Monday, September 29, 2008

Open Source BI now Mainstream?

In today's press announcement, Actuate released the findings of a survey of 1000 international professionals on their adoption of open source software.

"Exploring in depth organizations’ use of and attitudes towards open source, across four important territories, the findings categorically confirm that open source software is not a 'here today, gone tomorrow' phenomenon, rather it has been broadly recognized and embraced for its ability to offer organizations sustained competitive advantage. These findings support Gartner’s projections that, by 2012, at least 80% of all commercial software solutions will include substantive open source components*."

*See press release titled ‘Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organisations and Users in 2008 and Beyond’, January 31, 2008.

Actuate's survey, which they have been doing since 2005, found that European organizations had a higher adoption rate of open source than did those in North America. For example, over 60% of the individuals in France and Germany said that open source was the preferred option when purchasing software, compared to only 40% in N.A..

Actuate itself made a strategic decision years ago to hitch its wagon to the open source star:

"The Actuate platform boasts unmatched scalability, high-performance, reliability and security. Its proven RIA capabilities and highly collaborative development architecture are backed by the world's largest open source information application developer community, grounded in BIRT, the Eclipse Foundation's only top level Business Intelligence and reporting project."

The Actuate survey reported that the biggest challenge with using open source software was the lack of skilled individuals. Actuate says this lack of skills is actually a good sign, because it indicates a high adoption rate. The demand is using up the pool of available people.

The implied claim here is that as more companies use open source software, more technical people will see it as a good career course and become skilled in it. That would be nice. However, what could happen instead is that decision makers say, "Gee, I can't find any experienced people in this open source technology, so it is easier and perhaps cheaper to go with a more mainstream solution that has broader adoption and support. Where's that phone number for my IBM rep?"

Lack of human resources hurts not only the open source BI community, but the smaller software products and legacy technologies as well. As BI professionals center their careers around the four pillars (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP) and get under that consolidated BI umbrella, people working with other technologies will feel left out in the rain and will probably seek shelter by developing new skills.

1 comment:

Larry Eiss said...

Another great article, Doug. A lack of Open Source (OS) talent can also be attributed to the fact that a lot of OS solutions are simply unknown to the BI consumer. We use a lot of OS software here, and intend to continue, but we often find the best nuggets by conducting Internet searches and talking with others in the industry. Everything you said is right on. I'd just add that the fact that a lot of the OS providers are small, and some are new, contributes to the general lack of awareness. Financial pressures are higher in EMEA than the are (for the moment) in north America, so that may account for the higher OS adoption rate there.

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I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.