Interview: Jaspersoft CEO Brian Gentile on the Role of Open Source in Business Intelligence

by Ostatic Staff - May. 24, 2010

With the recent trend toward its adoption in a wide variety of companies, business intelligence (BI) software is no longer the enigma it once was. Jaspersoft is one of the BI vendors we regularly cover here at OStatic, on part because of its strong open source business model. We recently caught up with Jaspersoft's President and CEO, Brian Gentile, to get a reading on what's going on in the BI niche and where open source software fits into the mix.

OStatic: Today, we’re talking about the potential growth of BI users. Is business intelligence saturated in the enterprise?

Brian Gentile: The real truth about business intelligence (BI) is that in the typical enterprise it is either shelf-ware or far from broadly deployed due to cost and complexity concerns. Experts say that at best about 20% of the available knowledge workers use business intelligence tools to make better decisions.

OStatic: How do industry analysts describe this market opportunity?

BG: Two major analyst firms (IDC and Gartner Dataquest) first reported on this non-use fact a few years ago. Their surveys specifically show that up to 85% of the enterprise is not served by traditional BI tools because the tools have been too costly and too complex to implement broadly. Most recently, Gartner updated this research in its Worldwide BI Market Trends (2009) report, where it published results from a survey administered at its annual BI Summit. This survey cites 28% BI usage within the enterprise. Because this BI Summit audience is so pre-disposed to BI usage, the data surely represents the upper-end of usage. Further, with a total BI market size of $8.8 billion last year (also according to Gartner), that’s a big market for expansion and an even bigger opportunity.

OStatic: What’s your unique go-to-market strategy to serve this nascent BI audience?

BG: To reach the 80%-85% of those users who, so far, have been un-served by traditional business intelligence software, we’re going to reach them by focusing on our core strengths and leveraging the open source model.

Our use of the open source model has been and still is a powerful mechanism to invite investigation, trial and then production use of our tools -- especially in areas where BI has been too costly and too complex. Because Jaspersoft is borne of open source projects and continues to tend to them avidly, the use of our community release products has flourished. Further, our architecture, based purely on web standards, ensures the model remains simple and our BI tools scream usability.

OStatic: How does your approach to technology differ from your competitors?

BG: Well, our drive to use certain techniques, such as in-memory-based integrated analysis and full SaaS-enablement of our BI platform, allows the broadest class of users to not only interact with reports and dashboards, but with true multi-dimensional data -- without the cost and complexity of OLAP cubes. And, these users will probably do so as an integrated part of one of their production applications because we've constructed our toolset to be highly embeddable (into other software applications). By making our software so easy to embed, we enable many applications to use Jaspersoft as the "BI inside".

OStatic: You said the general market for BI is growing. Is the same true for the “embeddable” BI market?

BG: For the past several years, Gartner (again, Dataquest) has described the embedded BI market as faster growing than the market for stand-alone business intelligence. This embeddable BI market is often overlooked, but is very important because delivering reports and analysis inside of an application domain is the most powerful way to expand BI to a bigger audience while enabling the application to be more competitive. A small sample of Jaspersoft’s OEM customers include Hyperic IQ (now VMWare), Red Hat Network Satellite, Monolith Software, Virgin Money Giving, HandySoft, Tomax, and Fat Spaniel Technologies. In each case, we are the BI inside of these applications. Through this sample partner list alone, Jaspersoft tools reach tens of thousands of end users each day.

OStatic: So, does open source have to play a critical role?

BG: We believe that our strategy will allow a big percentage of the un-served 80% of the enterprise to truly use a full-fledged BI tool, and open source is the key to this strategy, but it’s also critical to give users a modern software architecture that is built to be embedded, simple to install and simple to use.

More than anything, we build Jaspersoft as an enablement product. Jaspersoft has created an ideal BI platform for others (IT personnel, software developers, etc.) to take and make into simple, powerful BI solutions. This means we must deliver fantastic tools for these primary customers and maintain a keen understanding of what appeals to the ultimate end-user (power users and business end users) whom these tools will inevitably serve.