Friday, October 10, 2008

Microsoft, Business Intelligence & the Open Source Software Advantage

This week, Microsoft hosted its annual Business Intelligence conference and the early announcements from this event have been (as expected) fascinating. Most interestingly, Microsoft has introduced new code-named projects designed to support BI on a “massive scale at low TCO” and deliver “managed self-service BI” and “People-ready BI”. I will say, if this were buzzword bingo, Microsoft would have a covered card. So, what does all this mean? At least one analyst has already weighed in and correctly pointed out that Microsoft’s announced projects won’t deliver products with real features for some time (Microsoft itself estimates 2010). And even then, on Microsoft’s behalf, I fear that basing its pervasive BI strategy on the client software underpinnings of Microsoft Office is dubious. We know that the average desktop user consumes about 10% of the feature set of the major Microsoft office products (Word and Excel, particularly). If you’re like me, many of the more sophisticated Office features are surely out-of-reach, unless you commit to attending a course or spend a lot of time reading the documentation. So, adding more business intelligence capabilities to an already-overburdened Excel and expecting this to become used pervasively seems specious, at best. Does the world need more complex desktop office suites? Or, does pervasive BI really require a very different approach? It won’t surprise you to know that I believe the future of business intelligence is about lightweight client software, web 2.0-savvy interfaces throughout, adaptable and modular architectures, and the ability to deliver consistent functionality to any intelligent device (not just those that can run Microsoft Office properly). I’ve written here about these principles before (under the headline of "Web 2.0 and Pervasive BI). And, as sure as I’m writing this, I recognize that the next five years will yield a number of barely predictable advancements, all web-based, to which an agile BI toolset must adapt. How does a proprietary architecture built upon aged, complex designs flex to quickly support such new capabilities? It doesn’t. Market-driven adaptability, based on a modern and flexible architecture, is one of the real (and less talked about) advantages of open source software. It is surely the way we’ve been building Jaspersoft’s BI tools into the disruptive force that is destined to make BI pervasive. Open source software, fundamentally, is about the community’s involvement in the development of software – which helps ensure new capabilities are added quickly and in a way that is consistent with the needs of the market. If a feature or capability is important, the odds that one or more of Jaspersoft’s nearly 90,000 registered community members will want to help is extremely high. How could 90,000 community members advance our products meaningfully without an open, modular, modern architecture that not only allows but promotes such advancement? Imagine a developer outside of Microsoft trying to add a feature to the proprietary code base of Microsoft Office. Now that would require business intelligence.

Brian Gentile

Chief Executive Officer


1 comment:

  1. Good information. There were some details and statistics that I had never thought of before or didn't know all together.