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The Greening of BI
From Carbon Credits to Overweight Dogs

by Brian Gentile, Chief Executive Officer, www.jaspersoft.comWednesday, April 20, 2011

One of the best parts about being CEO of an open source BI company is getting to meet with so many customers and community members. I learn so much from these people—and, frequently, I get to see how significantly technology companies can impact some of the tough issues our world faces.

Case in point: a company called Fat Spaniel Technologies (you have to love the name, right? The founder was inspired by his overweight canine companion—good thing he doesn’t have a Chihuahua). The company, founded in 2003, happens to be the leading independent provider of SaaS-based monitoring and reporting tools for the renewable energy industry.

Serving more than 4,000 solar and wind power producers, financiers, systems integrators and OEMs across 28 countries, Fat Spaniel helps the renewable energy industry to better optimize output, trim costs, contain risk and boost ROI on renewable-energy investments. Fat Spaniel’s Insight Platform is used by system installers to schedule service and maximize performance, while owners use the solution  to track energy generation and usage. The solution also helps these green companies to maximize emerging carbon and renewable energy credits.

Achieving all that requires considerable monitoring and decision support, and that’s where BI comes in: Fat Spaniel sees reporting, dashboarding, and analysis capabilities as core to its solution.

To that end, the company performed a “make-versus-buy” analysis. “We calculated the numbers and realized it didn’t pay off for us to build our own”, said Brett Francis, the company’s vice president of engineering and software architecture. A self-proclaimed open source advocate, long committed to both Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat JBoss middleware, the company pursued what Francis describes as “an exhaustive survey of open source BI solutions.”

Now, Fat Spaniel’s Insight Platform uses fully embedded open source  BI technology to deliver custom source-data collection, a reporting function for product interaction, and multi-lingual, standardized and custom-distributed energy reports. Hundreds of renewable energy organizations currently use the solution to monitor and analyze thousands of plant sites—along with more than 200 megawatts of renewable energy and millions of packets of invaluable energy intelligence—every day.

Here’s a screen shot of the Fat Spaniel Insight Platform:

business intelligence dashboard

Meanwhile, open source BI is hard at work in another enterprise aimed at keeping the planet green—in this case, helping to make carbon-based energy generation more efficient. UK-based EnergySys Limited provides software solutions designed to help global enterprises optimally allocate and accurately track the production and transport of oil and gas among multiple sourcing and delivery points. The efficiencies its solutions enable can help buy all of us more time while alternative energy sources mature, and free up capital so that traditional energy companies can make more alternative-energy investments.
Acknowledging the need of oil and gas operators for information—and not necessarily for an array of technology that would require significant ongoing care—EnergySys sought to innovate in both technology architecture and business models. The company is a vigorous proponent of Software as a Service (SaaS), and also provides software- and appliance-based solutions.
ENERGYSYS 4.0—which comes bundled with an integrated BI portal—is the first on-demand allocation and production reporting solution available to the industry, and enables energy operators to meet their needs quickly and cost-effectively, adjust easily to change, and safeguard critical data.

Customers can create their own custom reports, then schedule and use those reports according to their unique needs;  web-based, ad hoc reporting is also enabled. “This is an extremely powerful tool,” says EnergySys Managing Director Peter Black. “It allows us to deliver a great deal of power to our customers in an entirely web-based environment.”

And, I suppose we could say, those EnergySys customers know all about power—just as with Fat Spaniel’s clients.

It’s worth noting that both of these energy companies aptly illustrate the trends affecting the BI industry as a whole: the drive to cut costs, movement toward the Cloud, and increasing demand for BI solutions that deliver the ease of use found in today’s consumer-focused web applications.

The fact that these companies are doing “good” things makes it even more rewarding—and important—to deliver BI technology that’s responsive to these trends. I guess we could say that BI is helping, in no small way, to “fuel” the move toward green energy. It’s a very, very exciting space in which to play.

About the Author

Brian Gentile
Chief Executive Officer

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