It's Not Your Grandfather's Open Source BI Market Any Longer

There's never been a question on the advantages of open source software. Crowdsourcing, vendor independence, ability to see and in some cases control the source code, and lower costs are just a few benefits of open source software (OSS) and business model. Linux and Apache Hadoop are prime examples of successful OSS projects. It's a different story, however, when it comes to OSS BI. For years, OSS BI vendors struggled with growth because of:


  • The developer-centric nature of open source projects. The target audience for open source projects is developers, which means deals are mostly sealed by technology management. The industry, on the other hand, has gravitated toward business decision-makers within organizations over the last several years. However, business users are less interested in the opportunities that a collaborative open source community offers, and more concerned about ease of use and quick setup. Indeed, Forrester's research constantly finds evidence correlating business ownership as one of the key success factors for effective BI initiatives.
  • Its focus on custom development. While the commercial versions of OSS BI offer complete platforms and solutions, the free community editions mostly provide components that can be leveraged in custom development projects. However, many popular commercial BI products now provide a plethora of intuitive plug-and-play, drag-and-drop, and point-and-click-based customizations, and therefore fewer and fewer clients find the need to custom develop BI code.
  • The unproven benefit of long-term total cost of ownership. While the community versions of OSS BI are free and the commercial versions' subscriptions are somewhat less expensive than commercial licenses (with maintenance, over a three-year period), the cost of BI software licenses or subscription is a tiny part in the long-term total cost of ownership of BI platforms and applications. The cost of professional services, plus other key BI components such as data integration, data governance, master data management (MDM) and data quality, data warehousing and integration with other enterprise applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM), dwarves the cost of BI software licenses or subscriptions.
Confirming Forrester's cautious point of view on the OSS BI market (also confirmed by a recent survey finding that only 12% of global developers use open source BI), three major acquisitions took place in a rapid succession within the last nine months:
  • Tibco acquired Jaspersoft and rolled it into its Tibco Analytics offering.
  • OpenText acquired Actuate and intends to run it as a separate business unit.
  • Hitachi Data Systems' intent to acquire Pentaho opens up a variety of opportunities.
While Forrester feels that there's no immediate obvious vendor risk associated with the three acquired technologies, any technology mergers and acquisitions (M&A) carries certain risk (management reshuffling, key employees' departures, etc.) For those BI pros who may be getting queasy stomachs about the acquisitions, there are still a couple of OSS BI options left, such as:
  • SpagoBI — a BI software arm of professional services vendor Engineering Group.
  • BPM-Conseil Vanilla BI — the last fully independent open source BI project.
Please read Forrester's latest report report (co-authored by Martha Bennett) which takes a deeper dive into the above acquistions, plus provides actionable advice for BI pros considering or already using OSS BI


"many popular commercial BI

"many popular commercial BI products now provide a plethora of intuitive plug-and-play, drag-and-drop, and point-and-click-based customizations, and therefore fewer and fewer clients find the need to custom develop BI code."

That's because the end user is more and more NOT a developer. They want to embrace the full functionality of the BI product but don't have the know-how to build custom features like they want. Instead, drag-and-drop applications give them all the tools they need when they need them.

BI Tools

Thanks for your post. This is really informative. It's impossible to imagine making good business decisions without the right information to back up the decision making process. Business intelligence (BI) tools help by making it easy to extract and understand the information that you need from the mass of business data that you collect and store. In other words, they can help turn piles of data into meaningful insights that help you run your business. Because the potential business benefits of a good business intelligence tool are so great, it's not surprising that plenty of big-name vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAS provide excellent proprietary business intelligence software – though sometimes at a significant price. Less well-known companies with strong BI offerings include Panorama Software, Tableau Software and Qlik. More at

There is a new Open source BI

There is a new Open source BI tools like Helical Insight ( For reports and dashboards creation they do provide self service capabilities with just drag and drop and create analysis on the fly.

Also Helical Insight is the first open source BI tool with cognitive BI capabilities i.e. integrated machine learning and NLP. Known as Instant BI, it allows non technical business users to just type in their questions and get instant business answers.