JasperSoft, one of the leading open source BI suites just announced it is delivering connectors for a range of so-called NoSQL databases. The big names are all there: Cassandra, MongoDB, Riak, HBase, CouchDB, Neo4J, Infinispan, VoltDB and Redis.
I used to explain to people that the lack of SQL support in NoSQL databases poses a challenge for traditional Business Intelligence tools, because those all talk either SQL or MDX (and maybe some XQuey/XPath). With this development, this is no longer true, and I want to congratulate JasperSoft in spearheading this innovation.
I still have a number of reservations though. Although I personally value the ability to report on data in my NoSQL database, I think its usefulness will hava a number of limitations that are worth consideration.
Admittedly I am not an expert in the NoSQL database field, but as far my knowledge goes, both the dynamo-style key/value stores like Riak, and the Bigtable-style hashtable stores like HBase and Cassandra can basically do 2 types of read operations: fetch a single object by key, or scan everything. The fetched object can be complex and contain a lot of data, and it would certainly be nice if you could run a report on that. The scan everything operation doesn't seem that useful at the report level: for all but trivial cases, you need considerable logic to make this scan useful, and I don't think a report is the right place for this. Apart from that, if the NoSQL solution was put in place because of the large data volume, then the report itself would probably need to be executed on a cluster just to achieve acceptable response time. I may be wrong but I don't think JasperReports supports that.
So, for a full scan of those NoSQL databases, connectors at the data integration end seem more appropriate. I think the integration of Hadoop with Pentaho data integration (a.k.a Kettle) is a step in the right direction, but of course only applicable if you're a Hadoop user.
Another point is data quality. Typically reporting is done on a data warehouse or reporting environment where the data quality is kept in check by processing the raw data with a data integration and quality tools. Directly reporting on any operational database can be problematic because you skip those checks. Because the NoSQL databases offer virtually no constraints, those checks are even more important. So to me this seems like another reason why NoSQL connectivity is more useful in the data integration tools.
JasperSoft also offers connectivity for the MongoDB and CouchDB docmentstores. I think that for raw reporting on the actual source documents, the same reservations apply as I mentioned in relation to the dynamo and Bigtable style solutions. But, there may be a few more possibilities here, at least for CouchDB
CouchDB has a feature called views, which allows you to "query" the raw documents using a map/reduce job. I can certainly see why it'd be useful to build a report on top of that. Of course, you would still have to implement the logic to do a useful scan, and you would still have to deal with data quality issues, but you can do it in the map/reduce job, which seems a more appropriate place to handle this than a report.
All in all, I think this is a promising development, and I should probably get my feet wet and try it out myself. But for now, I would recommend to keep it out of the wrecking tentacles of unaware business users :)
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