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Mark Madsen

Open source is becoming a required option for consideration in many enterprise software evaluations, and business intelligence (BI) isn't exempt. This blog is the interactive part of my Open Source expert channel for the Business Intelligence Network where you can suggest and discuss news and events. The focus is on open source as it relates to analytics, business intelligence, data integration and data warehousing. If you would like to suggest an article or link, send an e-mail to me at open_source_links@ThirdNature.net.

About the author >

Mark, President of Third Nature, is a former CTO and CIO with experience working in both IT and vendors, including a stint at a company used as a Harvard Business School case study. Over the past decade, Mark has received awards for his work in data warehousing, business intelligence and data integration from the American Productivity & Quality Center, the Smithsonian Institute and TDWI. He is co-author of Clickstream Data Warehousing and lectures and writes about data integration, business intelligence and emerging technology.

I hear fairly often that consulting firms and systems integrators are more likely to use open source tools that IT because it allows them to be more competitive. They gain an edge by saving customers money on software licenses, or by having more customizable tools for projects, thus pricing themselves under competitors or providing a better fit with client needs. The other hope is that by freeing project budget from the software licenses, this could translate into more money spent on work with the consultants.

SI_use_OSS.gifWhile these points are all valid, the survey data on adoption seems to disprove the belief. An interesting pattern in the data is that consultants are generally less likely than IT professionals to use open source tools in this space (10% for consultants versus 36% for IT). The usage by respondent role is shown in the chart.

It is notable that 49% of the consultants and systems integrators are evaluating open source software today, signaling a possible shift. What this also says is that, far from leading the technology market, SIs and consultants seem to trail it, following the money rather than leading their customers in the market.

Even with the sudden rise in evaluation, consultants and SIs significantly trail IT departments. If you are in an IT organization that relies heavily on consultants for project work then using open source tools will require that you find qualified consultants ahead of time. Given these statistics, they are likely to be rarer than you expect.


We'd love to have your input on open source BI/DW software you're using and the challenges you faced. If you have 10 minutes, take our online survey. It will be open through September 22.

Posted September 16, 2009 4:30 AM
Permalink | 4 Comments |


Another way to interpret the data: You need more consultants for a BEA+Oracle+HPUX stack and less for JBoss+MySQL+Linux?

This data actually leaves me wondering about some things...
1 - what's been the trend in consultants' evaluating open source? (maybe they've been evaluating extensively for a while, and they're just waiting for the right stuff to come along?)
2 - do you think that it's a matter of the IT folks being the earlier adopters - or is it that the consultants - by dint of their position - have to be sure that they're working with the best solutions/can't afford to experiment on their clents' dime?

It may be true that you need more resources, which doesn't imply easier OSS maintenance. It probably says more about the feature set that's available and (based on maturity complains) the scope of OSS BI / ETL deployments.

My personal experience is that the *nix stack has been easier to tune and deal with than the Microsoft stack because it's easier to isolate problems, and the *nix variants with most databases are easier to deal with than DB2 (UDB) on AIX or on the mainframe.

1: the trend has been a slow increase in evaluation, with smaller / boutique firms doing it and medium to larger firms exploring (I'm talking BI/DW technology only). Some of the big firms are further along than others in this, and there are exceptions like Engineering Ingegneria Informatica who have been promoting SpagoBI for several years.

The data I looked at showed a pickup this year in evaluation, so I suspect it's starting to build, particularly given the complaints people have about lack of consultants who know the software.

2: One could argue that the big consulting firms all experiment and learn on their clients' dimes :-)

I think they're really waiting for the IT market to adopt enough to make it worthwhile. Sort of like the Magratheans taking a vacation for a few millennia.

I also suspect there are more early adopters in IT than in consulting because early adopters are less likely to need consultants much of the time.

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