Open-source business intelligence tools pick up pace

More than two decades after the launch of the GNU's Not Unix software project--and almost a decade after "open source" was first used to describe GNU and similar software licenses--open-source software is an established model that's every bit as legitimate as its closed-source counterparts.

Open-source uptake has occurred more rapidly in some markets than in others, however. Consider the BI space, for example: to date, there isn't an open-source BI analog to Apache (or Tomcat or JBoss), OpenOffice, Python or other prominent open-source software projects. What's more, BI vendors say there's been little demand for versions of their software designed to run on Linux or other open-source operating systems.

That could change this year, says Mark Madsen, a consultant, who notes there are quite a few open-source BI projects of note.

Take Mondrian, a Java OLAP engine that supports OLAP standards such as multidimensional expressions (MDX), XML for Analysis (XML/A), and Java OLAP Interface (JOLAP). Of course, the OLAP space isn't exactly bereft of competitors. There's Microsoft and Hyperion Solutions, for starters, along with Oracle, Applix and a host of other OLAP players. And both Microsoft and Oracle bundle OLAP capabilities with their flagship--and all-but-ubiquitous--relational databases. Why would organizations embrace open-source OLAP when they could just as easily tap low-cost solutions from Microsoft or Oracle?

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About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].