By David Waddington
A study by Ventana Research reveals that midsize and large companies increasingly are evaluating and deploying open source business intelligence (BI) software. Many have had positive experiences with the software and intend to expand their use of it. Although open source BI software is not as mature and feature-rich as equivalent software from commercial BI vendors, organizations find it acceptably functional for their intended uses. In-house application developers are likely to be the driving force behind adoption of open source BI, with organizations using commercial and open source BI products simultaneously.
Adoption of open source software continues to accelerate, taking market share from commercial software in key product categories, including operating systems (Linux), application servers (JBoss), Web servers (Apache), programming languages (perl and php) and databases (mySQL, PostgresSQL). In the realm of business intelligence software, open source projects have emerged over the last 18 months. They include BIRT, JasperReports, Pentaho, Mondrian and JReports. Open source BI projects are supported and developed by software vendors such as Actuate, JasperSoft and Pentaho. The open source BI movement has reached a point at which many organizations are asking themselves whether they might use it to replace custom-coded BI systems (such as reports or dashboards), commercial BI software deployments or both.
Ventana Research conducted an extensive study of open source BI usage via the Web between November 2005 and January 2006 sponsored by Actuate, JasperSoft and Pentaho. Results showed that open source BI has widespread visibility, with 83 percent of survey respondents having deployed, currently deploying or considering deployment of it. Sizes of deployments at this point are predominantly small (up to 200 users). However, when these projects are fully deployed, almost one-quarter (24 percent) will have between 200 and 1,000 users, and more than one-third (37 percent) will have from 1,000 to more than 20,000 users. Further, the number of deployments larger than 200 users will grow 100 percent or more when deployments are final.
Ventana Research believes that the growing number of these large deployments indicates that companies are not dabbling in open source BI but rather are building enterprise-wide-albeit application-specific-deployments. For many companies, these first deployments are just the beginning. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents indicated that they would deploy more Open Source BI systems, whereas only 4 percent said they would not. Similarly, 51 percent said there were no future BI projects from which they would exclude consideration of open source BI, while 12 percent said they would not consider it for some BI projects. Systems deployed so far have gone largely to assist operational users (37 percent) rather than executives (19 percent) or senior executives (23 percent). So even though open source BI products don't have the maturity and breadth of the leading commercial BI platforms, they have enough functionality to meet the needs of the projects in which they're being used. Ventana Research believes that application developers are the source of much open source BI adoption and are using it to augment other functionality.
Despite this promising trend, however, it's clear that open source BI has a long way to go to be an enterprise standard; 49 percent of the respondents stated that they evaluate open source BI use project by project. Yet 20 percent said that their organizations have a top-down plan approved by upper management for deploying it throughout the enterprise. And organizations with complete deployments and top-down deployment plans were twice as common as organizations with top-down plans that were only considering open source BI. This finding suggests that as more deployments are completed, top-down plans for adoption will increase, moving open source BI closer to being a mandated standard and commonly used.
Ventana Research believes that as the functional breadth of open source BI software is beginning to approach that of the leading commercial BI players, it will become more attractive to IT managers who are responsible not for application development but for traditional BI and data warehousing implementations. In the meantime, open source BI has found a useful niche in generating reports for operational applications. Organizations on tight budgets that need to include reporting, dashboards or a moderate level of ad-hoc analysis should consider the various open source BI solutions. Evaluators should be assured by the knowledge that they are not alone in adopting open source BI and that Global 2000 organizations are implementing projects with it.