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Open source meets business intelligence

Looking to crack into the business intelligence field, open-source challengers JasperSoft and Pentaho expand their product suites.

On the heels of open-source databases come business-intelligence tools, with smaller companies betting on open-source practices to crack into that corner of the software market.

JasperSoft on Monday is set to detail its plans to expand its portfolio with a suite of freely available server-based components for business intelligence. Last week, rival Pentaho released its own commercial-grade open-source business intelligence tool set.

Several software companies are adopting open-source software and business models in an effort to unseat entrenched suppliers. Open-source databases, for example, are widely used, according to analysts.

The Jasper Intelligence product line will include a server for generating reports. In about a month, the company is expected to release a component for doing analysis and then a so-called ETL product later this year for moving data between different sources.

The Java-based server products will complement the company's existing open-source product, JasperReports for generating reports.

Business intelligence software--a collection of products tools for analyzing business data such as sales records--is one area corporate customers continue to spend on, according to analysts' surveys. The segment is dominated by larger, full-service companies, such as IBM and Oracle, and specialized vendors, such as SAS, Cognos, Business Objects and Hyperion.

JasperSoft's strategy is to undercut entrenched vendors on price with a simpler product, said Paul Doscher, CEO of JasperSoft. It is designing its product to appeal to developers, who can take the software and embed data analysis into applications they write, rather than try to sell directly to end users.

"The reason people don't use business intelligence now is because it's too complex and it involves interaction with a professional IT organization," Doscher said. "Open source allows developers to integrate (business intelligence) into an application."

The San Francisco-based company, which estimates about 10,000 deployments of its software, intends to make money by charging for high-end versions of its open-source tools and by offering support services.

Pentaho is another relatively young company taking the open-source route to business intelligence. Last week, the Orlando, Fla.-based company released its own expanded suite of business intelligence tools.

The company's latest products, Pentaho BI Suite Professional Edition and Pentaho Reporting Server Professional Edition, are extensions to the Pentaho BI open-source project software.

The company intends to charge a license fee for the high-end editions of its business-intelligence suite. It said that the open-source products contain about 90 percent of the functionality of the closed-source versions.

Meanwhile, a number of vendors are participating in an Eclipse open-source project Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT), which was founded by Actuate.