Open Source BI

Open source vendors are becoming stronger contenders in the business intelligence space and addressing integration issues in the process.

IT channel takeaway: Open source vendors are working toward becoming significant players in the business intelligence space. This Q&A -- with an open source vendor -- explains one executive's take on BI needs and integration misconceptions.

With Paul Doscher, chief executive of open source business intelligence vendor JasperSoft.

Question: Let's talk about open source BI in the context of Clayton Christensen's book, The Innovator's Dilemma. Part of his theory is that entrenched vendors can't react to new developments because of entrenched thinking about what a product needs to be, and also because of their cost structures. Does this apply to JasperSoft? Will you destroy some of the major BI vendors?

Doscher: I think that "destroy" is a pretty strong word. But, I think if you believe that Linux is destroying Microsoft's grip on enterprises, well, there's nothing that's been invented by the commercial vendors that the open source vendors won't eventually get to in terms of depth of functionality and capabilities. So, over time, because we have a disruptive business model, we will in fact start to insinuate ourselves into the commercial vendor space — and we're already seeing that. There are a number of companies that are converting from Crystal reports to Jasper reports because a) the functionality [of Crystal] is way more than what they need and b) the price point is way more than what they can afford and c) the architecture has not kept up with the open standards architecture, and more and more companies are looking to adopt technologies that comply with open standards guidelines so they have more flexibility.

Question: Have the needs of the BI market changed significantly? More specifically, are there more situations today where 70 percent of the leaders' functionality is good enough?

Doscher: I think it has changed dramatically and it's continuing to change. Business intelligence now needs to work for everyone in the enterprise. It can no longer work for just the selected few that either have the capacity or the time or the business requirement to use it. I'm quoting now from a recent interview with John Schwarz, the CEO of Business Objects, where, in their largest implementations, they maybe cover 15 percent of the employees in the enterprise. So, what you're seeing now, with companies continuing to be very lean in their expense base, and with regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and Basel II, operational managers -- end users, if you will -- are asking to be more involved in operational decisions. And in order for them to do that, to make those decisions, they need the tools in real time. So what you're seeing, in terms of the transformation of business intelligence and how it is evolving, is that it needs to touch the majority of users within the enterprise, and the current vendors can't do it.

Question: One of the trends in business intelligence is the integration of multiple sources into a single report or dashboard. Open source has the reputation of being difficult to integrate. How would you respond?

Doscher: I've never heard that comment, to be honest with you. But let's assume there's a misunderstanding around the difficulty of doing that. When you look at a company like SpikeSource, which is a partner of ours, and how they've taken a leadership position in working through the integration of various components of the infrastructure stack, and then they certify support of those integrations, so that it becomes invisible to the end users, even if there was that particular [integration] issue, nowadays you are seeing companies that are stepping up to the table and addressing that, so that open source can be continued to be deployed. If you're talking about it in the context of a Jasper report or a Jasper server, where you're going to integrate our capabilities into your application, it's 100 percent Java and it's built on open standards so there's absolutely zero issue about integration of our products into Java-based applications.

This 3 Questions originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.

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