I was pleasantly surprised to see Seth Grimes give JPivot, Mondrian and especially the R project long overdue recognition ("Open and Shut," January 2005).
My company focuses on customer intelligence solutions, and business intelligence (BI) technology is core to our business. When we evaluated commercial BI platforms, we were discouraged with the options for a variety of reasons — price points, even at entry levels, were extremely high; technologies were closed and proprietary, which made them difficult to integrate with other applications; and the visualization options were very platform and browser dependent. In other words, they were the exact constraints open-source solutions have overcome in many other application domains. Our strategic direction became using open-source components.
We've gotten tremendous leverage out of using R for statistical analysis and data mining. Its depth of analytic model libraries, visualization options and adoption of cutting-edge techniques surpasses any commercial solutions. For Web-based OLAP reporting, JPivot was an immensely better alternative to browser-dependent technologies. With version 1.3.0, JPivot supports any XMLA-compliant OLAP server, so it isn't tied to Mondrian anymore — and it can work with Microsoft Analysis Services, SAS OLAP server and so on. Mondrian has more improvements to make to be a true alternative for enterprise-grade OLAP servers, but it will happen.
For the market to benefit from these solutions, all we need is greater community involvement. This is how open-source projects flourish. Instead of spending funds and resources on "established" players, invest in open source, and you'll have a robust, extremely flexible platform. As more organizations switch to open source, better requirements will emerge, and even better solutions will be available. All serious BI application developers, integrators and users should become involved in these projects and see how they rank against the other options.
The state of the BI software market has been controlled by a few big players-similar to the state of the J2EE application server market before JBoss, the database server market before MySQL and Postgres or the OS market before Linux. Soon, the BI platform market will experience the same effect, because open source and open standards are driving its commoditization. It's just a matter of time.
Cofounder, SVP of R&D
Does the technology discussed in "Army Enlists E-Forms To Speed Processes" (Dashboard, February 2005) compliment enterprise application integration? I'm looking into an EAI solution and want to understand the relationship between the two.
Doug Henschen responds: E-forms systems and so-called "active document" technologies often compliment business process management initiatives and may present an alternative to EAI. If your integration needs revolve around transactional forms and documents, e-forms systems may be able to handle the database and system calls and data validations required to unite information.