Top Five Open Source Business Intelligence Tools

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Making the right business decisions is difficult if you don’t have solid information to base them on.

With a Business Intelligence (BI) tool, you can extract and interpret from the mass of business data that your organisation collects daily. In return, you are left with information that can actually be incredibly useful to you. If you’ve been checking out the BI market lately, you might have noticed that Open Source Business Intelligence tools are becoming more and more ubiquitous in today’s business landscape. If you’re still scrambling the various terms, however, we have an introduction to Open Source vs Licensed Software here.

As our economies become more reliant on big data, the ability to analyse this data and present it in a precise and readable format becomes more of an imperative. In short, this data will be essential to your future success. And with the benefits of open source technology, you’ll be perfectly equipped to keep up with competition and take your business efforts to the next level. 

To help you get started, we have gathered up a list of the best open source business intelligence tools to help you choose which systems would improve your processes and expand your company reach the most. Let’s get started, shall we?

Top Five Open Source Business Intelligence Tools

BIRT is part of the Eclipse open-source project. First released in 2004, it is a mature open source business intelligence reporting platform with millions of active users. BIRT is sponsored by Actuate, and receives contributions from IBM and Innovent Solutions.

Open source BIRT consists of two main components: BIRT Report Designer and BIRT Runtime. The report designer is designed to be easy to use. It is a fat-client tool that is installed to the developer’s desktop, either within the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment or as a standalone Windows application. It can be used to create report layouts, hook up data sources, and produce XML-based report designs. Its feature set is comprehensive, solid and powerful.

BIRT Runtime, also known as the ‘BIRT Report Engine’, is a set of Java classes and APIs that takes the XML-based report designs, queries the data sources, merges the query data into the report layouts, and then produces output in HTML, PDF, Excel or other formats.

BIRT also provides three extra components: a Chart Engine, Chart Designer and Viewer. These components let a user develop and publish reports as a standalone solution.

JasperSoft offers a wide-ranging BI suite, including reporting, online analytical processing, data visualisation and data integration. It also contains interactive web-based reports, dashboards and analysis. BI Enterprise can accommodate many different methods of implementation, such as on-premise, multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service, and Cloud-based deployment.

The tool comprises various components, including the JasperReport Library, JasperReport Studio, and JasperReport Server. The library contains all of the core Java classes and APIs powering the system. The ETl, OLAP and server components suit enterprise environments, and are easy to integrate with your current IT infrastructure.

SpagoBI is the self-proclaimed only complete, 100 percent open source business intelligence tool. Its modular architecture, based upon open standards, facilitates easy customisation and integration into legacy environments. Tools built into the suite include reporting, charts, cockpits, data-mining and ETL. Engineering Group, the company that founded SpagoBI, offer professional services such as user support, maintenance, consultancy and training. The modules of SpagoBi suite consist of SpagoBI Server, SpagoBI Studio, SpagoBI Meta and SpagoBI SDK. The tool works on two conceptual models: analytical and behavioural.

SpagoBI Studio lets users design and modify analytical documents such as reports, charts, GEO and cockpits. SpagoBI Meta deals with metadata management and inquiries. SpagoBI SDK is the tool used for the integration of the services provided by the server.

Pentaho is another complete open source business intelligence suite. It covers several open source projects, including Pentaho Reporting. Pentaho Reporting has an inclusive set of features, and lets you create HTML, Excel, PDF or printed reports. If you’re a developer, you can also produce CSV and XML reports to feed other systems. The reporting engine allows for supreme flexibility to fit your data, since almost any property can be computed during report generation. Due to Pentaho Reporting’s wide range of data sources, the reports can include pretty much any data source, including SQL databases, OLAP data sources and the Pentaho Data Integration ETL tool.

The suite also contains the Pentaho BI Server, a J2EE application which delivers an infrastructure to run and view reports through a web-based user interface. It integrates with Pentaho Reporting so that reports can be easily shared. With the BI Platform, you can automatically send reports by email to a list of recipients through ‘bursting’. Large reports can also be scheduled to run at night so that your information is completely current in the morning.

RapidMiner is a code-free analytics platform used for data mining, text mining, machine learning, predictive analytics and business analytics. It can be used for business and industrial applications, as well as for research, education, training, rapid prototyping and application development. Because there is no requirement to write code, delivery is quicker and your data analysis routines can be designed visually. It works with virtually any data format, including Excel, Oracle, MySQL, Hadoop and CSV. It can be extended with extra plugins built by open source developers, and available in an extensions marketplace. RapidMiner offer a Starter edition, which is free and allows access to Excel and CSV data, but Personal, Professional and Enterprise editions are also available.

The tool uses a client/server model with the server offered as either a Software-as-a-Service or an on-cloud infrastructure. It provides a GUI to design and execute analytical workflows. These workflows are called ‘processes’ in RapidMiner, which consist of multiple ‘operators’. Each operator performs a single task in the procedure, and the output of each operator performs the input of the next one. The engine can be called out from other programs or used as an API. Individual functions can be called out from the command line. RapidMiner offers learning schemes, models and algorithms from Weka and R scripts that can be used as extensions.

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