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3/31/2009
06:03 PM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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A Last Look at Open Source BI

Open-source BI and I have come to a parting of ways. OS-BI capabilities, reliability, and support have matured. Commercial OS-BI vendors now compete with BI market leaders. That competition now appears to focus primarily on solutions and on the cost and community advantages open-source-reliant business models can (and do) offer. I will, however, take one last look, a snapshot of the state of the market, before I take my leave of the topic...

Open-source BI and I have come to a parting of ways. OS-BI capabilities, reliability, and support have matured. Commercial OS-BI vendors now compete with BI market leaders. That competition now appears to focus primarily on solutions and on the cost and community advantages open-source-reliant business models can (and do) offer enterprises of all sizes. In the end, for me as a technology analyst, OS-BI is simply boring. I will, however, take one last look, a snapshot of the state of the market, before I take my leave of the topic.This article was prompted by three events:

  1. New Pentaho and JasperSoft OS-BI releases,
  2. An inquiry from an analyst at a VC and equity research firm, and
  3. My attendance at last week's EclipseCon conference.

New releases

Pentaho and JasperSoft are the leading OS-BI suite vendors. Pentaho released version 3 of its BI suite on March 23: a community, open-source edition and an enterprise edition extended with non-open-source components. OS version 3 "includes a new plug-in framework that allows community members, OEMs and system integrators to easily drop in extensions and other contributions," according to the company. JasperSoft has a new, major release of its own due out very soon.

Another notable suite vendor, Italian systems integrator Engineering Group, created the Spago Java framework to tie together a wide variety of OS-BI and other OS components, and recently brought out SpagoBI version 2.1. (SpagoBI may actually be the most interesting of the OS-BI offerings because it's 100% free and builds on and extends all the OS elements of each of the major, rival OS-BI offerings.)

Market discussion

The VC/equity-research analyst asked me -- event number 2 -- "What is your perspective on the gating factor(s) to broader adoption of open source BI?" He continued,

"My anecdotal conversations with DW/BI consulting firms suggests open source BI is definitely on the radar and a viable option for organizations."
"I recently met with Actuate [the company behind the open-source Eclipse Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) project] and there is a significant turnover in their OEM channel with the majority of new and even renewal ISV agreements adopting BIRT. This should help fuel open source BI adoption in years to come. Not clear to me Actuate has figured out how to market and educate the Eclipse community yet though. Lastly, I also met with JasperSoft a few weeks ago and as you may know, they are experiencing rapid growth -- even in this economy. I heard examples of customers looking to reduce large maintenance bills with Cognos, Business Objects, etc... In short, I see many positive indicators, but hard for me to judge the momentum given the relative size (i.e. small) of the open source BI vendors combined."

I won't relay our further exchange other than to say that we got into revenues, as good an indicator of enterprise uptake (or disdain) as any. I cited figures Actuate has offered: 2007 OS-driven revenue of $8 million, growing to $15.4 million in 2008. I interpret "OS-driven" as including licensing of non-OS software to accounts that started with OS only. In any case, those are nice growth figures although my analyst friend says Actuate's OS "2009 outlook is for a larger-than-expected slowdown to the 30% range."

As for JasperSoft, according to marketing VP Nick Halsey, "our total sales grew about 80% year-over-year [in 2008], our total customer count grew about three-fold, and we generate millions of dollars in sales each quarter. And, even while our new fiscal year plan is a bit more conservative (gauging the dreadful world economy), we expect to continue posting similar growth in the quarters ahead." Curt Monash had reported back in September that Nick stated a "revenue run rate in the double-digit millions," a statistic that Nick did not disavow.

And a Pentaho source who did not wish to be named offered, "Our run rate by second half of 2008 put us into double digits [millions]. We don't officially post or publish these numbers though." So put each company at about $10 million annually. I'd expect that Jedox (the Palo OLAP server and spreadsheet tools) is doing well too. As for Engineering (SpagoBI), the company's software is 100% free. All revenues result from services. Service revenues related to SpagoBI were likely around $4.5 million in 2008.

EclipseCon

Lastly, EclipseCon, which was the geekiest conference I've been to in years. (Hey, that's a good thing -- lots of hard-core coders -- except that I'd estimate the ratio of men to women at at least 20 to 1.) Program chair Scott Rosenbaum and I shared a stage to talk about BI. Scott's a managing partner at Innovent Solutions and a BIRT user himself. I talked big-picture BI -- mainstream and open-source and use of Eclipse by both -- and Scott showed off an analysis of session-attendance data collected over the first days of the conference, generated by the scanners tracking RFID tags embedded in everyone's badges. You can look at our slides if you wish; my biggest take-away is how ordinary BIRT and BI seemed to attendees.

Moving on

So now it's time for me, as an analyst, to move on. I'll use OS-BI software when I have a project need, and I'll continue to follow open-source databases and data warehousing and open-source text and data mining, which have been and still are compelling sources of innovation and market disruption. But OS-BI? Congratulations on the success. Have a good life. You've earned it.Open-source BI and I have come to a parting of ways. OS-BI capabilities, reliability, and support have matured. Commercial OS-BI vendors now compete with BI market leaders. That competition now appears to focus primarily on solutions and on the cost and community advantages open-source-reliant business models can (and do) offer. I will, however, take one last look, a snapshot of the state of the market, before I take my leave of the topic...

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