Open Source Business Intelligence: Actuate preview, by Seth Grimes

Actuate next monday is going to launch a new community site named BIRT Exchange, and Seth Grimes got the opportunity to have a preview, below some excerpts of his article.

BIRT is a set of Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools, simultaneously an Actuate commercial product and “an Eclipse-based open source reporting system for web applications, especially those based on Java and J2EE.” Eclipse participation has paid off for Actuate. According to Vijay Ramakrishnan, Actuate director of marketing for Java reporting, “Eclipse is such a diverse ecosystem of projects, and reporting is a pretty horizontal technology. There will be lots of cases where developers come to BIRT through other technologies.”

Note that open-source BI rivals including Pentaho and JasperSoft and non-OS powerhouses such as Business Objects offer Eclipse plug-ins that are similar to Actuate’s and allow comparable interoperability with non-BI Eclipse projects. Their technologies do not, however, share BIRT’s status as a top-level Eclipse project. [..]
By contrast, other commercial open source BI providers welcome community project participation. Pentaho and JasperSoft, for instance, welcome outside developers. JasperSoft CTO Barry Klawans says that his company tends to get “a constant trickle of small contributions and 2-4 major ones a year.” And Pentaho Marketing VP Lance Walter estimates that while 80-85% of contributors work for Pentaho, a spectrum of outside developers submit code with no single company contributing more than 2%.

Personally, I think that a broader base of user-contributors is a healthy thing, a lesson I learned from Eric Raymond.

Cooperation is a nice to have, but so far the application arena didn’t proof to be as interesting as the infrastructural one for open source firms and individual developers, though.

The site blurs the boundaries between what is free, open source and what is closed and not free. You can exchange code, tips, and tutorials in the DevX section, and you can as easily jump to downloads of trial versions of Actuate commercial products. The site is an “almost no cost sales and marketing” opportunity, quoting Actuate briefing materials.[..]

The site is an almost no cost sales and marketing opportunity… for Actuate. It is not an open marketplace like SugarExchange, where third-party providers can sell their SugarCRM-related wares, or Red Hat Exchange, a similar marketplace for applications validated to run on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform. Actuate will insist that non-Actuate BIRT developers — and BIRT trainers and consultants — look elsewhere than the BIRT Exchange to sell their tools and services, regardless of the boost an open marketplace could bring to BIRT users and Actuate itself.

Read the full article.

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