Jaspersoft's Strong December Attests to Popularity of Open Source BI

Open source reporting specialist Jaspersoft finished the year on a high note

It was an event-filled December for open source business intelligence (BI) specialist Jaspersoft Inc., which announced a new revision 3.1 release of its Jaspersoft Business Intelligence Suite and generated another $12.5 million in venture capital (VC) funding. The latter, of course, is no small feat in a climate in which credit markets are frozen and VC funding has tightened significantly.

The latest rev of Jaspersoft -- like its predecessors -- comes in both a Community Edition (CE) and a Professional Edition (PE). In the open source software (OSS) world, the term "Community Edition" usually describes a free version of an OSS package. CE licenses typically support a fixed number of users (e.g., developers, individual users) and don't offer much in vendor-sponsored support. Version 3.1 of the Jaspersoft Business Intelligence Suite ships with enhanced charting features and beefed up data visualization capabilities. The new features are designed to supplement the dynamic dashboarding and Web 2.0 interfaces that Jaspersoft released earlier this year.

The release comes at what officials believe is a propitious time for Jaspersoft. A lot has been written about how the BI market, in particular, tends to be insulated from economic shock (see http://www.tdwi.org/News/display.aspx?ID=9030). Jaspersoft officials believe that open source BI is especially well-insulated against economic tumult. "BI has remained a number-one priority in good times and bad for the last three or four years. Whether you're reading Gartner or a variety of other people who track these things, people are just trying to do everything they can to have better operational efficiency," said Nick Halsey, vice president of marketing and product management with Jaspersoft, in an interview late last year.

"They need to grow their sales and cut their staff and slash expenses at the same time. Look at Starbucks," Halsey continued, citing that company's decision to eliminate several hundred stores. "Obviously, they want to keep the profitable ones open and close the unprofitable ones. They want to know where they can best allocate resources to open new stores. Only business intelligence can give them that kind of insight."

In its latest release, Jaspersoft aims to close the gap between its still-gestating BI reporting platform and market-leading commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) entries from SAP AG's Business Objects division (Crystal Reports), Actuate Corp., and other specialty players. The revamped BI Suite ships with new built-in charts, boasts enhanced user self-serviceability (it includes a new "chart theme" feature that enables users or developers to customize the look and feel of charts) and benefits from improved integration with third-party data visualization software.

Jaspersoft says users can apply themes to any built-in chart types, such as bar, bar 3D, stacked bar, pie 3D, area, and other chart types. There's a new public API, too, which is designed to make it easier for programmers to invoke mapping, geospatial, and other visualization technologies within Jaspersoft BI.

On the funding front, Jaspersoft received a capital infusion from both Red Hat and Adams Street Partners, along with (the company says) additional reinvestment from its existing partners. Its latest VC round is another validation of Jaspersoft's strategy and market prospects, company officials maintain.

"I do think that if there's an economic downturn, people will more actively consider open source," Halsey said. Quite aside from its open source underpinnings, Jaspersoft has other differentiators, he continued. "The thing that we think we've done the best is deliver a really cool Web 2.0-based front-end. We're entirely browser-based. What we can offer customers is an extremely visual and intuitive tool. We're trying to server the broader BI market that hasn't been very well served by the dedicated BI folks."

For this reason, Halsey said, most of Jaspersoft's initial customer uptick takes the form of bread-and-butter reporting, usually via Jaspersoft CE. From there, he says, customers typically expand their investments -- and most do so atop the Jaspersoft stack.

"Most start with reporting, that's their basic need. Then as they move up Maslow's hierarchy of needs, they get more ambitious," he concludes, adding that Jaspersoft CE "is far more widely used than the professional edition" -- even though Jaspersoft claims encouraging uptake of the latter product. As customers get more ambitious, they'll often outgrow Jaspersoft CE. "We offer services for the Community Edition as well as for our Professional Edition, but the levels of SLA, the levels of support, are obviously different," Halsey noted.

About the Author

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