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Open-Source Releases Invade Reporting Market

A trio of vendors is preparing to release open-source reporting tools, looking for profits by selling support and enhanced versions of free, open-source software.

A trio of vendors is preparing to release open-source reporting tools, looking for profits by selling support and enhanced versions of free, open-source software. The availability of open-source tools will bring welcome competition and price pressure to a market that has long been dominated by proprietary software such as Business Object's Crystal Reports and Cognos's ReportNet. The three would-be market disrupters, business intelligence (BI) veteran Actuate and start-ups JasperSoft and Pentaho, want to emulate MySQL's open-source database-market success by offering low entry costs and products with developer appeal.

Actuate, which also sells commercial enterprise reporting applications, last year signed on as a developer of open-source Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) for Eclipse, an open-source development environment. Open-source BIRT and a commercial version called Actuate-BIRT are slated for release on June 6. Both versions include a report object model, a report designer integrated into Eclipse and reporting and charting engines.

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Actuate is targeting the more than 1.5 million professional Java developers working with J2EE on the Eclipse platform, who will be able to build BIRT functions into their Java applications. This market has "a very low penetration of reporting and analysis tool users," says Actuate vice president for product marketing Michael Thoma.

JasperSoft already holds a significant beachhead among developers. The company estimates there are 10,000 users of its JasperReports Java reporting based on downloads from SourceForge.net, an open-source development site. JasperSoft wants to capitalize on third-party report-development environments that include the open-source iReports and commercial JasperAssistant (available as an Eclipse plug-in), and complementary tools such as the JFreeChart graphics package from JFree.org. The company will seek wider distribution by exploiting synergies with its commercial JasperDecisions product and through alliances with MySQL and with JBoss, the publisher of an eponymous Java application server.

The third entrant, Pentaho, plans to deliver an enterprise BI platform for Java developers, ISVs and end users by late 2005. The Pentaho Workbench will integrate into Eclipse. The company's ambitious plans go far beyond reporting, however, to building on open-sources capabilities including OLAP and pivot-table from Mondrian and JPivot, data mining using Weka, business rule scripting on Mozilla Rhino, scalable vector graphics on Apache Batik, Adobe PDF output from Apache FOP. The company points to the industry experience of its principals, formerly executives at Hyperion, Lawson, Oracle and SAS, as lending credibility to its strategy.

All three companies are targeting Java developers and seek to provide wider BI services through their own commercial offerings and third-party tools. The diverse strategies may provide each company with an edge in competing with the large, established commercial reporting vendors. At a minimum, the new open-source releases will create new price and technical competition that can only benefit software developers and end users.

Seth Grimes

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