Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tremendous Commerical Open Source BI Advantages

From time to time, I'll get the following question from individuals whom are not quite familiar with Open Source BI Software or the Commercial Open Source business model. Sometimes they can be resistant or unaware of its many advantages and benefits such as:

* No Software Licensing Fees
* Lower TCO
* Higher ROI
* A better cost structure investment of its revenue
* A less risky alternative
* The same functionality when compared to most proprietray offerings
* Community contributions (reviewed, certified and controlled of course)
* Real world tested, instead of Black Box tested
* Rapid fix delivery
* Released early and often
* Excellent customer support from those who know it best which includes the engineers who designed it

Overcoming someone’s resistance to open source in your organization means that you probably need to educate them, given that they use open source every day without thinking about it. It’s in everything from cars to cell phones, as well as almost all the commercial BI tools shipping today. More likely, they are resistant because they (a) are threatened in some way by the change you propose, (b) face organizational obstacles like educating the legal department about licenses or (c) face political consequences you aren’t aware of. It’s often their personal situation that is the biggest factor, given that most objections are easily refuted as myths. Check this link out for more information about demystifying Open Source BI.


What are some other advantages of an Commercial Open Source BI solution over a proprietary one?

As I usually do, I will explain it from my company's perspective. This response is aside from the fact that Commercial Open Source BI solutions, such as Pentaho Open Source Business Intelligence, can provide a very compelling BI solution matching the likes of proprietary BI without having to pay expensive software license fees. Commercial Open Source companies such as Pentaho provide the expert services to help you meet your objectives.

Legacy System Integration

Almost every BI solution requires some kind of interfacing with legacy systems. Pentaho has specifically designed its BI Platform to be integrated into existing environments. It makes no difference if we are interfacing with 20 year old ERP systems or 10 year old BI applications. Obviously, it is not possible to account for every situation in advance and that is where having access to the source code is a tremendous advantage. In most cases, the integration can be done by writing a plug-in using a few dozen lines of code. Many engagements in the proprietary world have some sort of implementation where you have to create a batch process or have someone manually run a report from a legacy system, save it to a file system, parse it and load it into the BI tool because there is some incompatibility that needed to be overcome externally to the software.

User Feedback

Another tremendous advantage with Open Source BI in general is the speed at which we get user feedback. By allowing users to participate in the development process, and releasing "early and often" we get critical feedback very early in the process. With a proprietary model, there is a deliberate structure to isolate developers from end users. Product Management talks to the users about requirements, support talks to users about problems, this information filters down to the developers in the form of bug reports and requirements. Changes get scheduled for a release, code gets written over a period of time until all the changes are in, the release is made, maybe a beta program happens but by the time an end user gets to try it out, it may be 6 months or more down the road. If there are design defects with a feature, they may not get addressed until the next release. With commercial open source, as changes go in, interested users have the option to try it out in the latest nightly build and provide instant feedback in a forum that the developer has direct access.

Just a couple more of those "little" Commercial Open Source BI advantages.