Open Source Business Intelligence Heats Up

Drew Robb

Updated · Aug 17, 2011

Open source has been invading many segments of technology over the last decade. It started with Linux in the operating system space and has since spread to areas such as backup, storage and various applications. But it has taken quite some time to get going in the business intelligence software space. But that is changing.

Most analysts concur that open source business intelligence (BI) is very much on the rise.

“We see more buying from line-of-business, as dashboards and data discovery tools with in-memory analytics and ease-of-use visualization has made it an attractive and fast value proposition to bypass IT,” said Gartner analyst Dan Sommer. “The vendors in this segment, together with the open-source crowd, continue to be the fastest growers in the BI market.”

Gartner analyst Rita Sallam noted that open source is enjoying momentum in the marketplace. However, she thinks the technology has a ways to go to rival the major BI platforms. As a result, she didn’t think it had yet reached the stage where it could be categorized as a game changed.

“While open source has been the fastest growing category in recent years, it still lags behind the commercials,” she said.

A recent study by Dresner Advisory Services (DAS) explores many facets of the BI sector. In particular, it offers several insights into the open source BI marketplace.

For example, the study found that open source BI vendors have young customer bases (the largest percentage of adoption happens to be within the last two years), with the government and technology verticals showing the fastest growth rates of open source.

In addition, 62 percent of users surveyed had adopted open source within the last two years. In comparison, those adopting Microsoft, Oracle and SAP business intelligence solutions had only 15% of their customers who had adopted these tools within the last two years. Similarly, while the big boys saw fewer deployments compared to the previous year, the open source upstarts experienced more deployments. Overall, DAS noted generally fewer new deployments, although more organizations were choosing to expand the scope of existing BI implementations.

Almost half of the survey respondents stated that open source itself was not an important driver of BI adoption. That indicates that the market is gaining ground due to reasons such as greater value, lower costs, ease of use, greater functionality, and so on, as opposed to any rush to adopt open source for its own sake.

Not surprisingly, open source fared better among small and mid-sized organizations.

“Larger organizations tended to have less interest in open source BI,” said Howard Dresner of Dresner Advisory Services. “Among functions, R&D had the stronger interest in open source BI.”

Open Source Business Intelligence Leader

Companies such as Actuate, Jaspersoft, Pentaho and Jedox (Palo) offer free community editions as well as commercial products. DAS ranked them in order to find out who came on top of the open source charts. The analyst firm scored Actuate BIRT in first place among open source vendors according to a 32-criteria evaluation model.

“Actuate BIRT exceeded its peer group and the overall sample average for all Technical Support and Product metrics by a wide margin, and its 2011 performance improved in the areas of Sales, Value, and Recommended over 2010,” said Dresner.  

Actuate founded and co-leads the Eclipse BIRT open source project. It also offers ActuateOne, a suite of products for rapidly developing and deploying BIRT-based BI applications. Actuate has over 4,700 customers globally.  

Other analysts appear to agree with the survey ranking.

“Actuate BIRT led the pack because of richness of reporting functionality,” said Boris Evelson, an analyst at Forrester Research. “The community versions of BIRT and Jaspersoft mostly offer individual BI components that can be used for embedding BI functionality into applications, but these frameworks are yet not enterprise-grade fully functional BI platforms or suites.”

While open source has been the focus of this article, the Dresner survey sliced and diced just about every aspect of the business intelligence marketplace.

Key findings included:

·         The numbers of new BI deployment appears to have slowed in 2011 compared with 2010, with growth coming from expansion of existing deployments.

·         Decreases were pronounced in financial services, for nearly all size organizations, and for established pure-play vendors.

·         Among the most important related technologies/initiatives was “Integration with operational processes”, “Data mining and advanced algorithms” and “In-memory analysis.” Other technologies showed demand in specific segments, including Mobile, Big Data, Open Source, and Software-as-a-Service.

·         A total of 63% of respondents reported budget increases in at least one BI area and 31% of respondents had increases of more than 10% in at least one area. Growth in spending for 2011 will favor traditional BI software licenses, followed by services from BI vendors and third parties.

·         Finance was the function that had budget allocated most frequently for BI, but IT and sales had the largest allocation within most organizations.