There's no question about it: Business intelligence is the holy grail of most CIOs and IT managers alike. After all, the idea behind BI is great: Pull data from all the nooks and crannies on your enterprise network into one system where it can be cleansed, correlated, and presented to executives for analysis via easy-to-use dashboards.
But, as this publication has reported on more than one occasion, the reality of BI for most enterprises is far murkier, with massive investments in technology for data warehousing, data integration, and analytics, but payoffs that are sparse or hard to calculate. What's needed, experts agree, are better tools for integrating data from legacy systems and disparate data stores.
Traditionally, though, that kind of technology has been the purview of the companies that own the data to begin with: Oracle, IBM, and so on. Making use of it required six-figure licensing agreements and seven-figure consulting services contracts, limiting the advantages of data integration and BI solutions to just the wealthiest companies.
Talend, a two-year-old startup based in Paris, hopes to change all that by tapping into one of the hottest tech trends of the past 10 years: open source.
Talend's OpenStudio is an open source ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) data integration tool. Three years in the making, OpenStudio was released in beta in the last quarter of 2006. Since then, the free software has been downloaded more than 60,000 times and Talend has signed up more than 1,000 developers to beta test its product, says Yves de Montcheuil, Talend's vice president of marketing.
OpenStudio was a labor of love for Talend CEO Bertrand Diard and co-founder Fabrice Bonan, who worked on the software in their spare time, while holding down senior positions at a large European systems integrator. Both witnessed firsthand the limitations of the systems integration market, de Montcheuil says.
"You had a big spaghetti dish of different systems with lots of data and constraints, such as regulations," de Montcheuil says. At the same time, users and executives were demanding more and faster access to data, but the leading vendors in the space -- companies such as IBM, Oracle, and Informatica -- offered only custom solutions at extremely high prices, with considerable overhead costs for IT.
The advantage of OpenStudio is that it relies on industry standards -- Java, Eclipse Framework, SQL, and Perl -- rather than proprietary engines and code, de Montcheuil says.
"You don't need to learn a new language to support data integration," de Montcheuil says.
Relying on standards also means companies can deploy the code they create on commodity hardware rather than expensive, proprietary hardware platforms, and deploy them throughout the enterprise at no additional cost. That's in stark contrast to technology from established BI vendors, which commonly require separate licenses for each instance of their technology.
Talend is catching a tailwind from a larger shift toward open source technology and standards for software interoperability in the enterprise software space. The company is a founding member of the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA), an industry group that promotes the use of standards-based open source products in the enterprise, and recently announced an OEM agreement with open source BI vendor JasperSoft that combines Talend's ETL technology with JasperSoft's BI suite.
Like other open source companies, Talend makes its money through premium support, consulting, and training. So far, that business model shows promise. And CEO Diard predicts that the company's fortunes will grow as the benefits of data integration begin to filter down Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 firms to rank-and-file enterprises.
"We are already seeing integration work at companies that could not dream of data integration a few years ago," de Montcheuil sys.