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Opening BI To Open Source

This year has seen a whole slew of BI-related open source developments, and it'll see a lot more.

It hasn't happened yet, but it seems business intelligence software maker Actuate and a former unit of IBM are on their way toward bringing a little more traffic to the increasingly busy crossroads between BI reporting and open source.

This week Actuate said it and the Eclipse Foundation, an open-source tools organization, have kicked off a project to build a reporting application on Eclipse's integrated development environment, or IDE. The popular platform gets 10,000 downloads a day from the Eclipse Web site. As was reported in a CRN story we ran on Business Intelligence Pipeline this week, the initiative's ultimate goal is a free tool that can enable J2EE applications with BI capability built right in.

Actuate's larger business intelligence rivals are by no means unfamiliar with open source. Business Objects said in June that it's making Crystal Enterprise 10 available with support for Linux -- partly as a result, again, of joint development work with IBM. Hyperion debuted an application suite that runs on Red Hat Linux back in February.

The Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) project, as the Actuate-Eclipse initiative is called, is in a community review stage, but real development work is expected to begin before the end of September.

Eclipse has a solid open-source pedigree, having been spun off from IBM earlier this year. Big Blue continues to prove that its dedication to open source is real, most recently by releasing more than half a million lines of code from its Cloudscape Java-based database to the Apache Software Foundation.

Actuate, Eclipse and the other free-standing BI vendors are addressing a real need. According to Eclipse, most developers that want reporting functionality in their applications wind up hand-coding Java Server Pages in order to get it. Open-source technology in the reporting realm can be hugely valuable to BI practitioners: Having a big pool of developers working on the code improves its quality, of course, to say nothing of the cost benefits. This year has seen a whole slew of BI-related open source developments, and it'll see a lot more.

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