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Open-Source Business Intelligence: 5 Times Bigger by 2012
Two research reports outline the drivers of growth for open-source business intelligence -- and what customers can expect as the market matures.
Posted Feb 16, 2010
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Business intelligence (BI) is going to open over the next few years, according to two recently released reports. Open-source technology, that is.

"Venture capital flooding into open-source start-ups over the past several years resulted in an explosion of enterprise-ready tools and applications," writes Mark Madsen, industry expert and president of Third Nature in one of the reports, "Open Source Solutions: Managing, Analyzing, and Delivering Business Information," published by BEyeNetwork. About one-third of the respondents in Madsen's survey of more than 1,000 information technology professionals claim to have deployed open-source software for reporting, data integration, or database analytics purposes, and more than a third say they plan to evaluate open-source for analytics in the near term. Only 12 percent of respondents say they have no plans to look into open-source BI. 

"Open-source rose quickly in the information management market, from almost nothing a few years ago to community- and commercially supported projects for every possible use," Madsen writes.

That growth hasn't gone unnoticed -- and doesn't seem to show any signs of slowing. Gartner Research expects market adoption to double every year for the next three years. Gartner Analyst Andreas Bitterer, in another open-source trend report, states that not only are open-source BI solutions continuing to appeal to cash-strapped companies, but they are improving functionality and starting to reach the mainstream market.

Bitterer points out that growth in open-source business intelligence can perhaps be attributed to the price pressures of vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and SAP. The price point for open source is attractive -- and the model for BI may perhaps be seen as more reliable than its software-as-a-service (SaaS) counterpart. The weak standing of the SaaS BI market in some ways opened the door for open-source. "To date, hardly any traction exists for BI-as-a-service, and the recent demise of LucidEra raised questions about the general viability of this approach," Bitterer writes. 

Although the market for open-source BI is proliferating, Gartner gives nods to the following players:

  • Actuate BIRT;
  • JasperSoft;
  • Jedox;
  • Pentaho; and
  • SpagoBI.

In terms of subscriptions and deployments, open source now outpaces commercial vendors. However, making the comparison to on-premise BI solutions is not completely fair, given the viability of some of the subscriptions. Gartner notes that deal sizes for open source in many cases rival that of traditional vendors. Although open-source has yet to fully penetrate the enterprise market, it is poised to do so in due time. Bitterer indicates that open-source vendor Pentaho recently announced the largest open-source BI deal to date with 2,000 servers. "This implementation is far from being in production, and it has yet to be proven that this scale can be maintained, but it can be used as a showcase for future adoption of open-source BI platforms," Bitterer writes.

Madsen's evaluation of the open-source BI market size is on par with Gartner's. The idea that open source is primarily used by small companies is a myth, he writes. "While there are more small organizations using open source today than mid-sized or large, the data also shows that medium and large organizations are doing more evaluations," Madsen states.

Traditional BI vendors are not blind to the growing competition from open source. A handful of vendors, as Bitterer notes, have dabbled in offering free trials, or in some cases, free versions to perhaps combat the competition. MicroStrategy, for instance, has begun offering a free version of its Reporting Suite. Additionally, SAP dabbled in offering free versions of Crystal Reports for a short period of time. In other words, the vendors are baiting customers with "free" in order to prevent eyes from wandering over to open-source. 

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