Every day, organizations are generating and storing mind-boggling volumes of information – from documenting internal operations to recording every interaction with their customers and partners. However, for many companies, the process ends here. The data sits inside their servers unorganized, hindering its ability to leverage the data’s value. In order to identify trends, uncover organizational insights, and enable data-driven decision making, it must be filtered and organized for value.
But in a market saturated with options – from commercial products to open source software – which Business Intelligence tools is the right one for you?
While there are many out-of-the-box enterprise solutions with excellent features at competitive costs, open source software is becoming more and more popular among businesses – for good reason. Open source options include many of the same features and benefits as their commercial counterpoints, and also carry the additional benefit of being available without costly licensing fees.
Here, we’ve reviewed a few of our favorite (and best rated) open source business intelligence and analytics tools. Each one comes with its own pros and cons, but all are great options for a variety of businesses across industry:
Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) Project is a top level open source project within the Eclipse Foundation. It provides a platform to create data visualizations and reports that can be embedded into rich client and web applications, especially those based on Java and Java EE. BIRT has two main components: a visual report designer for creating BIRT Designs, and a runtime component for generating those designs that can be deployed to any Java environment. This product is a great option for users who are comfortable with coding.
JasperReports from Jaspersoft (acquired by TIBCO in 2014) is another popular product that has been around for a long time. It is written in Java and can connect to a large number of data sources. It has several components including Jaspersoft Studio, which is a powerful eclipse-based report designer, and JasperReport Server, which is a stand-alone and embeddable reporting server. It provides reporting and analytics that can be embedded into a web or mobile application. In addition to the open source Community edition, Jaspersoft also has an Enterprise edition.
Pentaho was bought by Hitachi and now is a part of Hitachi Vantara. Pentaho is a BI suite that encompasses functions from data integration to analytics and data mining. It can be used as a full suite or as individual components. It offers a lot of helpful BI functionality such as reporting and visualizations, two of the most valuable elements for users. As with some of the other products, there is free, open source Community edition and a paid, Enterprise edition.
ReportServer is another open source BI tool that is available in Community as well as Enterprise editions. It allows for reporting, ad-hoc analysis, Excel and Word reporting, and OLAP analytics.
The interesting thing is that it can integrate other BI tools to provide a single user-interface for convenience. For instance, it can integrate with BIRT and JasperReports. To derive maximum benefit from Report Server, it is best for users to have some coding skills.
Apache Superset is a relatively new addition to the open source BI landscape. It started its life as a data visualization framework at AirBnB and is built using Python. It’s now undergoing incubation at The Apache Software Foundation. Well-known companies like Airbnb, Yahoo!, and Hortonworks (popular for its Hadoop distribution) have thrown their weight behind it and made significant contributions. Superset has an easy to use interface for exploring and visualizing data and works neatly with all modern SQL-speaking databases. Superset has a rich set of visualizations and gives the user the ability to create their own, custom dashboards.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of open source tools – there are many more available, with new options arriving all the time. Many of them are enterprise-ready and provide a rich feature set, but open source software does not come without its challenges. While you won’t have to pay any licensing costs, it may be necessary to rely on open source communities for bug fixes and support. However, with a robust strategy and clear plan of action, open source software can be a valuable addition to your IT footprint that will allow your company to improve its Analytics capabilities, as well as ensure scalability and flexibility as you grow.