Survey Says: The Open Source BI Tools Really Are Coming

The market for open source business intelligence (BI) tools has been simmering for a long time now.

Thanks to a thriving ecosystem of open source BI vendors—competitors include JasperSoft, Actuate Corp. (the driving force behind the BI Reporting Tool, or BIRT), Pentaho, SpagoBI, and others—open source BI seems poised to boil over. It’s just a question of when, some industry watchers argue.

A new survey appears to lend credence to such optimism. Based on responses from BI pros in North America, Germany, and the United Kingdom (UK), the survey—which was sponsored by BIRT principal Actuate—focuses on a number of trends, including global awareness and adoption of open source BI solutions, as well as benefits, barriers to (and drivers for) adoption. It collects responses from more than six hundred IT and business professionals from financial services and other industries. The survey yielded some interesting results.

For example, 43 percent of respondents are already using open source, while nearly one quarter (23.6 percent) are currently using open source BI. What’s more, nearly one-third (31.2 percent) say they’re “likely” or “very likely” to consider using open source BI in the future.

“These survey results show that open source software is moving into the mainstream and that Open Source is rising in influence,” said Mark Madsen, president of consultancy Third Nature Inc. and a faculty member with TDWI, in a statement. “Half the organizations surveyed stated that open source is either the preferred option or is explicitly considered in the software procurement process. One surprising note is that one-third of the organizations surveyed are now likely to consider Open Source business intelligence in their evaluations. This is a huge shift from just a few years ago.”

Open source BI uptake is extremely prevalent in the financial services sector, where 49 percent are already using open source software and 29.8 percent have deployed open source BI tools. The key driver for many customers, not surprisingly, is cost: open source software doesn’t have any licensing fees associated with it, and—for 60.6 percent of customers—that’s its most beneficial aspect. Other drivers include vendor independence (cited by nearly half (48.4 percent) of respondents), flexibility (45.7 percent), access to source code (44.7 percent) and standards-based technology (34.0 percent).

Few adopters seem to have “settled” for open source, either. Over half (50.5 percent) chose open source as either their preferred option or as a specific consideration when they procured their software. As for barriers to adoption, long term support (at 52.7 percent) and maintenance (48.9 percent) are open source’s biggest perceived drawbacks. Other drawbacks include a perceived absence of in-house skills (38.3 percent), incompatibility with existing applications (35.1 percent), no demonstrable track record with real world applications (30.9 percent) and an inability to provide indemnification (30.3 percent).

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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