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Actuate's Next Open Source BIRT Chapter: iHub

Actuate signed on with the Eclipse Foundation as a Strategic Developer back in 2004, just a few months after the organization was founded. The South San Francisco-based company proposed the industry's first open-source Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools project (BIRT), and a decade later, BIRT is one of the best known open-source initiatives for data-driven development.

Now, the company says it's entering a "new chapter" with the launch of a freemium version of its iHub data visualization platform.

The BIRT iHub platform integrates and manages BIRT Analytics apps and BIRT-based information. It converts that information into graphs, charts, tables and diagrams, and more. The new BIRT iHub F-Type is designed to manage and distribute content created with both the open-source BIRT and the company's commercial BIRT Designer Pro IDE. It gives developers free access to the features of the commercial BIRT iHub platform with "metered output capacity." In other words -- or rather, in the words of Actuate CEO Pete Cittadini, "Actuate is now a subscription business."

"We've seen IT shifting to the so-called subscription economy for several years now," Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, told ADTmag. "It's becoming an increasingly common way to sell software. But this is still a big move for the company."

In Actuate's version of this model, the volume of daily data output is limited to a level "suitable for many developers' needs" (50MB), but there's no limit on data input. When the daily output exceeds 50MB, they can buy additional capacity from within iHub F-type. And the company is allowing devs to exceed that daily limit twice in a month before hitting them with a charge.

"We're targeting Eclipse BIRT developers, of course, but non-BIRT Java developers, too" said Nobby Akiha, Actuate's senior vice president of marketing. "And a big focus has been on the user experience. You'll be up and running in 15 minutes. "

Among the platform's capabilities of which the company seems most proud is its ability to provide native Excel format, complete with formulas and pivot tables, eliminating the need for the common practice of creating a parallel Excel-centric infrastructure. A close second would be its ability to allow developers to integrate or embed content into their Web or mobile apps quickly using a JavaScript API.

Actuate's move to a subscription model is probably a smart one for the company, says Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady, and good news for developers. "They're giving developers a chance to leverage these capabilities in a way that makes it easy for them to do it," he said. "Availability and ease of access are overlooked surprisingly often by commercial software organizations. You can have the best solution in the world, but if it's hard for me to get, and there's something that's even half as good, frankly, that I can get easily, I'm going to do that. We see this over and over again."

Posted by John K. Waters on 07/24/2014 at 4:33 PM


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