Thursday, April 30, 2009

SAP is Proving the Open Source Model

You may be surprised to know that SAP is providing compelling proof that open source software is the better model, particularly in this troubled economy. In case you haven’t followed the recent reporting and intrigue from the world of SAP, I’ll provide a summary.

Like all aged, proprietary software mega-vendors, SAP’s software license growth has slowed during this past year and it is seeking to counter that downturn by raising maintenance fees to extract more revenue from existing customers. You can read a summary of SAP’s latest financial results here. Keep in mind that, historically, customer support and software maintenance fees have been particularly incendiary topics within the SAP user community.

To remedy SAP’s ever-increasing maintenance rates, the SAP User Group Executive Network (SUGEN) has been at the bargaining table with SAP officials, trying to negotiate a compromise. Forrester’s Ray Wang has reported on the outcome of this discussion with a solid summary. Bottom line: SUGEN has compelled SAP to measure and monitor its customer support progress through a series of key performance indicators (maybe they should use Jaspersoft to do so ☺?), indexing future maintenance increases based on the delivery of proven customer value. In any case, the SAP press release states: “Starting in 2010, the price of SAP Enterprise Support for existing customers will continue to increase based on individual contract terms but will not be higher than a yearly fixed upper cap. This translates to an increase average of no more than 3.1 percent per year from 2010 onwards. The price of SAP Enterprise Support will be capped at 22 percent through 2015.”

Well, this seems to be quite a bargain for SAP customers. They now have the negotiated privilege to pay SAP 22% (through 2015) for the mediocre support they’ve been complaining about for years. If this isn’t compelling evidence of the need for open source software subscription models, I don’t know what is. CIOs are learning, through trying circumstances, how to “right” the backward pricing and sales model that enterprise software companies have imposed on them for 30 years. I’ve written about this topic energetically in the past and would point out that open source software when combined with subscription-based pricing enables any organization to wade into a product and solution at its own pace, proving the value before or while it is being used (not many quarters or years afterward as with proprietary software and licensing models).

To all the SAP / Business Objects customers out there whose budgets won’t allow yet another maintenance increase, let’s talk. We can stand behind the “R” in ROI.

Brian Gentile
Chief Executive Officer

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is Open Source BI Making a Difference?

I’ve spent much of this week at the annual MySQL Conference in Santa Clara, CA. Feels like a record crowd in both size and energy. Obviously, many questions swirled about the fate of this beloved database and the pending acquisition of Sun by Oracle.

It remains too early for confident speculation with regards to MySQL, even with the Oracle executive analyst call (announcing and discussing the acquisition of Sun) already complete. It was just last year at this Conference that similar questions were being asked about the acquisition of MySQL by Sun. What a difference a year makes.

So, I set my sights on answering a more practical question: is open source BI making a difference? My investigation and observations have yielded a more bullish “yes” than even I expected.

During the course of this week, I met with partners and customers who use both Jaspersoft and MySQL. They told me similar stories about solving new BI problems with our products . . . or solving old problems but in new ways and for new organizations that wouldn’t have had the financial or technical wherewithal to use a costly, complex, aged, proprietary BI product. Commonly, I was told about demonstrated cost savings that accrue to those organizations that are forging forward with open source BI solutions. The average order of savings is 80-90%. Pretty hard to ignore that kind of price/performance improvement in this day and time.

The Oracle acquisition news dominated our RSS readers this week – for good reason. It’s an important industry movement. But, it’s worth pointing folks to some new open source BI contributions that Jaspersoft announced this week.

* Bi3 is using Jaspersoft and Infobright to power its new on-demand Virtual Business Intelligence Competency Center. This strikes a new and sophisticated tone for cloud-based BI.

* Jaspersoft and Infobright have launched a joint project on JasperForge to encourage collaboration and adoption of both company’s community edition product lines. The goal: end-to-end BI and DW that can enable every organization to compete more effectively.

* Jaspersoft has updated its Jaspersoft Business Intelligence Suite for MySQL. The new Jasper for MySQL v3.5 is specifically certified and packaged for the MySQL database and is available through MySQL’s OEM channel.

My hat’s off to Sun and the MySQL team and its community for hosting a great event this week. And, my thanks to the Jaspersoft team and community for ensuring we continue to make a big difference in open source BI.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sun & Oracle Deal: A Battle for the Developer

I believe that many of the pundits have it wrong this morning. I don’t believe that Oracle has any interest in the hardware and systems business long term. They will be looking to line up buyers so they can spin those pieces out. When you’re addicted to the 90+% gross margins that software delivers, why would you be interested in the hardware and systems market which delivers (on average) half those gross margins? Sun’s complete hardware systems business (servers and storage) may even make a nifty IPO, which could net Oracle a gain on the deal if timed and managed well.

Make no mistake, Oracle’s acquisition of Sun is about one thing: the hearts and minds of the software development community. Oracle will now have control of the Java programming language and some of the most important development tools built on top of it. This places them at a level of influence which they’ve not yet wielded and allows them to compete far more strategically with SAP, IBM and Microsoft (Oracle’s true competitors). To prevent developers from fleeing to those competitors, Oracle will need a different and more transparent, collaborative approach than it has ever mustered in the past. This audience will demand it.

But, Oracle’s first order of business will be the rationalization of their new middleware and infrastructure stacks against what they already own. And, of course, the biggest task will be the key decisions taken with regard to the open source and proprietary products. Open source companies and developers need to watch Oracle’s moves in the coming weeks and months very closely. The old adage that with great power comes great responsibility is very relevant here. This will be Oracle’s top priority because it affects the biggest audience and could have a substantial impact on the open source movement in the near term.

Lastly, I believe any speculation on the fate of the much-loved MySQL database is, at this point, premature. While Oracle has plenty of database assets, none garner more appeal with the modern, web-based world than MySQL. Oracle execs will surely understand the most successful use-cases for MySQL and allow it to continue flourishing in those arenas. Where MySQL encroaches on the functionality of Oracle’s main database products, the outlook is murkier. The watch word is stay tuned.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Open Source BI Can Do Better

Is the real advantage of open source simply lowering the costs of buying and using complex software . . . sort of, commoditization on an enterprise scale? Or, should open source software stand for something much more – such as innovation based on both a truly modern architecture and collaborative development methodology? I say yes.

One of my most often-repeated phrases, inside of Jaspersoft, is “if all we do is replicate the capabilities of the aged, proprietary BI vendors of the past, we will create some value but not enough. Jaspersoft is about innovation and doing things much better, much differently. Our mission is to reach more organizations and individuals with our business intelligence tools than any company that has preceded us.” And, I mean it.

Which is why I am so proud of our Jaspersoft v3.5 release, announced just last week at the Solutions Linux event in Paris. I spoke with Sean Michael Kerner at InternetNews about this new product release and he captured some of the most important points. In summary, Jaspersoft v3.5 introduces three new and substantial elements of functionality that distinguish our product from all other business intelligence platforms:

1. Integrated Analysis - multi-dimensional capabilities delivered within a report or dashboard, without the need for an OLAP cube or data warehouse. If desired, the customer can choose to process query requests against an in-memory data set (within JasperServer). If the customer prefers greater performance, the query processing can be pushed down to the database. This choice is configured with a check box. Pretty cool.
2. SaaS-Enabling BI Platform Architecture - multi-tenancy is built in to v3.5. An OEM customer can now use our BI platform to embed BI functionality within their SaaS application. We already have about 50 commercial SaaS customers using previous versions of our product. We've learned a lot from them and delivered this formal, groundbreaking functionality within v3.5. Our plan to expand SaaS capabilities in future releases will continue to distinguish our platform and set the standard for BI platform functionality.
3. User and Data Scalability - we've completed a wide series of performance benchmarks with v3.5. This new platform can scale from 250 - 1000 concurrent users - all using a single, quad-core-configured JasperServer, depending on the type of tasks they want to accomplish. We know of no other BI platform that can deliver anywhere near this kind of price / performance. Period.

So, you can continue to expect Jaspersoft to deliver BI tools that solve new reporting and analysis problems for many needing organizations. And, you can continue to expect us to do so at the lowest possible cost. This is a win-win for our customers and an invitation to check out a demonstration of Jaspersoft v3.5.

Brian Gentile
Chief Executive Officer