I my last post, I suggested that one of the reasons many BI projects fail is that the focus turns to implementing the tool, and not on solving the problem. However focusing on the tool is not all bad, you can gain insight into exploring a tool’s capability.
Today’s post will first explain technically what I did to put a “WOW” factor on my reporting. It will then give arguments on why on why it was a good idea, and then it will give arguments on why it was a bad idea. You can then decide on your own what you would do.
I decided that my PHP pie chart was not satisfing for my reporting needs. To put it another way, I was still hungry for a better pie. My current PHP pie sometimes made some of the slices the exact same color. In addition, for a few random totals it filled the whole pie chart background with a color of a pie slice, making the pie picture very messy and unreadable.
Rather then fixing the PHP code, I decided to try something completly different. I googled “open source business intelligence” tools and found eclipse BIRT. I have used eclipse before to experiment with java, so I decided that I that I try BIRT out. BIRT is short for Business Intelligence Reporting Tool. There is also a Easy Reporting Nice Intelligence Engine, or ERNIE. ( nahhh,.., just kidding about that)
I was very excited to learn that BIRT could connect to my MYSQL database through a JDBC connection. I tried for awhile without success. I studied the syntax and tried again. After a lot of trial and error, I found out that my web host I use disallows “external” access to the MYSQL databases. Bummer. However, that was not the end of the story. I saw the BIRT could use XML as input, and I knew I could write to my MYSQL database from PHP, so what I needed to do was create a web service in PHP to read my database to create XML. ( Got it?) Could this be done? Believe it or not, this is really not as hard as it sounds. I thought for awhile that I would have to make this XML “point in time”, and create PHP code that writes a file to the server, but BIRT uses the PHP code as a a “bridge” and creates the XML all at once. Bingo, real time reporting.
Here is the pie chart I created from BIRT. ( This is a picture, not a report)
I also created a table so you can drilldown on the detail. This all happens in real time. Below is a drilldown when you click on one of the “webgroups”. ( This too is a picture, not a report)
So I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t you make the reports real time like the last Post on Business Intelligence? I did try, but BIRT runs primarily in a J2EE environment, and my web host does not support Tomcat. My web host run a “flavor” of debian linux. I seems technically possible to run BIRT on debian linux, but I decided that I was happy enough to create the reports from inside eclispe for now. You can also run tomcat locally on a pc, but that would not help out readers of the BuddyBlog any.
To be continued…
Look for next : Why this was good? Why this was bad? Conclusion will include the bubble chart…