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The Net Takeaway: PHP and BI?


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PHP and BI? · 04/25/2007 11:27 AM, Database Analysis

I hear a lot about how open source and BI (Business Intelligence, the umbrella of data mining, reporting, analytics, etc.) are the waves of the future… but still, its hard to find real success stories and easy starts. I know, BI isn’t supposed to be easy, but come on, should I have to have a dedicated server just to do some simple reporting? Should I have to code it all from scratch?

For example, here is a list of the standard toss-outs whenever someone mentions open source BI:

(There are other great things like Weka for data mining, the R Project for Statistical Computing, etc. but these are not germane to the current point, so don’t jump on me for not mentioning these, nor the ETL offerings out there. Also, Bizgres by Greenplum is a custom extension to Postgres (ok, sorry, PostgreSQL) which really ramps it up for warehousing. Compare to Netezza (custom extension of Postgres on custom hardware), ExtenDB (free MPP version, but may be gone now), Datallegro (the cheaper Netezza), ParAccel (“middle layer accelerator”), and EnterpriseDB (Oracle compatible Postgres). These also don’t fit the current point, but they are cool.)

What do all these have in common? They all need Java and J2EE.

There is nothing for a basic LAMP stack. Actuate and Birt make press when they announced support for PHP, but they still require a J2EE middle layer; they just allow PHP to either call the Java components directly via a “JavaBridge” or call the reporting engine via a services approach. All of the rest have a Java foundation.

The only ones I could find included Agata from brazil, or in English, and phpreports This seems crazy. If LAMP is ready for the enterprise, if PHP is so powerful, why are there no reporting systems?

UPDATE: Thanks to the kind comments of Sherman Woods of the JasperServer project mentioned above, he reminded me of the BEE Project which is mostly PERL but doesn’t require anything beyond LAMP.

UPDATE: Also stumbled across RLIB which is a c program, full open source, designed to be compiled on Linux. I guess its a halfway solution; its not PHP, but its not hard to compile. Actually using it may be difficult; its not a beginner tool. Also found SQLMaestro’s Generator Series which are freeware GUI tools to generate custom PHP reporting on specific tables. Clever idea, if not entirely scalable.

Note that the same could be said for ColdFusion (and to some extent, newer environments like Ruby on Rails or Python); its as if Java and .Net are the only viable options, and open source (esp. open source code on open source foundational tools) is considered a waste of time for this hugely important market.

Now, I haven’t done a deep, deep dive… but if I can’t find an open source PHP-based reporting solution after half an hour of searching across 2 search engines and 5 “catalogs” of open source and Linux software, then it becomes clear that there is no clear winner in this space. Sounds like an open field of opportunity, esp. for small to medium businesses. And I’m just starting with reporting; the rest of the BI stack on PHP is also full of unmet needs.

Any takers?

* * *


  1. Have a look at which lists a lot of open source BI projects. The one PHP project listed is BEE

    I am the architect of JasperServer, and work with the JasperReports project lead. Our approach has been to use web services to provide PHP applications access to BI. There is an example PHP application that does this at

    Sherman Wood    Apr 26, 11:06 AM    #

  2. Thank you for the comment. Your examples, unfortunately, prove my point. You still need a live Java server running Jasper to support this. This doesn’t help a shared hoster who usually has only the traditional LAMP stack.

    But you are right, I forgot about BEE; it hasn’t released in a while so it fell off my list. To be specific, it’s mostly PERL, not PHP, but it deserves to be listed.

    Michael Wexler    Apr 26, 11:45 AM    #

  3. 3 years later and the situation has not changed much at all – see my posting here:

    Jacques Surveyer    Mar 8, 01:01 PM    #

  4. there is a LAMP-compatible reporting software.
    Check this out:
    It’s a WP-plugin that transforms wordpress in a reporting tool.
    It works only with MySQL db.

    Giovanni    Dec 14, 07:12 AM    #

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