August 2015, “Staff Pick” Project of the Month – JasperReports Server

By Community Team

For our August “Staff Pick” Project of the Month, we selected JasperReports Server, a powerful, yet flexible, and lightweight reporting server. JasperReports Server’s product marketing manager, Ernesto Ongaro, shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SF: Tell me about the JasperReports Server project please.
Ongaro: Jaspersoft’s projects have the ultimate goal of providing information to the right people in the right time and the right context. Although reporting started with boring paper-based products that only managers use, today everyone is using reports and visualizations in their day-to-day life.

JasperReports Server allows users to store, browse, and search visualizations and reports from a central repository; these features are useful to applications and enterprises that have hundreds of reports. JasperReports Server is centrally managed and can be used by an unlimited number of users. Role- and user-level security is integrated, allowing administrators to provide read/write access to users. This security even extends to within reports so, for example, a US executive will only see the data for their region in a global report. Reports can be scheduled and published in nine different formats to be delivered to specific people by e-mail, API, or FTP.

SF: What made you start this?
Ongaro: How JasperReports Server came about is an interesting story. Our most popular project in 2005 was a Java reporting Library called JasperReports, which won the SourceForge “Project of the Month” award exactly 10 years ago!

Java developers were embedding the library into all kinds of other Open Source and commercial projects. We noticed a trend; a lot of the developers were creating a repository to store reports, scheduling capability, user management, and APIs to access from other tools, so we thought we would build a product that encompassed these needs from our valuable community.

SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
Ongaro: Absolutely! It’s gone far beyond what the original architects ever envisioned. Originally JasperReports Server was a product that only dealt with reports; today it has expanded to support dashboards, Ad Hoc Reports, Metadata layers, REST APIs, and much more. The product has been downloaded millions of times and powers very important applications.

The way that we never envisioned the project pivoting was how people began to embed the product into their Web stacks to power the analytic needs of applications. Originally JasperReports Server was a project for traditional BI use; in other words, an internal audience of managers using reports to drive their business. Today it is a product that is used embedded into Web stacks; one such example is the Nagios spinoff, Incinga. We power the complex reports that give systems admins the intelligence they need; we never imagined casual audiences like this would use the tool.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
Ongaro: In its current incarnation, the project is best suited with anyone that is building an application that could benefit from embedded reporting and analytics. Today’s applications gather a lot of data; how you present it to your end users is what ultimately can differentiate the application from others. Building this type of functionality from scratch isn’t easy or cheap; embedding JasperReports Server is a viable option to solve this complex problem. The community projects are great to start with for reports and the commercial editions of TIBCO Jaspersoft can help expand the use through more functionality and professional support.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using JasperReports Server ?
Ongaro: There are so many interesting ways users have used the product it’s hard to say there is a “best way” – so one of the ways to make sure you are making the most out of JasperReports Server is to get engaged; watch some webinars, attend some local events, ask questions in the forum, or take some free or paid training.

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
Ongaro: Jaspersoft is one of the pioneers the single-vendor, commercial Open Source model. We have learned a lot over ten years. There are many times where had to listen to the community, the market, and changing technological changes to thrive.

The tools around the community have constantly evolved to support how our users engage; for example adopting a “voting” style forum which allows users to mark answers are read. A wiki was added in 2011 as well as a blog aggregation system. We have ran great community participation events and given awards to community members for outstanding work and contributions.

Today there are over 500,000 registered members of the community and it keeps growing!

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
Ongaro: We find that a twice-per-year launch cycle works best for our users; the release cycles for their applications are most often around twice-per-year.

SF: What is the next big thing for JasperReports Server ?
Ongaro: The world keeps changing at an unprecedented speed; luckily we have great product visionaries on the teams that are driving innovation.

In 2010, when hardly anyone was talking about “big data” and “noSQL” we were already busy building connectors to Hadoop, MongoDB, and several other systems. Now they are an important part of our toolset and the market. We are committed to continue to support whatever is used in the future; weather the new data providers’ change their veracity, velocity, variety, or volume of data.

Deployment options also keep on changing. We used to maintain a simple download for the product. Today we offer Virtual Machines, Installers, WAR files, and Amazon AMIs. Also, in 2012 we were the first BI vendor to offer a PaaS deployment option. We also started offering pay-by-the-hour options on Amazon’s Marketplace. A deploy anywhere architecture is something we will keep on investing engineering cycles in; single platforms are not an option today.

There are also some neat cloud collaboration options coming down the pipeline as well as innovative new collaborative report feature we are excited about.

SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for JasperReports Server?
Ongaro: In 2005 it wasn’t obvious that Java was going to be as popular as it is today. The choices we made ten years ago were pretty good; today Java and Spring are kings for the back end. We’ve re-architected the product to be theme-able with CSS and modern Javascript frameworks drive events, so we continue to get a lot of mileage out of the architecture. Luckily there isn’t a single big product choice we made that we could regret; it’s been quite a ride!

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