Is open source Business Intelligence a recession 'bounce-back' strategy?

Even if you don’t take books on laissez-faire free market economic theory to bed, it can’t have escaped your notice that we’ve been going through a global economic slowdown in recent times.

Despite an emergency budget from our chancellor, the road ahead looks uncertain for many businesses many of which remain manifestly ‘open’ to new business efficiencies if they present themselves. But which technologies should we look to?

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Brian Gentile, CEO of open source Business Intelligence (BI) company Jaspersoft suggests that at least part of the answer here lies in adopting tools for effective monitoring and gathering of critical information into well-defined metrics

Jaspersoft’s Gentile says that many traditional BI solutions only serve the enterprise and do not actually deliver the information needed to make strategic decisions. He also says that, “Open-source software presents a more cost effective option as the majority [of options] are offered free or at minimal cost.”

This viewpoint rather appears to ignore considerations for support and maintenance that will ultimately always be paid for and are, for the most part, very much a necessity.

There may be a more convincing argument for open source BI if we look at the level of flexibility offered compared to closed products. “The very nature of open source allows a company to adapt the solution to meet its exact needs. Developers, can modify the functionality of tools to ensure they deliver the exact information sought after and can scale them to suit any size of business.”

Jaspersoft may be arguing themselves into a corner here – how many small businesses that are looking for open source BI dashboard-based analytics happen to have a small team of software application customisation specialists up their sleeve?

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Adrian,Really strong article, which contains a great deal of highly valid observations. I just wanted to take this opportunity to respond to two points you raise. Firstly, on your point on support and maintenance fees, since most open source software is sold using a subscription license model, the customer is able to use the software for one year. This annual subscription includes maintenance and support, typically. In Gartner’s April 2010 “BI Platform Licensing Models and Negotiating Strategies” report, Rita Sallam analysed Jaspersoft among other BI companies and concluded that open source BI remains a low cost disruptor to traditional BI software offerings and can save customers up to 82% compared to mega-vendor BI providers such as SAP, IBM and Oracle. The report also showed that over three years, an open source license costs, on average, $91,500 while a mega-vendor license costs an average of $683,043. With the difference between those three year cost averages, an organisation of any size could buy a lot of customisation. Which brings me to my second point.Since open source products are borne of the web and an ultra-modern design, the ability to implement and customise is typically far easier (in both time and cost) than the aged, proprietary software they so commonly replace. You may be surprised how many ambitious and clever departments (within a large enterprise) and small- to mid-sized companies have the interest and capability to implement and cutstomise open source BI platform. And, with the savings they'll see from choosing a modern, open source alternative, they can easily pay someone to do this, should they need or wish.
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