Open Source BI Firm Targets Integration Needs - InformationWeek

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5/16/2007
08:45 AM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Open Source BI Firm Targets Integration Needs

I profited from my recent Rome visit to learn more about an aggressive open-source business intelligence contender, SpagoBI. The software is produced by Rome-based systems integrator Engineering Ingegneria Informatica and uses some of the same components as software from Pentaho and JasperSoft. It's packaged, however, in a framework said to be more flexible and extensible than those of open source rivals.

I profited from my recent Rome visit to learn more about an aggressive open-source business intelligence (OSBI) contender, SpagoBI, positioned to go head-to-head with leading OSBI rivals. I've known about SpagoBI for a couple of years; the software is produced by Rome-based systems integrator Engineering Ingegneria Informatica. It uses some of the same components as software from Pentaho and JasperSoft, packaged however in a framework that Technical Director Gabriele Ruffatti asserts is more flexible and extensible than those of Engineering's OSBI rivals.Gabriele believes that his company's background and business model will deliver maximum value to organizations that are looking for a BI solution. He argues that as a systems integrator whose software-design decisions are influenced chiefly by first-hand, real-world implementation experiences, Engineering can best design a product that matches broad-market needs. Gabriele believes that not having to resort to venture funding, nor to asking higher-end users to pay for capabilities not found in a community open-source package, Spago can remain most responsive to developers and adopters and end users. There is something to be said for these arguments.

Gabriele was kind enough to respond to a number of questions I posed to him. Here's what he had to say (with added links) about his company and its software:

Seth: Several companies now package BI components with equivalent capabilities, sometimes even the same component, Mondrian OLAP. What technical advantage does SpagoBI offer?

Gabriele: SpagoBI is an integration platform because it doesn't provide predefined, closed sets of tools. It offers many engines (FLOSS or proprietary) for the same analytical area (e.g. Eclipse BIRT or JasperReports) or the same environment (e.g.: eXo Portal or IBM WebSphere Portal; more are coming), allowing the user freely to choose how to compose his own platform, building every time the best solution, saving investments and inserting easily in pre-existing environments. SpagoBI aims to enlarge the integration of more solutions and analytical engines depending on new project developments. (More are coming such as Tibco GI, MS-Excel, Talend, Palo/Jpalo, etc.)

Seth: Engineering is a systems integrator where Pentaho and JasperSoft are product focused. And SpagoBI is all FLOSS where if you want advanced JasperSoft capabilities, you have to buy it. How are Engineering's business and licensing models advantageous?

Gabriele: SpagoBI is released under the GNU LGPL licence: no professional or enterprise edition. Too often, the project development is focused on integration and customization of products (in the OS domain, often according a dual-licensing business model).

SpagoBI is a project-oriented solution; I call Engineering's business model "project-centric." It is designed to realize customized applications, putting the focus on the project development. This way, it enhances the project start-up with a new relationship of size, cost and quality compared to current price discrepancies of many solutions developed with proprietary products. (And some licensed OS solutions are coming closer and closer to proprietary solutions). Clients have the choice to buy our support services (training, subscription, start-up consultancy), but it is just a choice. And we try to keep sustainable prices. Our revenues comes from clients' satisfaction. And more: the innovation of SpagoBI doesn't come not just from a company's (Engineering) road-map, but from the SpagoBI clients and users' requirements, thanks to the SpagoBI contributors' mediation.

Seth: Engineering is building Spago out as a comprehensive Java applications framework. Does this add value for BI implementations and does it compete with other, mature, open-source Java frameworks available?

Gabriele: We developed Spago in 2000 and released it as OS in 2004 looking not for competition with other OS frameworks, but to offer one more option to OS communities and enterprises looking at OS solutions. Now Spago is increasing thanks to other SpagoWorld projects using Spago as a Java development framework. These include SpagoBI and also Spagic, the new OS Enterprise Integration Platform based on the SOA paradigm, and Spago4Q, a first "verticalization" of SpagoBI focused on Quality Software Improvement within organizations.

The main difference between Spago and other frameworks (Struts, Spring, etc) is that Spago doesn't cover only the needs of Web-application development. It addresses also the problem of interfacing with different specialized systems for achieving the business logic. For example it supplies optional modules for interacting with CMS (content management systems), interacting with workflow systems, publishing services on portlet containers, publishing services on JBI containers, and more features. These modules extends the Spago base core services (that are common to most Web frameworks), enabling the development of complex systems, and this is the reason why we called it "the Java Enterprise Wide Framework."

Gabriele, by the way, is participating in an OSBI session at this week's Data Warehousing Institute Boston conference. I'll be teaching a class there myself, albeit on Integrated Analytics: Text and Data and not, this occasion, on open source.I profited from my recent Rome visit to learn more about an aggressive open-source business intelligence contender, SpagoBI. The software is produced by Rome-based systems integrator Engineering Ingegneria Informatica and uses some of the same components as software from Pentaho and JasperSoft. It's packaged, however, in a framework said to be more flexible and extensible than those of open source rivals.

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