Open Source: The Intelligence Behind Business?

A pair of open source BI vendors hope to challenge commercial competitors

Enterprises can now get their business intelligence open source style. Pentaho and JasperSoft have updated their BI platforms as each vendor ramps up efforts to gain a slice of the BI pie.

For its part, JasperSoft claims that its open source BI software is already deployed in over 10,000 businesses and has had more than 1 million downloads. JasperSoft just added a server offering and a new suite that encompasses its entire architecture of BI solutions.

The server software, JasperServer, is intended to allow users to generate BI reports either as a standalone server or as a Web services reporting engine.

Reports may be generated in any number of different formats, including HTML, PDF, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word. The server integrates with existing enterprise infrastructure via Web Services, Java APIs and HTTP.

The new Jasper suite, called JasperIntelligence, includes JasperServer, as well as JasperReports (BI reporting), JasperDesigner (BI reports designer), JasperAnalytics, JasperETL (data warehouse term which stands for Extracting, Transforming (or Transporting) and Loading) and JasperDecisions.

Barry Klawans, CTO at JasperSoft told that JasperReports has been widely deployed because there haven't been too many barriers to adoption of JasperSoft's software.

"The biggest barrier to JasperReports a year ago was the lack of support, and we quickly fixed that one," Klawans said. "The main barrier since then has been with folks who want a turn-key solution, not a reporting library that requires writing code to integrate it into an existing application."

Klawans expects that JasperServer should solve that problem, as it can run as a stand-alone server, be embedded in another Java Web application or be invoked as a Web service.

"We even included PHP objects that hide the web service complexity and allow PHP developers to interact with PHP objects that talk to our server," Klawans explained.

Open source startup Pentaho recently launched Pentaho BI Suite Professional Edition and Pentaho Reporting Server Professional Edition.

The Professional Edition of Pentaho's BI suite builds on top of Pentaho's open suite with additional enterprise capabilities.

For example the professional edition allows users to store data in proprietary databases, such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, in addition to the open source MySQL database.

License indemnifications as well as commercial support are also key parts of Pentaho's professional offerings.

Pentaho and JasperSoft differ in a number of key areas, according to JasperSoft's top executives.

CEO Paul A. Doscher told that, as opposed to Pentaho, JasperSoft is developing an open source BI suite that is modular in design.

That design allows developers to customize the user experience and focus on delivering operational BI to everyone through integration in today's applications and business processes.

The two open source BI vendors aren't necessarily in competition with each other, though.

"Is Pentaho the competition? " asked JasperSoft CTO Klawans. "I talk to the folks there fairly frequently, and we both think the real competition is the established BI players."

Cognos is one such established BI player, and it doesn't necessarily see open source as a direct competitor, either.

"Although we are hearing more from open source BI companies through the media, we do not see these organizations in competitive sales situations," Don Campbell, vice president of platform strategy and innovation, told

"Much of the need for open source BI comes from smaller companies looking to implement a BI or mere reporting solution on a smaller scale, not a full solution across the organization."

Campell sees open source BI as a good alternative for the mid-market customer who wants to get a better handle on their business.

However, Cognos believes that in order to truly unlock the potential for more complex reporting and scalability from business intelligence, an enterprise-scale BI tool such as that from Cognos is necessary.

At the same time, Cognos embraces open source as a developer platform and is an active member of the developer community, involved in initiatives such as the Eclipse Foundation.

"In fact, Cognos uses open source to help the company concentrate on the differentiating value Cognos brings to its customers by leveraging open source for the non-essential parts of Cognos' solution," Campbell said.

Open source BI, at least the solution provided by JasperSoft, may well serve to expand the market beyond that which the traditional proprietary players like Cognos have served.

"I think open source BI has the capability of reaching an entirely new class of users and enabling a new type of usage. And not just because of the price," JasperSoft's Klawans said.

"All the established BI companies have been around for quite some time now, and are designed to be a monolithic system that allows a sophisticated analyst to explore your data in all sorts of ways.

"They are quite good at that, but their tools are just not suitable for the average user," Klawans continued.

"Open source BI has the opportunity to bring the key features of business intelligence to a much broader user base by designing the tools for a less technical user and allowing the key BI features to be accessed from within business applications."

This article was first published on

Comment and Contribute


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have characters left.