complicated and sophisticated