As many of you may have noticed, Open Source reporting tools have been making major waves in the Business Intelligence community as of late. Here at Jinfonet Software, being a closed source, commercial solution, this comes across my mind on a regular basis. I thought I would sit down with a group of great development minds here, put our heads together to see how the two different options stack up in terms of being a total solution, cost effective, secure, timely, and offering proper support. This will be part one of a 5 part series comparing open source reporting tools and closed source solutions.
I started with the notion of initial concept. When conceptualizing a software solution you are going to start with an idea; organize your thoughts, then technically plan out the process of development.
From day one, a closed source software application is being developed to be a complete entity, an all in one encompassing solution to take care of its users needs. If you take a look at all of the major software companies, including Oracle, Microsoft, etc, they have been very successful with this business model. One of the major reasons being, their plan of action is to provide you with a solution to your needs. Not just a partial solution; or an application that’s potentially on the path to becoming that solution, but a complete solution. When comparing an open source application to a closed source application from the perspective of partnership, a closed source app wants to build that long lasting relationship from day one, by offering you a product that meets your needs and can grow along side you, with its continual updates and releases. In my opinion, an open source application is just waiting for you to get stuck. Now, what I mean by that is, most open source applications start as FOSS (Free Open Source Software) and then become commercialized by companies to earn profit. A great example would be Red Hat, and in the reporting market Jasper and Pentaho. I digress, how do FOSS based companies make their money? By selling support, services, books, documentation, phone support etc. It’s like the razor / razor blade approach in the software is free, but the services to actually be able to use the product are expensive. For a closed source solution, it is in the interest of that provider make sure we have happy customers and continue to maintenance renew maintenance revenue, year after year. A customer getting stuck and having problems would back up our support team, costing us money. Therefore, for a closed source product, it is beneficial for everyone if the customer is able to successfully use the product with minimal support calls etc. Then how does a FOSS based company earn enough money to stay in business…by leveraging a product that will almost allow you a complete solution, but not quite. If they cannot sell you services, support, books and what not they cannot stay in business. Generally, those FOSS companies are running off venture capital. If, the open source user can completely and easily run the application, they will not sell any support, therefore go out of business. I have also heard the comment that many free open source software products provide just enough functionality to make you want (need) to upgrade. This is of course exactly the intent! Does that make an open source application a bad product? Not at all! Open source reporting tools tend to be great for smaller companies, or just someone building a smaller application with out the clustering, security and timing needs of a larger application.
I would really love to hear from some people/companies using open source BI or an open source reporting tools to get their views and insight on these topics.