Open Source BI: Spawned by Commoditization or Complexity? - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management
Commentary
7/1/2008
08:50 AM
Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Commentary
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Open Source BI: Spawned by Commoditization or Complexity?

I was at last week's Open Source BI Summit sponsored by Sun and it was interesting to see a presentation by Mark Madsen asserting that Open Source is taking hold due to the commoditization of software in the market... Let me take a contrarian position... I believe that the complexities of BI are driving new markets like open source...

I was at last week's Open Source BI Summit hosted by Sun and it was interesting to see a presentation by Mark Madsen asserting that Open Source is taking hold due to the commoditization of software in the market. Using BI as one example that has hit the mainstream and peaked, his observation is that Open Source is spawning more rapidly as the commercial on-premise software is generally the same across BI vendors. Let me take the contrarian position. Maybe a lot of core BI functionality is similar, but a lot of other capabilities are still very different.BI might have reached its peak from commercial license revenue growth for many of the larger BI vendors, but for others the market is still growing. The newer suppliers are increasing their number of customers, their revenue or both. As long as the majority of business users still use spreadsheets and e-mail to analyze and collaborate for making decisions, there will be potential for market growth. The technology designed for personal productivity lacks the BI sophistication needed to meet a shared and collaborative environment, let alone operate from a common platform. In practice, though, IT has purchased a lot of BI technology, and much of it has not reached the business users as needed.

The commodity premise is interesting, but without the software being used by more than 50 percent of available users, it is not a commodity in terms of usage or number of licenses purchased. I believe, and Ventana research supports, that the complexities of BI are driving new markets like open source. High pricing, difficult configuration after installation, lack of IT skills for successful deployment, poor usability of the tools, and lack of context have all hampered BI from becoming a commodity and have helped accelerate the open source dimension of BI.

The reality is that BI suppliers each have their own challenges to make their products work with enterprise infrastructure while also ensuring that deployments can serve the masses. This is no easy feat and it has complicated and stalled many deployments. Many of the BI products are still too complex to be used in an efficient manner by business users, let alone by business analysts.

These complexities have driven open source as one channel to get access to software, to try it and at the same time to contribute its advancement in a community-based approach. Leveraging a large number of developers in a community enables open source vendors and corporations around the world to advance the software in a more open and collaborative fashion. This enables IT organizations, consultants and software providers to take what they need to advance BI for their purposes in a modular and flexible manner.

What do you think?I was at last week's Open Source BI Summit sponsored by Sun and it was interesting to see a presentation by Mark Madsen asserting that Open Source is taking hold due to the commoditization of software in the market... Let me take a contrarian position... I believe that the complexities of BI are driving new markets like open source...

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