In association with heise online

28 January 2008, 15:49

JasperSoft: Business intelligence for everyone

Alexandra Kleijn

Business intelligence suites have traditionally been large, proprietary and uneconomical for all but the largest companies. JasperSoft aims to change that with its own open source BI suite, written in Java and designed to be easy to integrate.

At the second Open Source Meets Business conference, held in Nürnberg in the end of January 2007, we spoke with Paul Doscher, then head of the California company JasperSoft and currently on the board of directors and with Teodor Danciu, creator of the JasperReports Java library and member of the JasperSoft management board.

heise open source: How and when exactly was your company founded? The cornerstone had already been laid by 2001, rather early for an open source business intelligence software company to dare to put itself on the market. When I think of JasperSoft, I immediately think of JasperReports. I take it that it was this reporting tool that started everything?

Former JasperSoft CEO Paul Doscher
Former JasperSoft CEO Paul Doscher

Paul Doscher: Actually, the story of the founding of JasperSoft is a bit less linear. The company that was founded in 2001 with risk capital was called Panscopic and was concerned with embedded reporting [the integration of reporting functionality into applications]. At the same time, Teodor had started JasperReports as an open source project. In doing so, he wanted to create an open-source alternative to Business Objects' Crystal Reports. It wasn't until 2004, when we brought Teodor onboard, that we changed the name to JasperSoft. The official launch as a commercial company under the new name took place in April of 2005.

heise open source: That puts the story in the proper perspective.

Paul Doscher: Yes, we were not quite as visionary as it may have appeared. But it's true – we started with reporting and developed a complete BI suite from there. What hasn't changed is our credo that operational business intelligence has to be available to everybody, which is what the analysts are saying is going to be the next wave in this field.

heise open source: That's your motto too, isn't it?

Paul Doscher: Exactly. And with the possibilities that Java offers – the language that our applications are written in – BI functionality can be integrated relatively easily into existing applications. This creates a kind of "out-of-the-box" business intelligence for a large group of users.

When you compare this approach to Business Objects and Cognos, both very successful companies, you can see that what they offer is tailored to the Global 2000. Their software is for specialists. At best, a maximum of 15% of the personnel in a company comes into contact with it. Our niche, then, is not just small and midsized companies, but also departments of larger companies, some 85% of which cannot afford the expensive special software.

Open source is the best distribution strategy ever for software. Developers can download the source code, tailor it to their needs, and integrate it into their own applications allowing users to work with it. And with Jasper4Salesforce, we're able to offer our software as an on-demand solution for the Salesforce CRM system.

heise open source: What happened to JasperDecisions?

Paul Doscher: That's a commercial product from the former company. All of the functions of that program were integrated into the new JasperIntelligence suite. We provide support to existing JasperDecisions customers but we don't sell it anymore.

heise open source: Until recently, your company did not offer an OLAP engine or an ETL tool. You have now filled these gaps with JasperAnalysis and JasperETL.

Paul Doscher: JasperAnalysis, like all of the other free solutions in this field, is based on the free Mondrian OLAP server. Mondrian is a genuine open-source project in the sense that no one owns it. The copyright is extremely convoluted. At the moment, we are very active in this project and we're trying to make it better for corporate use.

We just released JasperETL. This software is a development of the French service provider Talend. We decided for this because of its very intuitive GUI, which is accessible to even non-professional ETL users. This tool is making it possible for us to take the lead in the growing data store and data mart market.

heise open source: Your biggest competitor, Pentaho, also uses Mondrian for ETL. What do you see as the difference between Pentaho in your company?

Paul Doscher: For one thing, we have different philosophies and focus on different market segments. I believe – and this opinion is confirmed by the analysts – that the market for practical, directly implemented business intelligence software is at least as large as the current, traditional BI market, which is worth some six-to-ten billion dollars. And we are the market leaders in this operational segment. Pentaho, as far as we can tell, is up against the big ones, like Business Objects and Cognos. They want to be an enterprise BI player, but cheaper using open source.

Another thing is, we own the rights to all our source code. This strategic advantage allows us to protect our clients from patent claims and offer guarantees and compensation in cases where damage is incurred. Pentaho bundles a package of diverse and very different open source projects, like Mondrian, Kettle, and Weka.

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