Business intelligence and open source are both pretty hot topics in the enterprise software space and open source BI vendors like Jaspersoft have been earning a fair amount of ink in the trade press, so it's a bit surprising that there's a dearth of research on open source BI.
When I interviewed him earlier this month, Mark Madsen, founder and president of consulting company Third Nature and author of a recent study of open source adoption in the BI and data warehousing markets, explained that open source is typically treated as a broad single category by researchers. Since there is so much interest in BI right now and his company focuses on it, he decided to look at open source BI. He is currently working on a follow-up report that will focus on deployment trends.
In one of the many interesting tidbits from the report, Madsen found "a big gap" in availability of consultants versed in open source BI. Smaller companies often install and maintain their own open source BI applications and tools because they lack the money to hire outside help. Enterprises do it because they often possess the appropriate internal resources. Said Madsen:
... but the big big range in the middle of the bell curve, they're constrained on resources but they have more budget. Yet they can't find the consultants. You have regional consultancies or very small outfits.
Systems integrators also have been slow to offer open source solutions, although that is starting to change. He told me:
If you break out the number of people who say they are actually using open source vs. those who are considering evaluating it in the next year, the single biggest group of evaluators turns out to be systems integrators and consultants. So now I think they are seeing it and jumping into it.
Madsen offered more specific numbers in a blog post on BeyeNetwork, noting that 10 percent of consultants use open source BI tools vs. 36 percent of IT professionals. And the number of consultants and SIs evaluating open source BI software that he alluded to in his interview with me? It's 49 percent.
My favorite takeaway from Madsen's interview is his observation of the shift from infrastructure to applications, and the resulting impact on open source BI software. He said:
... That makes for some different adoption characteristics. Now you can't just have raw, barren APIs and command-line stuff, you need a more polished user interface and other things that matter to the less technical users.