If you have the expertise in-house, open source BI can be worthwhile to explore.
While BI can add lots of value to a business, it comes at a considerable cost. However, the IT community has an alternative – open source business intelligence.
It’s been a few decades since Open Source software came in to action. Over the years, it has gained considerable popularity and enthusiasm. A large community called FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) has been formed and they continue to develop and promote open source solutions for almost every software discipline in the IT world. Business Intelligence is no different.
Open source BI is quite young, compared other open source disciplines such as Operating Systems and application development frameworks. It really came into play during the 2007-2009 crisis, when most businesses could not spend much on enterprise BI solutions.
Open source is often considered as a low-cost solution for software problems. As a result, you can see a significant number of successful open source BI applications in use today.
Advantages of using open source software
- Simplicity: Most open source BI solutions offer only the most essential and useful features, which cater to about 80% of the user requirements. This ensures you are not inundated with features you won’t be using in the end.
- Price: Open source BI is not exactly ‘free’, in terms of price, but it’s a very low-cost alternative.
- Control over source code: With open source, you get the source code in your own hands. If you have the tech knowledge in house, you can make any change you need or think you need.
- Updates and support: There’s also a very active developer and user community online in the FOSS world, which provides product and feature updates, troubleshooting and technical help. This is most helpful if you have technical skills at your disposal.
Disadvantages of open source software
- Limited functionality: One notable limitation to open source software is the lack of meta-data management framework.
- User experience: open source BI software is known for their ‘poor user experience’ compared to the commercial counterparts. Most are very difficult to be used by an average person with less technical knowledge.
- Legal accountability: With licensed products there’s always a legal service agreement, hence they are accompanied with accountability for damage and issues. IF you need additional developer support for an open source package, there’s no guarantee that you’d get it.
Is using open source BI software always cheaper?
That’s debatable. The initial investment is certainly lower: they are free to download for evaluations. However, what if you are in the middle of a BI project, using open source software, and you encounter an issue that your technical team is unable to solve? Does the FOSS community guarantee support? Most probably not.
In such case, either you will have to spend more time and money on solving the problem in house or outsource the issue. Worst case, you might need to switch to another product, which would delay the project and raise the bill.
Also, deployment and integration of open source software can take considerable effort, thus increase the man hours needed.
Top open source bi solutions
There are several popular open source BI solutions in the market.
JasperSoft is the most widely used BI software and is an alternative for Oracle BI, Microsoft BI and SAP BI commercial products. It has a web based dashboard and reports, with support for cloud computing and big data analysis.
Another alternative for commercial BI products from Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, it’s a complete and flexible BI suite in open source.
Palo BI Suite/Jedox
OS independent open source BI product that integrates 4 tools: Palo Web, Palo OLAP & ETL Servers and Palo for Excel.
Open source BI software is suitable for organizations with access to considerable technical know-how. For those organizations, it provides lots of flexibility at an affordable price. If you are considering to deploy an open source BI solution, consider whether you have access to the right technical skills, be the in house or with a BI consultant you can trust.