Could open source BI close out incumbents?

A threat to traditional markets?

JasperSoft has just released version 2.0 of its software, which makes this a good time not just to consider JasperSoft's latest capabilities, but also open-source business intelligence (BI) more generally.

The two big beasts in open source BI are Pentaho and JasperSoft. These are broadly similar in their range of capabilities (query and reporting, analysis against multi-dimensional cubes and so on) with the exception that Pentaho offers data mining while JasperSoft believes that this is an area that is currently best supplied by specialist vendors.

Both offer ETL (extract, transform and load) products, although Pentaho acquired the open-source Kettle for this purpose while JasperSoft OEM's the open source Talend (about which I shall have more to say in a forthcoming article). Needless to say, each claims to be the leading supplier in the market.

Certainly, JasperSoft appears to be more international in nature, with development and support centres in North America, Italy, Romania, India and Australia and sales offices on both the East and West coasts of the United States, as well as Ireland. It claims to have more than 20,000 deployments worldwide with something approaching one third of these being paying customers, it also has more than 20 global partners including MySQL, Red Hat, Novell and Salesforce.com (Jasper4Salesforce is apparently the number one BI product on the Salesforce.com AppExchange) among others.

So, what's new in 2.0? Well, there are four new commercial products: JasperETL Professional edition, based on Talend, which now provides a multi-user repository; JasperReports Professional edition; JasperReports Developer edition and JasperStudio, which is a commercial version of iReport, the company's graphical report designer.

All of these are bundled into the JasperSoft Business Intelligence Suite, which also includes new configuration tools, improved ease of use and a variety of functional enhancements, extended language support (French, German, Italian and Japanese in addition to English) and new platform support at both the operating system (for example, Windows Vista) and database levels (for the repository). Moreover, this suite is available for just $35,000 for an unlimited enterprise license.

Now, it is this last point that should make you stop and think. For $35,000 you can get reporting, which can be anything from Excel format to being pixel perfect, you can slice and dice against ROLAP cubes, you can perform ad hoc queries and you can do all of this on an architecture that has been built for the web from the ground up (as opposed to being cantilevered onto a client/server architecture) with a common metadata and content repository. And, on top of all that, you get a pretty decent ETL tool. For $35,000! With an unlimited user licence!

This looks seriously threatening to the traditional markets of companies, such as Business Objects and Cognos, where such a licence would cost hundreds of thousands (at least). Of course, both of these vendors have diversified into corporate performance management and Business Objects also plays in the infrastructure space with ETL, analytical MDM, federated query and so on. Nevertheless, this pricing model is potentially disruptive: if open source BI can prove its functional capabilities and its scalability then the likes of JasperSoft and Pentaho are going to seriously eat into the market that has been historically owned by the big boys.

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