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Open Source Solutions
Managing, Analyzing and Delivering Business Information

by Mark Madsen, http://ThirdNature.netTuesday, September 21, 2010

About the Survey

The report presents conclusions and recommendations based on a survey about open source software for reporting and analytics. It covers all parts of the data warehouse stack from the database to end‐user delivery. It is written for business and technical managers who are responsible for delivering reporting, business intelligence (BI) or analytics, whether part of a BI program or embedded in applications and websites.

The research evaluated the rationale, practices and benefits that are driving use of open source as an alternative to the traditional vendors in this market. It also looked at the specific software projects, the scope and status of its deployment, and the challenges and practices of participating organizations.

The business intelligence, reporting and analytics market has different drivers and requirements from the typical IT development and applications market. Most open source studies target open source impacts on operating systems, development tools and application infrastructure. The point of the research was to get a better picture of the factors influencing IT adoption in the BI and data warehouse segment.


The research for this report is based on a survey and interviews with both consultants and IT professionals that Third Nature conducted between July and August of 2009 in addition to solicited survey participation via the BeyeNETWORK, sponsors' email distribution lists and websites and the annual MySQL conference. More than 1,000 people completed the survey, although not all respondents answered every question.

The aim was to gather a broad perspective of the evaluation, use and practices in both open source‐centric communities and in the broader IT market.

Respondent Profile

The majority of survey respondents are corporate IT professionals across firms of all sizes, with consultants being the next largest group. The composition of roles is shown in Figure 1. Most respondents are in North America and Europe, with 81 countries represented in the sample. Computer hardware, software and service companies are the largest industry represented with 22% of the total, with the rest spread across 15 other industry categories.

Bar Graph
Figure 1: Roles of survey respondents

Executive Summary and Key Findings

Venture capital flooding into open source start‐ups over the past several years resulted in an explosion of enterprise‐ready tools and applications. Many of these start‐ups are focused on the business intelligence market. Open source rose quickly in the information management market, from almost nothing a few years ago to community and commercially supported projects for every possible use.

The goal of this report is to explain aspects of the usage, challenges and practices of organizations adopting open source in the business intelligence and data warehouse market. Key questions explored in this research were:

  • What organizations are using open source in the BI/DW segment of the market?
  • What software is being deployed?
  • What are the benefits and challenges?

The survey found that interest and adoption are widespread. One‐third of respondents stated they use open source reporting, data integration or database software for analytic uses. More than one‐third are currently evaluating open source alternatives. Only 12% reported no plans to use open source.

The top reason for adoption is still cost savings, although reduced vendor dependence and ease of integration followed closely behind. Some companies used open source deployments as a means of keeping their incumbent vendors honest.

Highlights of the survey findings include:

  • When dealing with database performance problems, people are more than twice as likely to migrate a data warehouse to an analytic database as they are to a different traditional database, open source or not. While this is good news for analytic database vendors, it's not that good because people are still married to their current choice of database. They are more likely to change, redesign or replace every other tool in the BI stack before replacing the database.
  • In all software categories except advanced analytics, the most commonly used open source projects were from commercial open source vendors. The perception that open source is done largely by amateurs and volunteers is not true in this market.
  • Experience breeds adoption. Organizations with less than one year of experience with open source use only one open source product, i.e., a BI tool, while the rest of the system is built from proprietary software. If the organization has been using open source longer, it is likely to be using more tools in different categories. All organizations with more than three years of production use are using more than one open source product.
  • Open source is all about new projects. More than half the usage of open source was for new projects, with minimal focus on replacing existing tools. This is good news for open source projects and vendors, and potentially bad news for traditional vendors. It means open source is being adopted in the growth areas of the market, and that could be taking new customers from traditional vendors or taking away the mid‐to‐smaller‐sized organizations which have previously been priced out of the market.

    Traditional BI and data integration vendors have been introducing midmarket programs as they look for growth. By losing new projects or midmarket companies, they lose revenue in the fastest growing part of the BI market.
  • There's a fine line between a community edition of an open source project and crippleware, and some vendors are crossing that line. By holding back features in the community edition in order to entice people to pay for the professional version, some vendors are inadvertently turning away customers. Survey respondents complained that some community versions were feature limited or scale limited to the point where they couldn't be used on a real project.
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