BIRT Takes Shape

An expert suggests ways to strengthen the Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) project, and examines how BI vendors are reacting to the unfolding open-source reporting program.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 17, 2004

2 Min Read

BIRT and the BI Industry

The BI market has been the target of numerous freebies and giveaways. Most notable has been Microsoft's bundling of its OLAP Engine for free with SQL Server, then Microsoft's data mining engine with its Analytic Services. More recently, Microsoft began giving away a variety of client-side OLAP utilities and wizards. Major vendors like IBM and Oracle, in an effort to protect their database market share, have begun giving away OLAP or data mining engines as well.

So when I polled a number of BI vendors, it was intriguing to get their responses on co-operating on the BIRT project, which in effect is a free reporting engine. First and most notable, a Microsoft spokesman said the company would propose RDL for the BIRT project. Actuate CTO Mark Coggins said BIRT would certainly consider using RDL. But Coggins also said the organization would be evaluating a number of other XML templates.

In contrast, both Hyperion and MicroStrategy said they would not be participating in BIRT immediately, though both said they would be evaluating it in the coming months. Regarding RDL, a MicroStrategy spokesman said the vendor "expects BIRT to adopt a similar but a more neutral standard ... and that we will provide native support for importing RDL, BIRT and other popular reporting templates."

In sum, the major BI players appear to be taking BIRT, RDL, XBRL and other standards and freebies in stride. Most vendors see their major market opportunity as integrating their BI systems -- reports, OLAP, analytics and portal systems -- as cross-platform offerings. Vendors also see BIRT as primarily departmental in nature, and increasing the need for enterprise integration. All vendors seem confident of being able to absorb and import "true XML"-based report definitions into their systems. BIRT is seen by some as guaranteeing a broad XML standard for report templates. Finally, despite efforts on our part to identify other XML or BI standards for inclusion in BIRT, no vendor chose to volunteer or explicitly name any.

In sum, BIRT elicited careful responses from most BI vendors. It's obvious that BIRT will help determine some important standards on how reporting will function. "Wait and see" plus "we can adapt" appear to be the current watch words.

Jacques Surveyer is a consultant and trainer; see some of his tips and tutorials at


The BIRT Proposal - the project proposal for review at

The - The umbrella organization sponsoring XBRL

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