The open source community gained another BI option in the form of BIRT 1.0 on Monday, when the Eclipse organization announced general availability of the reporting tool.
Actuate also announced support and maintenance services for BIRT.
BIRT, which stands for Business Intelligence and Reporting Tool, includes the Eclipse Report Designer for authoring reports and features charting functionality, as well as the Eclipse Report Engine for generating those reports within Java applications.
"We are riding the Eclipse wave," said Mike Thoma, vice president of marketing for Actuate, and an Eclipse member.
Thoma described BIRT as the only top-level, 100 percent pure Java reporting tool available.
Eclipse is targeting the Java developers already using the Eclipse IDE and, among those, users in need of BI apps that require some application development process, Thoma said. For instance, a company that wants to enable its employees to visualize data, such as 401K reports, might consider BIRT rather than a proprietary product, he said.
BIRT supports multiple data sources and compound reports. The tool also generates XML or HTML output.
The benefits to using open source for reporting mirror the general advantages of other open source applications and operating systems: lower initial pricing, a promise of lower total cost of ownership, greater control, and customization.
"Instead of being locked into proprietary formats and vendors, you could choose one tool for embedded reports within Java applications, another for end-user reporting, another for high-volume production reporting -- whatever is most appropriate for the job -- but all of them will be compatible and able to share components as desired, such as templates or complex database queries defined by a DBA who doesn't need to know the reporting tool," wrote Carl Zetie, a vice president at Forrester Research in response to e-mail questions.
Likewise, at run time users can choose between different run-time engines, including open source or commercial ones, Zetie added.
Also on Monday, Actuate detailed its commercial version of BIRT, which includes everything the open source version has, but "removes the barriers to adoption," Thoma said.
For US$3,495 per year, subscribers get indemnification, support, and maintenance of BIRT 1.0.
Actuate's goal in providing the service is to "get wider adoption of BIRT and, ultimately, to drive customers toward Actuate," Thoma explained. "I don't even know how much money we're going to make in this space."
The notion of open source tools for reporting and BI in general is catching on as of late.
Last week, Jinfonet teamed up with Harlock, and under terms of the agreement the latter will distribute the open source JReport in Italy and Southern Europe.
Earlier this spring, two open source BI startups launched themselves as companies along with flagship products: JasperSoft, which sells a reporting engine and front-end tools, and Greenplum, which offers data warehousing software.
Despite increasing vendor backing, however, one analyst said he does not see many customers choosing open source over commercial BI products at this point.
"The current crop of open source tools and technology are very early in their lifecycle. [They] appeal to developers but aren't the self-service tools end-users need, and don't compete favorably with the existing products on the market -- yet," said Gartner analyst Bill Hostmann. "It will take an IBM or some other major vendor that doesn't currently have BI tools in their portfolio, to throw their weight behind an open source tool set and contribute the significant resources and support needed to make it competitive with commercial products."
More information about BIRT 1.0 can be found at: http://eclipse.org/birt/intro.