Open Source Business Intelligence

Open source business intelligence has been a growing segment of the industry for some time now. With the economy down, and the need for information and data up, it’s no surprise that there has been a big push for open source bi.

In the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of advances in the technology, to the point where big companies are comfortable using it. It’s been much of the same acceptance process as happened with server applications such as Linux.

The main attraction to this technology is the same that is attractive about Linux: it’s free. However, what many of the open source vendors are doing are packaging high-end, premium, or commercial solutions with some additional functionality not found in the base package. You’ll also find that support and consulting time is usually extra as well. Licensing costs for the higher end software is usually at a different model that a traditional per user or per server model. This also can be attractive for many organizations.

Licensing costs for most BI implementations are not one of the biggest expenses in most cases. Databases, labor, consulting, and infrastructure are usually more costly pieces of the puzzle.

These technologies also tend to be a little more technical and developer oriented. They are ideal for an IT driven solution. They can often be used as an embedded solution. Still, even for a more business oriented environment, they can be worth a look.

Here are some of the major players in the market:

Pentaho – They also have ETL and data management solutions as part of their package.

Actuate – While their products do have some costs, they have based their solution on the BIRT open source technology, which is free.

Jaspersoft – They call themselves the most widespread BI solution in the world.

SpagoBI – A Java based BI application

Palo – Built behind the Jedox company's sponsorship, it has some interesting Excel based planning and forecasting capability.  It has basic BI reporting and dashboarding, but also has some planning and forecasting through its Excel add-in.  

There are are also numerous smaller players, many of whom deliver value-add around the bigger free distribution software packages.

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