Should you choose an open source BI solution?

Many organizations, both private and public, are currently evaluating or deploying Open Source BI tools (OS BI) like JasperSoft, Pentaho, Actuate, or SpagoBI. These leading open source Business Intelligence suites offer a full range of Business Intelligence capabilities, ranging from ETL to ad-hoc analysis and reporting.

Open source adoption increases

On a feature-by-feature comparison, open source Business Intelligence tools still can’t beat the leading closed source offerings, but, as a leading analyst firm recently stated in a research paper: “open source adoption increases, because it is often considered ‘good enough’, especially for organizations in the public sector.” Further reading: ‘Open source Business Intelligence in demand’.

Two open source myths

By definition, when someone buys open source software the source code should be included. But some open source BI vendors like Pentaho BI don’t include their source code. If vendors don’t provide the source code we use the term ‘closed source’.

  1. Open source means always open. No, this isn’t always true. By ‘open’ many vendors mean they have an open source developer community.
  2. Open source means free. This is perhaps the biggest myth. Many open source BI vendors charge you for the use of their software.

OS BI tools worth considering

If you combine the “good enough” factor with an attractive price point and the support delivered by the vendors, some open source BI tools are certainly worth considering. More information about the maturity and implementation of open source BI can be found in the Business Intelligence Tools Survey 2019, an in-depth comparison report including the following open source BI tools:

Open source BI vendor PentahoThey score relatively well in the categories of usability, performance and security, which is essential for expanding their market share. Currently they don’t have many large implementations. As a strength, Pentaho have a complete product offering (their data integration product is evaluated in our ETL Tools & Data Integration Survey), as a weakness we don’t yet see much predictive analysis and no performance management facilities. Read more…
Open source BI platform JaspersoftJaspersoft has improved considerably in the usability category, but still has some work to do to compete with the top products. Good BI tools help us predict the future and this (advanced analytics) is something that is currently not included in the product. As a basic report writer, the product is adequate, but if you are looking for something more it is not (yet) available in Jaspersoft. Read more…

Other tools you might want to consider

SpagoBI, an open source BI toolThis open source BI tool isn’t (yet) included in our study because vendors have to cooperate, and SpagoBI didn’t respond to our questionnaire. Perhaps they didn’t like the questions. Hopefully, they will respond much more adequately to questions from their customers.
Actuate, a BIRT companyActuate is a product that is difficult to put into a single category. They are too big to be classified as small, have been around too long to be classified as new, and don’t really seem to do anything particularly innovative. They are, however, very successful at what they do, their market is primarily the financial departments within larger companies, and their product spreadsheet-based. They are promoting the use of BI quite successfully with their Open source initiative BIRT but score badly in almost everything that we have measured. That’s why we excluded it from our survey in 2011.

How to define key criteria for open source BI?

BI tools are often not selected in a structured way. Here you will find all the key selection criteria you need to perform a tool selection in a proper way. For open source BI tools, you might want to evaluate the tools in addition on the following criteria:

  • What is their market share in terms of number of installations?
  • Do they offer local support in your country and your own language?
  • How many developers are working on the open source initiative?
  • Is the product designed to be really scalable, is it robust?
  • If the company defaults, can you access and use the source code?

A comparison of open source BI tools in our BI Survey

A thorough, 100% vendor-independent evaluation (197 criteria) of the open source BI tools Pentaho BI and Jaspersoft and many other solutions is included in the Business Intelligence Tools Survey 2019 which is available for purchase and download.

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Do you also want to become a customer of ours? We are happy to help you with open source bi tools (how to compare these open source bi tools?) or other things that will make you smarter.

Daan van Beek, Managing Director

DAAN VAN BEEK MSc

Managing Director

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