- Do you understand the categories of BI and BI-related open source tools? Are you looking for a product that supports only partial BI functionality or are you seeking an entire BI suite with broad capabilities? Focused tools include Apatar, CloverETL and Enhydra Octopus, Jetstream, Jitterbit, Pentaho's Kettle, SnapLogic, Talend, for data integration, and Talend and Open Source Data Quality and Profiling project for data quality jobs. Reporting tools include BIRT, iReport, JasperReports, JFreeChart, OpenI, and OpenReports, while OLAP tools include Mondrian, JPivot, and Palo. Advanced analytics tools include R and data mining tools like Orange and Weka. For geospatial analytics and location intelligence, SpagoBI is sponsoring a GeoBI project with partners like Spatialytics and OpenGeo. If you seek a full BI suite, then the options are BEE, Jaspersoft, Pentaho, and SpagoBI. Some critical components of enterprise-grade BI capabilities like integrated metadata management are not even fully addressed by the open source community at this point.
- Are you clear on the differences between community and commercial versions of the tools? Don't be misguided: Open source does not always equal free software. In some cases it is, but you will get what you pay for: just certain components rather than entire suites, or products and suites that lack the functionality required for large enterprise operations like GUI-based administration, robust integrated security, scalability tools (load balancing, etc.), connectivity to popular data sources, and many others. In most cases, you'll have to get a commercial version of the product to get such capabilities.
- Are you looking for a community, commercial version, or a mix? Once you map your BI requirements to a specific BI suite, you'll need to understand what portion of the fully functional suite comes from a community version versus a commercial version. Vendors evaluated in this Forrester Wave™ differ drastically in the amount of functionality they include in the two versions. Eclipse BIRT offers mostly components; to get enterprise features, one must go with the commercial version, Actuate BIRT. Jaspersoft offers a few more community-based components, but still, getting the Jaspersoft Enterprise commercial version is a must for most enterprises. Pentaho takes it up yet another notch with the availability of even more components in its community version, and all of SpagoBI components are on hand in the community edition.
Yet while comparing some of these OSS BI platforms does indeed seem like an apples to oranges (or as one of my independent analyst colleagues said "fruits to vegetables") comparison - somebody had to do it. After all lots of our clients were and are asking for such a comparison. So Jeffrey Hammond and I rolled up our sleeves, put on the bullet proof vests, and by rolling up the scores to high-level aggregates, providing customizable weights to each evaluation criteria, and drawing a clear distinction between community and commercial editions, we have achieved as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as possible. Using this approach for Forrester's 157-criteria evaluation of open source BI vendors, we found that Actuate BIRT led the pack because of richness of reporting functionality. Jaspersoft Enterprise, SpagoBI, Pentaho Enterprise, and Pentaho Community are close behind and also offer much fuller and broader BI stack than Actuate BIRT, including extract, transform, and load (ETL) and advanced analytics functionality. The community versions of BIRT and Jaspersoft mostly offer individual BI components that can be used for embedding BI functionality into applications, but these frameworks are yet not enterprise-grade fully functional BI platforms or suites.
Lots more details, including the line by line items scores can be found in the detailed research report.
Boris also blogs at http://blogs.forrester.com/boris_evelson/.