The open source movement continues to ripple into the business intelligence field. Now you can get hold of a data modelling tool that is open source rather than having to buy Erwin, thanks to a Canadian consulting firm called SQL Power Group. I am not familiar with this company but as a consulting firm this seems to be a sensible move, since after all they would not be maintaining the tool as a proper software product anyway, but adapting it to each client’s need on site. By making it open source they gain publicity, and may encourage others to improve the tool in which they have skills. So now you can have a data modelling tool, a database (mySQL), and assorted ETL and BI tools (Pentaho Greenplum, Jaspersoft etc). The penetration of open source is a matter of some debate. While Aberdeen Group reckon 18% of firms are now using open source BI tools, it is less clear what the level of penetration actually is within companies. It is one thing to have a small departmental pilot running, another to commit wholeheartedly to open source tools on an enterprise-wide scale. Clearly it would be a brave company who went aggressively down this path, as you are essentially taking on a major customisation and support project. Certainly you will save some licence fees, and that is not to be sneezed at, but it is less clear what trade-off there is in terms of customisation costs against these savings. I suspect that in the short term, at least, the main effect will be for enterprises to use these tools as a stick to beat traditional reporting vendors when it comes to price negotiations. This will certainly have some negative consequences of profitability for the likes of Business Objects and Cognos if the movement really takes hold and becomes a credible threat. At present I have not really seen this happening in my own experience.
I would invite anyone who has direct experience of an open source BI project to comment here on your experiences, good or bad. I could be wrong but my guess is that I am not expecting a blizzard of replies, despite the emerging interest. Interest is not the same as deployment.