When I asked my weekly #BIWisdom tweetchat tribe of users, vendors and consultants about their observations and experience with open source in business intelligence their comments that Friday whirled about like dancers. Their tweeted comments from all around the world focused on whether open source is — or will be — a difference-maker in BI solutions.
In our studies in our annual Wisdom of Crowds® Business Intelligence Market Studies, we saw increased interest in open source in 2014 than in prior years. It’s not yet ranked as a high priority among the 22 technology areas that we track in our surveys, but its importance rose in 2014 after years of stagnation. Moreover, respondents’ interest is distributed across industry verticals and geographies.
A #BIWisdom tribe member tweeted an observance that there is also a definite uptick in open source extensions to existing BI solutions.
Of several possible interpretations of the reason for the uptick in interest in BI open source, the #BIWisdom tribe that Friday were in agreement about three primary drivers (aside from lower cost).
- The older folks that have prevented open source in enterprises are aging out, and open source is all the rage with Millennials and next-gen solutions.
- Organizations are getting accustomed to open source via Hadoop.
- An entire commercial software ecosystem has been constructed around the R programming language.
The Hadoop and R aspects led to several observations including these tweeted opinions:
- “If organizations are getting accustomed to open source via Hadoop, it means that they are also getting used to the community model. And that model spells long-term cost savings for the enterprise.”
- “The open source community model may be better suited to more technical organizations.”
- “Are there clear criteria for who should adopt the community versus commercial versions of open source BI?”
- “The success of R grew partly out of mainstream BI vendors embracing it as a key part of predictive analytics strategy. Mostly they had no real story on predictive analytics until then.”
- “R’s meteoric rise is very connected to the fact that grads know it when they come out of school.”
I jumped onto the dance floor with the lively tweeters about open source and grabbed everybody’s brainstorming attention with this question: “What impact would it have if dominant Hadoop providers started to include it in BI solutions?” Some of the tribe’s responses:
- “Whoa. That blows my mind. Hadoop included in even mediocre BI would rock the market!”
- “Yikes! It would either ruin the fabric of the ecosystem and/or create more stack vendors.”
- “Is that like tearing a hole in the space-time continuum of the existing BI vendors?”
The tweetchat then went down the path of innovation. A participant tweeted that adopting open source would solve a major issue for big corporations with multiple BI tools to blend at the UI level. “But who would build it?” someone asked. That comment prompted a brainstormed tweet: “What if there were a generic viewer for BI like Adobe Acrobat is to Adobe Pro?” Another discussion participant commented that the idea wouldn’t work because it’s too dependent on two-way interaction between the user and the information, whereas a reader is a one-way structure.
The tweetchat ended with this observation that several participants agreed with: “Open source is a great breeding ground for innovation and the big BI vendors should take note of the interest in innovating in open source because some of them are scrambling to stay relevant in the new normal of open source licenses.”
I suspect that most organizations that embrace open source do so because of its lower cost rather than philosophy or operating principles. Even so, its use clearly has an impact on BI solutions today and for the future. Today: Data from our annual Wisdom of Crowds® market studies reveals that embracing open source software achieves greater user penetration of BI throughout an organization. The future: It enables innovation. And by the way, I agree that inclusion of BI in existing Hadoop distributions could potentially be disruptive to the market.
I believe organizations need to become educated about open source solutions. While they definitely deliver benefits, they are fundamentally different from enterprise software and require a different mindset and skills.
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Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.