5 Open Source Business Intelligence Tools

Paul Ferrill

Updated · Dec 01, 2014

It’s impossible to imagine making good business decisions without the right information to back up the decision making process. Business intelligence (BI) tools help by making it easy to extract and understand the information that you need from the mass of business data that you collect and store. In other words, they can help turn piles of data into meaningful insights that help you run your business.

Because the potential business benefits of a good business intelligence tool are so great, it’s not surprising that plenty of big-name vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAS provide excellent proprietary business intelligence software – though sometimes at a significant price. Less well-known companies with strong BI offerings include Panorama Software, Tableau Software and Qlik.

There are also a large number of powerful open source BI solutions – both free and commercial – which can be used as provided, or as base code which can be customized to suit your organization. These open source tools have typically been adopted by small and medium sized companies rather than large enterprises, but some are gaining acceptance in the large enterprise space.

Open Source BI Short List

Here are some of the best open source business intelligence tools:

Jaspersoft  was a top commercial open source software vendor focused on business intelligence, including data visualization, reporting and analytics – until it was purchased by Tibco Software in April.

Its BI software suite, now called Tibco Jaspersoft, is still available in a free community edition, which includes a report designer, a reporting engine, a server repository, report scheduling and mobile BI, along with community forums and a wiki for support.

available in commercially licensed versions are a cloud-based offering (with pricing starting at less than $1 per hour), as well as more comprehensive Express, Professional and Enterprise editions that include features like interactive visualization and drag-and-drop report designing.

Download Jaspersoft Community Editions

Pentaho offers a free community edition of its business analytics suite, which includes business analytics as well as data integration, a report designer and a marketplace of plugins developed by the community to extend the capabilities of the Pentaho platform.

The company promotes this as an entry-level tool that can be used for testing and evaluation before upgrading to the full commercial product, which includes visual analysis, predictive modeling, dashboards and a mobile element. Download Pentaho Community Edition

BIRT is an open source software project that provides the BIRT technology platform to create data visualizations and reports that can be embedded into rich client and Web applications, especially those based on Java and Java EE.

BIRT is a top-level software project within the Eclipse Foundation, an independent not-for-profit consortium of software industry vendors and an open source community.

The project is sponsored by Actuate along with contributions from IBM and Innovent Solutions and support is available from the BIRT Developer Center.

Download BIRT

RapidMiner is a code-free analytics platform for data mining, machine learning and predictive analytics. This means you can design your data analysis routines visually and speed up delivery by eliminating the need to write code.

It works with a range of data formats including Hadoop, CSV, Excel, Oracle and MySQL. It can be extended with additional plugins created by open source developers in the community, and available in an extensions marketplace.

The Starter Edition is free and allows access to Excel and CSV data. Personal, Professional and Enterprise Editions are also available from $999.

You can download RapidMiner 5.3 from Sourceforge, and the more up to date RapidMiner 6 from RapidMiner’s website.

SpagoBI  styles itself as the only 100 percent open source, complete business intelligence suite. Its modular architecture, based on open standards, allows easy customization and integration into legacy environments .

Supporting professional services are provided by Engineering Group, the company managing the project on an ad-hoc basis. A one year maintenance subscription, including support, is available from Euros 5000 ($6,250 U.S.) per year.

Download SpagoBI.

3 More Open Source BI Tools

Other open source BI tools include:

KNIME is a completely free open source, enterprise-grade analytics platform. Download KNIME

TACTIC is an open source asset management platform that can connect to most corporate systems, offering workflow and project management and business process management, as well as business intelligence. Download TACTIC

Paul Rubens has been covering enterprise technology for over 20 years. In that time he has written for leading UK and international publications including The Economist, The Times, Financial Times, the BBC, Computing and ServerWatch.