Open Source Business Intelligence: What Are Your Options?

Drew Robb

Updated · Nov 24, 2010

Open source business intelligence has been gaining momentum in recent years, so much so that it is even showing up in Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves.

“Adoption of open source platforms will grow faster than adoption of commercial platforms,” says Rita Sallam, an analyst at Gartner.

While the analyst firm is keen on business intelligence, it only placed one open source product in its latest BI Magic Quadrant — Actuate (NASDAQ: ACTU). But a couple of other open source providers are now firmly on the Gartner radar screen.

Jaspersoft and Pentaho have emerged as viable players in the BI platform market,” said Sallam. “Both vendors provide comprehensive BI platform capabilities that are comparable in many functional areas with those of traditional BI platform vendors.”

These two companies are gaining ground by working with a variety of software vendors to embed BI into existing capabilities, a strategy that Gartner said is paying dividends. And being open source-based, an attractive price point is available.

“The biggest trend we see is the rapidly increasing adoption of OSBI [open source business intelligence] as a means to provide critical reports, dashboards and analysis to business users at far less costs than the traditional, proprietary BI solutions,” said Joe Nicholson, vice president of product marketing at Pentaho. “We also see major efforts to deal with the ever-increasing data volumes with technologies like Hadoop as well as efforts that continue to drive ever-increasing BI use throughout organizations.”

Much like the way open source changed the database and application server markets, OSBI is also gaining traction. According to Nicholson, when comparing BI suite pricing between Pentaho and the three biggest vendors (IBM, SAP and Oracle), Pentaho saves $1.5 million in license and support fees over a three-year period in larger deployments.

But low cost is not the only factor. The open source community acts as a massive R&D department for software, which drives innovation. Pentaho's BI suite, for example, offers functionality that rivals the large vendors in some aspects. This includes online analytical processing (OLAP), reporting, dashboards and ad-hoc analysis. According to Nicholson, this adds up to more than six million downloads, over 8,000 active projects and more than 1,200 Enterprise Edition commercial customers.

“The open source business model is a dramatic shift in the way that software is licensed and supported,” said Nicolson.


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  • Drew Robb
    Drew Robb

    Drew Robb is a writer who has been writing about IT, engineering, and other topics. Originating from Scotland, he currently resides in Florida. Highly skilled in rapid prototyping innovative and reliable systems. He has been an editor and professional writer full-time for more than 20 years. He works as a freelancer at Enterprise Apps Today, CIO Insight and other IT publications. He is also an editor-in chief of an international engineering journal. He enjoys solving data problems and learning abstractions that will allow for better infrastructure.

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