Other articles in this glossary

HARDWARE: SAN, Rackmount Servers, RAID controllers

SOFTWARE: CRM, Management Information Systems

Services: Data Recovery, ERP more...

Technologies: VoIP, CAD  more...

Our main entry on Business Intelligence

If you are unaccustomed to using business intelligence (BI) and open source software in the same sentence, you're excused if you've been on a desert island for a couple of years. During your absence, there's been a surge of interest in Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python (LAMP). The Eclipse platform and open source database managers proved to be popular with developers. Open source BI software is poised to also make a great... Open Source BI: The Great Leap Forward


The Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools initiative (BIRT), from BI vendor Actuate and open-source community The Eclipse Foundation, is one of the more ambitious open BI reporting applications. BIRT is cross-platform, Eclipse-based, XML-driven and dedicated to delivering standardized output. But fast on BIRT's heels, two new organizations are promising broader BI application frameworks...Open Source BI


On the heels of open-source databases come business-intelligence tools, with smaller companies betting on open-source practices to crack into ....JasperSoft on Monday ... server-based components for business intelligence. Last week, rival Pentaho ... commercial-grade open-source business intelligence tool set. .. open-source software and business models in an effort to unseat entrenched suppliers. Open-source databases, for example, are widely used, according to analysts... Open source meets business intelligence


"Business Intelligence" can be term that encompasses too many technologies. (note: Actually, I prefer the term "Business Analytics", since a lot of the intelligence involves the user interpreting the data.) In this list, I try my best to cover only tools for multidimensional data analysis and their visualization. I've also include the BI suites ...Open Source Business Intelligence Tools

Open-Source Business Intelligence Software - Should you Take it Seriously?

Open-source software has moved from once being unheard of in a corporate software environment to a standard part of most companies day-to-day operations, simply another option that is considered along with all the others whenever a new development project is being contemplated. Despite this, though open source programs have become well-established in certain niches, there are still areas of enterprise computing which are regarded as so vital to the running of the company that managers prefer the reliability and rigour which (they imagine) comes from a old-school corporate product. Databases, for example, are one such area, although even there MySQL has gained some traction. Will Business Intelligence (BI) be another?


Open Source Business Intelligence Software

Business Intelligence is one of the latest corporate buzzwords and the market for Business Intelligence software has grown dramatically in recent years. Business Objects, SAS, have established themselves as the major players and the software giants from other sectors, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, are eyeing the market up and starting to make some serious moves on it. The BI big hitters have tailored their marketing and developments efforts towards large corporate customers, companies which don’t mind shelling out serious cash on enterprise software. The more cash-constained smaller and medium enterprises have been feeling a little left out, like there’s a party going on somewhere round the block and they didn’t get an invite. This is where those touting open source BI might make some headway, if only they can convince potential users to take them seriously.

Actuate, a company which started the Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools sub-project of Eclipse, a popular programming development tool, commissioned a survey to assess corporate acceptance of open source BI software. It found that 24% were already using it and 31% expected to be using it soon.

Pentaho is the leading player in open source BI currently. By all accounts a dynamic company which has recruited (or poached) much of its talent from the heavyweight corporate BI vendors, it markets its suite of Java-based BI applications while offering its source code for free. How does it make money? By selling support for the product which, of course, you’re under no obligation to buy; and by selling higher-end “professional editions” of the basic Pentaho package. Pentaho claims the open source variant contains 90% of the features present in the professional edition.

Jaspersoft is another of the leading open source BI companies. Like Pentaho it makes money by charging for specialised add-on modules to its core product which it distributes for free. Its JasperReports tool was created originally as an open-source alternative to Crystal Reports and is now well-established, with over 10,000 installations worldwide.

You can read more about Pentaho and Jaspersoft’s products here and here.

So, apart from cost, are there any advantages to be gained from going the open source route rather than using a proprietary solution? Well, for one thing, it might help you to avoid lock-in. That is the phenomenon when one vendor’s products become so intimately and fundamentally tied up with your company’s business processes that it becomes almost impossible for you to do without it. If, at some future stage, you make a strategic decision to liberate yourself from your formerly preferred vendor’s embrace, you might find yourself in a world of hurt. The corporate BI vendors make little secret of their desire to get you locked in. They even tout it as a good thing. Consider this extract from some SAS marketing literature, for example.

By their very nature, open source projects are fundamentally community-oriented. They depend on the support of a community of sympathetic developers and, both through culture and necessity, they have no interest in establishing little empires of dependency. They are based on open rather than proprietary standards. If you want to mix and match parts of your BI setup with some of your existing preferred software packages or with a bit of in-house development, you are likely to find that far easier to do by committing to open source rather than proprietary BI software. Alternatively, if you’re going to “roll your own” BI software, you can use bits of the open source projects as building blocks for your own code.

Business Intelligence software, of course, is not like, say, a word processor. You can’t just buy a shrinkwrapped package and expect it to work. Instead, it needs to be intimately tailored and customised to the distinctive needs and requirements of your business. In a typical proprietary BI rollout, this will involve extensive consultancy and development work between client and vendor (or very often, one of the vendor’s preferred consultancy partner firms). Is this option available if you decide to go down the open-source route? Yes is the short answer. Both Pentaho and Jaspersoft are serious companies who don’t just ship code or product but offer a full range of related professional services. Full technical support for their products is offered as well as training in their use. Training can done online or in person, even on your own site. Expert consultancy is also available, either to advise on the applicability of their product to your problem, to consult on the high-level details of your proposed development plan or to have them go all the way and carry out the development for you.

In conclusion, there are already some very credible Business Intelligence software products out there which certainly deserve to be taken seriously if you find yourself looking for a BI solution. They may lack some of the bells and whistles of the proprietary software, but they are a great deal cheaper too.