Open source's emerging opportunity in BI

Accenture's survey of top IT trends shows that open source can be an enabler for all, but especially for analytics

When open source doesn't appear on a "strategic IT directions" report from a major consulting firm, should open source advocates be worried?

Accenture's 2011 Technology Vision report (PDF) lists eight trends for which IT decision makers should prepare, as they will change how IT operates and strategizes. These findings are based on research into venture capital funding, IT analyst reports, Accenture's IT Executive Forum, and current R&D activities.

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Those trends are:

  1. Data takes its rightful place as a platform.
  2. Analytics is driving a discontinuous evolution from BI.
  3. Cloud computing will create more value higher up the stack.
  4. Architecture will shift from server-centric to service-centric.
  5. IT security will respond rapidly, progressively -- and in proportion.
  6. Data privacy will adopt a risk-based approach.
  7. Social platforms will emerge as a new source of business intelligence.
  8. User experience is what matters.

Not surprisingly, open source is no longer a trend in and of itself. Rather, as the report authors confirm, open source is viewed as a potential enabler for any of these trends. However, one trend stands out as being more tightly linked to open source product usage: analytics.

Despite a steady drumbeat calling for the integration of data across an organization, there will be no such thing as an integrated analytics platform, technology, or deployment model. The emergence of technologies such as cloud computing is changing how data is generated, collected, and stored across an organization. In practice, this will require a distributed approach to analytics.

Accenture suggests that the notion of a single analytics platform that analyzes a single integrated data set across a company is a fairy tale, one that your company shouldn't invest precious IT budgets chasing. Rather, Accenture advises that you plan to use and support multiple, different analytics products in your enterprise.

Although Accenture's label for this trend positions business intelligence (BI) against analytics, the line between the two can be blurry, if at all visible. I won't wade into that debate, which Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson has nicely summarized. Wherever you stand on the issue of nomenclature, the reality is that open source BI vendors such as Pentaho and Jaspersoft are also reacting to the wavering line between BI and analytics. Both vendors offer a path for users to extend their traditional open source BI products with analytics based on the "R" statistical programming language and supported by SAS, IBM's SPSS unit, and open source vendor Revolution Analytics.

This broad choice of solutions lets IT be more expansive when selecting products around BI and analytics. When seeking to bring in more analytics capabilities to your organization, be sure to look at both open source and commercial options. Just as companies use both MySQL and a commercial database such as Oracle, IBM DB2, or Microsoft SQL Server for different purposes, and just as many use both Linux and Windows servers, open source and commercial analytics products will fill different needs in your company. Prepare for that reality today.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

This article, "Open source's emerging opportunity in BI," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Savio Rodrigues' Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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