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6/20/2006
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Dashboard: Open-Source BI Projects Take Off

Developers are demonstrating the ability of open-source databases and BI platforms to deliver advanced analytics and operate on large databases at a fraction of the cost of conventional commercial systems.

The pace of open-source business intelligence development has accelerated in recent months, with new releases of commercially supported products and the emergence of noteworthy end-user applications. Developers are enhancing their BI components and solidifying frameworks that integrate tools with workflow management capabilities. They're also demonstrating the ability of open-source databases and BI platforms to deliver advanced analytics and operate on large databases at a fraction of the cost of conventional commercial systems.

Analytical consultancy Daxpy has created what is perhaps the best demonstration of open-source BI capabilities. Frontier Airlines has deployed Daxpy's Brits revenue-management system, built with open-source components, to crunch ticketing and forecasting data. Daxpy's team created the application using the Mondrian open-source OLAP server, the JPivot Java Server Page tag library and a custom-built, Web-services framework designed to handle parameterized MDX queries. MDX is Microsoft's Multidimensional Expressions analysis language, which has been adopted by most OLAP vendors and Mondrian as a means of querying back-end relational databases. Frontier chose an open-source DBMS, Greenplum's Bizgres MPP, over expensive Oracle and Microsoft options. Bizgres is a parallelized, data-warehouse optimized extension of the PostgreSQL open-source database management system.

Daxpy CEO Kirk Abbott says his company has adopted the OpenI framework published by Loyalty Matrix for future projects, including a forthcoming health-care-pricing application. OpenI supplies a BI platform integrating Mondrian and JPivot with reporting and other services, as do open-source platform vendors JasperSoft, Pentaho and Italian developer Engineering Ingegneria Informatica, which offers SpagoBI. Pentaho last year purchased intellectual property rights to Mondrian and hired project lead Julian Hyde as OLAP architect. JasperSoft hired Mondrian contributor Sherman Wood in a similar role.

The Frontier system is not the only noteworthy BI effort using open-source components. The Cendant Distribution Travel Services Group built an application with Pentaho's framework. Cendant's Myaccount.Galileo.com portal provides custom reporting facilities to thousands of travel-agent users. It was created using the Eclipse open-source interface development environment and runs against an instance of the open-source MySQL DBMS.

Application vendors within the open-source "ecosystem" are increasingly embedding open-source BI components. JasperSoft's Wood reports that a variety of such systems embed his company's flagship JasperReports software. The company has developed DBA Dashboards for MySQL and Enterprise DB, and JasperReports for SugarCRM was the June project-of-the-month at open-source development nexus SugarForge.net. Engineering Ingegneria Informatica has inked a deal that makes its SpagoBI the open-source framework of choice for the leading French integrator Groupe Bull, and for inclusion of OLAP functions in open-source Compiere ERP/CRM software. Stay tuned as more open-source BI implementations take off. --Seth Grimes


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