Top 5 Java based tools for capturing business intelligence (BI)

There are many tools out there for working with BI, but here we look at the top five Business Intelligence tools that are written using the Java language.

Within the enterprise, one of the IT projects with the greatest potential to deliver value right now is business intelligence software. Solutions from the largest software companies are certainly available to meet this need. But for the Java community, and there are also many open source options that provide flexibility for custom development. While the enterprise versions of these tools are typically associated with a cost for commercial licensing or support, many can be explored at a basic level for free through various open source projects. Here are some of the top tools in this space for capturing business intelligence.

Pentaho BI

Pentaho is built on Java Enterprise Edition and runs on the JBoss web server. It is best known for data integration and data mining that help it support complex business analytics. At the same time, it has some limitations that make it a better fit for IT than for the average business user. With its strong workflow automation capabilities, this business intelligence (BI) suite can be a good choice for enterprises that want to build strong reporting functionality into their business processes.

Pentaho BI, with over 10,000 weekly downloads from, is one of the most popular Java-based BI tools. It is followed at a distance by JasperReports Server with about 2,800 downloads a week. However, these two platforms are in fierce competition and may switch places again in the future.

We're accelerating the democratization and wide-scale adoption of Big Data analytics.

Doug Clare, FICO VP Product Management

JasperReports Server

Jaspersoft, a well-established BI suite which relies on Mondrian and JPivot for OLAP, is another favorite for Java developers. Jasper is rapidly expanding in unstructured data analytics capabilities and can now be used with a wide variety of non-relational databases including Cassandra, CouchDB, MongoDB, Neo4j, and Riak. It received high scores from Rod Cope at OpenLogic for a superior user interface and better documentation than competitors (including Pentaho). Java developers who enjoy working in Groovy will appreciate the chance to script custom reporting functions in JasperReport Professional, and enterprises can benefit from the ability to create bespoke queries, reports, and dashboards that fit their BI needs.


Splunk stands apart from other BI tools in its focus on embedded technology. This enterprise solution allows businesses to collect, index, and search their machine data with ease. Brian Gilmore, Product Manager for Enterprise Intelligence at McKenney's, described how Splunk enables this engineering's customers (including multi-site organizations) to manage their facilities with greater efficiency. "We're basically dumping data on a 1 minute, 5 minute, or 15 minute basis into Splunk. Once we get it in there, we're tagging it with all kinds of information such as what physical device it's coming off of, where it's located in the field, who it might be affecting. It really gives you a snapshot of the operations of the facility."


Karmasphere Studio is an Eclipse-based offering in the BI field. These plugins form the core of an integrated development platform that is geared toward Big Data and BI. The related Karmasphere Analyst tool, in particular, is designed for data mining in Hadoop. In an effort to expand its reach even further, Karmasphere has bundled these tools together for a quick start on Amazon Elastic MapReduce. The solution is marketed as Full-Fidelity Analytics since the original data is processed on the Hadoop cluster instead of being replicated, preprocessed, or abstracted.

The combination of tools has been so successful that Karmasphere was acquired in early 2014 by FICO (the analytics software company that authored the famous FICO Score).VP of Product management, Doug Clare, had this to say about the acquisition in a recent press release, "By embedding a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use interface for Hadoop data access into the FICO Analytic Cloud, we're accelerating the democratization and wide-scale adoption of Big Data analytics by organizations of all sizes and across all industries."

BIRT from Eclipse

Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) is an open source project sponsored by Actuate. It's designed primarily for Java web applications and consists of a design engine, report engine, and chart engine. Each engine is OSGi compatible, but can be run without OSGi if desired. The products offered via the BIRT architecture are the report designer, chart builder, and example viewer.

Jason Weathersby at Actuate described the basics. "We have a chart builder, which is a three tab wizard that allows you to create the EMF chart. That can be used outside of BIRT as well. If you have your own standard application and you want to use the chart engine, you can add the GUI to allow people to customize chart engines without even using anything else from BIRT." This feature can be especially useful for embedding BI into existing applications. With the 2012 addition of native support for Hadoop access and Big Data integration with Cassandra and MongoDB, the BIRT project is working hard to keep up with the needs of enterprise users.

That seems to be the case with each of the top tools for Java. They know it's a case of "go big, or go home" when it comes to competing in the Big Data BI space.


What is your favorite BI tool, be it Java based or not? Let us know.

Dig Deeper on Core Java APIs and programming techniques

App Architecture
Software Quality
Cloud Computing