OpenI plug-in for i2b2 in Healthcare research provides a business intelligence interface for patient cohort selection – dashboard, drill-down reports, direct download of underlying patient encounter data, and more
I am happy to announce some fun and exciting changes at OpenI, and the alpha release of our team’s work over last couple of months.
First – OpenI as a “BI platform” on its own will discontinue. Instead, we will use Pentaho and Jasper as our base platforms as needed. The approach is to release “OpenI plug-ins” for Jasper and Pentaho — so that they behave/appear in a manner very similar to OpenI.
Our first step in this direction is our “Plug-In” for Jasper that replaces its JasperSoft OLAP (aka JasperAnalysis) UI, which is basically JPivot as-is, with OpenI’s UI. We believe this is a greatly improved UI for JasperServer users who need better interface for OLAP reporting and exploratory analysis . Here is a screenshot:
You can also check out a live demo here: http://jasper.openi.org/ (Use the demo user account “user/user” or “demo/demo” to get logged into the system)
Currently this is an alpha release. You can download binaries or source code here – https://sourceforge.net/projects/openi/files/openi-jasper-1.0/
Let us know what you think. If you need help, etc. – use the sourceforge.net support forum.
The general thinking is – if you deploy Pentaho or Jasper with OpenI plug-in, you will get the lightness, easy-to-use look-and-feel, plus features that are unique to OpenI which are not available in Jasper or Pentaho (such as exploring cube data). We may also have to create our own installers that makes their installation/deployment process easier.
So – that’s the general direction.
Although Jasper was an easy pick for this first release, we are looking for similar approaches with Pentaho. Now, Pentaho already has efforts underway to replace JPivot UI (2 different approaches though – their open source version has Pentaho Analysis Tool (going through a rewrite at the moment), and proprietary version Pentaho Analyzer which is pretty decent) — so not sure, how much value-add will it be to put OpenI’s UI as a Pentaho plug-in, but there might be other features that may be better suited for an OpenI plug-in for Pentaho.
Pentaho is pretty impressive because they take a platform approach, not just a reporting server. So even though each individual component may not be as fully developed as it needs to be – architecturally I think they have a sound approach. The work we will do with Pentaho will be more along the lines of how can we make it easier to use – whether that will be via plug-ins, or embedding Pentaho in our own build, we will try that out and see what makes sense.
Stay tuned, and of course, your feedback is much appreciated, as always.
Back in the day, when we submitted our open source projects to sourceforge – we would sit there checking the number of downloads almost every minute, obsessing over the daily downloads and sourceforge ranking. A lot of this was driven by (besides the desire to be famous and get geek cred) the belief that more downloads = larger community = more “contribution” from the community.
This did not turn out to be true.
And not just for us, but for most open source enterprise applications out there, number of downloads has nothing to do with community participation. For that, you have to go beyond the realms of sourceforge forums and tracker – and actually actively build a community.
How do you do that? Well, after spending 2 days at PGPS, I am deeply impressed how great of a job Pentaho has done in building a thriving community via their partnership program. What we expected back in the day from our downloaders, Pentaho is exactly getting that from their partners. Partners are writing new features (e.g. Community Dashboard Framework, integration to CMS, single sign on, etc etc), they are fixing major bugs, they are writing books, they are even actively participating in shaping the roadmap. Simply amazing!
Whether this is a phenomenon unique to “commercial open source” – we don’t know, but look – for almost every enterprise open source project, at some point, reality kicks in, and we have to worry about monetization – so many of us become “commercial”. Of course, that immediately brings a tension between the users of the “free” version versus the “premium” version – as in, “why did you put feature ABC only in premium, and not in the free one, you greedy capitalistic pig?”
Well, one answer – “free” doesn’t pay the bills, “premium” does. “Free” is also probably justifiable if there was some contribution, but as we have seen – most of the people download and use open source for free, but they don’t contribute anything. Over time, this becomes unbearably taxing for the core developers of the open source project.
But amazingly, you can get more contributors to your “premium” version (and “free” version as well by extension) if you build a great partnership program around it like Pentaho has done. This is because not only the “premium” version pays Pentaho’s rent, it also helps their partners to pay their rent as well.
So yes, this isn’t the good old open source where it was all about freedom, peace, and love. This one is definitely about the money, but the twist is — it does share the wealth AND the open source bit makes it much easier for partner to participate and contribute. And in doing so, it brings back the extremely sought-after “community contribution” back in the game, which is the life/death factor for any open source project.
So Pentaho – hats off to you guys for showing how to build a thriving community around commercial open source via a great partner program. Don’t ever go to the dark side 🙂
We received some decent feedback in our discussion thread on OpenI’s future roadmap. Here’s one from “noblomov” that describes how OpenI is different from other open source BI tools and where we should focus next (we couldn’t have said it any better – so thanks!)
- Openi is pretty easy to install, where Pentaho isn’t as straightforward to my mind
- Openi is very simple and “basic” : create reports and see them through Dashboards, where Pentaho is trying to do more things and as a result isn’t as easy to use for the end users
- Openi offers a real BI SaaS platform, allowing several clients (different departments of the same enterprise, but also different companies) to connect to the same infrastructure, where Pentaho is a dedicated solution. This is for me the main advantage of Openi over other Open Source BI Solutions, and this is a big one.
- allow finer control of users rights on a project. Today there are 3 users type : application admin, project admin, project user. It would be great to have optionnal settings on project admin for example, giving this profil the rights to create a limited number of accounts for its project. So an optional “accounts quota” setting would be nice.
- As I see Openi as a great SaaS BI solution, it would be great to allow complete separation of different projects databases. Today to my knowledge the Projects in OpenI use different tables, but in the same database (same MySQL database for example). I would like to be able to define separate database for different projects, and then permit a total separation of projects datas (each project could have its own MySQL database). That would be a real plus in terms of scalability and security.
A great question came up on OpenI forum from Andre, which I feel is important to share with all of you:
What new features that are planned for the Open? There is a forecast for the next version? What is the main advantage of the Openi on the Pentaho?
To which, my response is:
Your message comes at an interesting and exciting time for us. You saw that most of 2009, we focused on tightening up the 2.0 release, which now is stable and we’ve gotten good feedback on. Now in 2010, we will continue with point releases on 2.0 with bug fixes and enhancements, and we’re also in midst of planning the road map for OpenI 3.0 and beyond.
Basically the big question for us is — is OpenI a BI platform, or more of a BI application? OpenI started back in 2005, right around the same time Pentaho and JasperSoft launched. While Pentaho, Jaspersoft, et al have done a great job in building out a robust BI platform, OpenI’s differentiator is that it strives to be BI application that a user can use right “out of the box” as opposed to an “SDK” on top of which a BI developer will build their BI application. Hence a lot of our work has gone towards making the installation increasingly easier, being able to just point to an OLAP data source and start publishing anlayses/dashboards without having to write code, supporting Microsoft Analysis services, etc.
However, all this requires a BI platform underneath, and to date, OpenI has built its own platform using the same “usual suspect” components (JPivot, Mondrian, etc.) that most other open source BI projects use. And now we’re asking ourselves if that isn’t re-inventing the wheel. Why take upon the development and maintenance of a BI platform (although using a lot of open source components) — when you can probably use an existing open source BI platform and focus more on your differentiators.
So the most likely outcome for 3.0 road map will be that we’ll use a comparable open source BI platform where we can not only migrate all of our key features of OpenI 2.0 and start focusing more on usability-related features. Sorry to be vague/high-level, but we will have a more elaborate design/roadmap published on our website soon that’ll describe these features and solicit your feedback.
Which means — a big part of all this is where our community will like to see OpenI go. So, your feedback, feature requests, or just general design guidelines are very important to us as we plan the road map for 2010
Thanks for the nudge on this very important issue, now we’ll have to work harder to publish our road map and clear up things for everyone 🙂
Project Lead, OpenI.Org
First off – congratulations to our friends at Pentaho on making a great strategic acquisition of LucidEra’s ClearView product and embedding it in Pentaho Enterprise Edition. With this, Pentaho will completely replace JPivot as the web UI to view and report OLAP data. Many of us (including OpenI) have lamented about JPivot UI at one point or another, about not providing the desired eye candy effect, so for Pentaho to finally be able to pull this off is a great accomplishment, and hats off to them.
There is, however, one catch — this new UI replacement will NOT be available in the open source version. You have to buy the Enterprise Edition license to get this new UI.
Huh? I hear you say. Well-known BI columnist Seth Grimes questions “Is Pentaho, founded as a “commercial open source” BI vendor, still defined by open source? Pentaho itself seems unsure.” On the other hand, Julian Hyde, a well-respected BI technologist and the project lead of Mondrian, has a compelling rationale for Pentaho to keep this closed source. He says:
If you release a piece of software open source out of sheer, ‘I love the world!’ altruism, you won’t necessarily see much benefit. Pentaho is a for-profit business, and they are savvy about leveraging the benefits of open source software. And let’s not kid ourselves, there are considerable downsides to releasing something open source. Your competitors can pick up the software and incorporate your hard work into their suite. And your customers may decide that the free version is so good that they aren’t going to give you any of their money.
So given this, is it wrong for Pentaho to call itself a “commercial open source” company? In fact, does Pentaho platform even qualify as an open source platform anymore since a major component is only available in the closed source enterprise edition?
The answers, IMHO, are not straightforward.
The key issue is that the origin of open source was not based on making money, but rather based on sharing and leveraging what’s now called the “wisdom of the crowds”. Linus Torvalds uploaded his build of Linux including the source code not so much to charge fees for commercial license and support, but rather so that other like minded engineers will take the code apart, provide feedback, and better yet, improve and add new parts that make it better. And you can say the same about Apache, Mozilla browser, and many other similar well-known open source projects.
But then came people like us — we loved the open source model of developing and distributing software, AND we also wanted to make a living out of it. Initially, it was getting consulting gigs to integrate or customize your open source software, but that doesn’t scale as well. Enter “commercial open source” — first pioneered by the likes of Red Hat, SuSe, etc. to provide commercial license and support of Linux, this intrigued a lot of other open source projects. So soon you had Compiere for ERP, SugarCRM for salesforce automation, etc. etc. and in BI sector, enter Pentaho and Jaspersoft.
And when you are a commercial business, you have to continuously grow (especially if you have taken institutional investments) — so you look for all possible new ways to create new lines of products and services. For closed source commercial enterprise software, this usually resulted in feature and code bloat. And now for commercial open source companies like us, this means creating new “Freemium” models — i.e. what else can we build around the open source software that we can get paid for.
So, as a business — Pentaho has all the valid reasons to justify not open sourcing the new ClearView based UI for OLAP reporting. It developed (acquired) the technology all on its own, it has resources to continually test/improve it (i.e. doesn’t really need community contribution to succeed), plus there is a reasonable market demand — so, why not charge for it and create a sustainable commercial infrastructure?
The argument then is mostly philosophical of whether Pentaho still qualifies as an “open source software”. Some are calling it “Open Core”, probably more aptly. The only drawback is that is someone, for example us guys at OpenI, want to collaborate/experiment building on Pentaho platform leveraging the ClearView UI features, we can’t do that in an open source model. We will have to become a Pentaho partner, get a restricted license to the code, and whatever we build on top of it, we can’t redistribute it as open source. How much that affects Pentaho, only time will tell.
There was recently a much publicized debate on a similar topic when Chris Anderson’s book “Free” (first published as a Wired column) came out making a strong case for future belonging to products that are built around a free version, and Malcom Gladwell had a reasonable disagreement where he said:
…Anderson is forced to admit that one of his main case studies, YouTube, “has so far failed to make any money for Google.” Why is that? Because of the very principles of Free that Anderson so energetically celebrates. When you let people upload and download as many videos as they want, lots of them will take you up on the offer. That’s the magic of Free psychology: an estimated seventy-five billion videos will be served up by YouTube this year. Although the magic of Free technology means that the cost of serving up each video is “close enough to free to round down,” “close enough to free” multiplied by seventy-five billion is still a very large number.
Ultimately, “Free”, whether it’s OpenI or Pentaho or Gillette razor, can only succeed if the people making the “Free” have a way to get paid, and a way to scale the business profitably. In the absence of that, the people making the “Free” will not survive, and when they are gone, the “Free” product goes away as well. That is also our rationale for providing commercial support and integration for OpenI — we need to generate revenue in order to continue supporting OpenI, and contrary to popular belief, majority of the open source projects can’t succeed on volunteer contributions alone. So, as much as I’d have wanted Pentaho to open source their ClearView UI, I have to admit that making it a part of paid version will benefit the health of their company, and thus increase the chances of them being around to continue supporting the “Free” model. And these things aren’t set in stone? What’s “Closed” today, can become “Open” tomorrow — as long as there are other new “Freemiums” to offset the switch.
We just released OpenI 2.0-RC2. Our plan is to promote this RC to 2.0 general release in about 2 weeks, barring any new critical fixes. Big thanks to our team who have done a really great job.
There is also a demo available at http://demo.openi.org/openi (login is openi2/openi2)
And you can download it directly from: http://sourceforge.net/project/platformdownload.php?group_id=142873
Among the many new features and bug fixes in this release, a few stand out. First is the support for Attribute Hierarchy feature of Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) 2005. Almost all SSAS 2005 installations make use of this feature to get better performance, but prior versions of OpenI had trouble displaying data from OLAP cubes using feature. With RC2, OpenI fully supports this, which should make our SSAS 2005 users very happy. Also, we’d like to hear from those of you trying to use OpenI with SSAS 2008. We haven’t done much testing with SSAS 2008, and could use some help from our community in that regards.
Next, maximizing screen real estate in detailed analysis view has always been a key issue for data analyst users. With RC2, we have made the left navigator collapsible so that users can “stretch” the detail analysis view to the entire width of the screen. We think this is kind of cool, would love to hear your views on this (and other ideas to maximize screen real estate)
Here’re links to more details on the release:
As always, we look forward to hearing your feedback.
Project Lead, OpenI.Org
Gone are the days when Linus Torvalds could post on a bbs about his open source project and the entire world would flock there. In this day and age, you need Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and who knows what else is coming down the pipeline
So — dear OpenI community — to get things started, we now have a Facebook page.
If you are already on Facebook, please show your support for OpenI by becoming a “fan” of this page, and invite your “friends” to do the same (as long as they dabble in software and can spell “BI” correctly and not confuse it for animal body parts)
Thanks for sharing the love,
Last week during a client meeting to evaluate a new project, a question came up — “If JPivot does all the MDX generation/parsing, provides the UI components for charts and grahps and tables — what is it that OpenI does that’s different from JPivot?”
A legitimate question indeed.
First off — this is not attempt to trivialize what JPivot does. We wouldn’t be here without JPivot – period. This post is more about what OpenI does to improve certain JPivot functionality and what OpenI adds in terms of its own features to deliver OpenI as a complete web application. Here’s my assessment:
- JPivot is a component (JAR file) that you can embed in a J2EE application, OpenI is a complete deployable web application (WAR). JPivot is one of the many components that OpenI uses
- JPivot provides the following key features:
- UI components for tables and charts using OLAP data, and specifying reporting parameters
- MDX query generation based on UI events like drill up/down, filter, sort, etc.
- Representing the results from an OLAP server in an object model
- OpenI makes the following significant improvements to JPivot
- JPivot is built for open source OLAP server Mondrian. It CAN NOT communicate with Microsoft OLAP server out-of-the-box. OpenI extends JPivot to enable this feature so users can report on data from both Microsoft Analysis Services (all 3 versions – 2000, 2005, and 2008)
- OpenI adds following key features for a complete BI app that are not in JPivot
- Security – either via its own user management, or by integrating to existing OLAP or custom authentication. Enabling restrictions to analyses based on user permissions
- Dashboard – Jpivot doesn’t have one, OpenI has complete dashboard creation and management
- Create/Save reports– Jpivot doesn’t have a way to persist reports. OpenI provides a well defined XML structure (.analysis files) that works as a report definition language (RDL) to save and manage reports. Also supports the notion of public vs private reports
- Navigation – OpenI provides a full file-explorer like UI to navigate through multiple analyses and manage them in folders
- Report customization by dragging/dropping attributes to columns, rows, and filters
- Tabbed view of tables and charts
- Provides results of an OLAP drillthrough as a text file dump (JPivot can’t), or publish result set to a custom web API
- Explore data feature – lets you “eyeball” data in a cube without having to create individual reports, very handy for exploratory analysis
- Concept of “projects” to enable multi-tenant reporting, i.e. same application can serve multiple clients. An on-demand can leverages this to have multiple client accounts served separately from a single web application instance
- Administration UI to manage accounts, application, data sources, and many other tasks that you’d otherwise have to do by hand-editing a configuration file
Dear OpenI Community:
I am very happy to announce that we are finally forming an official commercial structure around OpenI to provide license, support, and integration services.
OpenI will still remain fully open source, and this site and the related platform at sourceforge.net will continue to function just the same way they have always functioned. However, for those businesses and organizations that need a commercial support structure and/or need a dedicated team to work on integrating or customizing OpenI for their internal projects or product development, this commercial structure enables us to provide such services.
Plus it enables those of us who have worked on this project since its inception a way to make a living doing what we love.
When we started this open source project back in 2005, we couldn’t have guessed where we are today. We started OpenI as an open source project at my last company Loyalty Matrix, where we built a commercial marketing analtyics product on top of OpenI. Loyalty Matrix was acquired by Responsys in 2007. I am happy to say that the marketing analytics technology we built at Loyalty Matrix found a way to express itself as Responsys’s own analytics product Interact Insight. It was interesting to see the formal structures it requires in a more established company to release a product — valuable lessons that I’ll surely apply in future product releases. It is also great that Responsys will remain a client of OpenI, so that we can advance this technology in a mutually beneficial fashion (and also that OpenI has a few clients from the get go :- ).
OpenI will partner with Codemandu, a software development company in Kathmandu, Nepal that has provided the engineering help for OpenI to-date. Codemandu will help us deliver support and integration work for our clients. So — if you have software projects in business intelligence, reporting, and/or analytics (or know of someone who does) — we are here for you :- ) Basically, if you are an on-demand company that stores transactional data for your customers, we can help you build an on-demand analytics product based on OpenI — something you can private-label and up-sell to your customers.
So, needless to say — next couple of months are going to be crazy, and pretty exciting. Personally, I have a lot of pent-up ideas on making BI more accessible and actionable, and we will be toying around with these ideas in OpenI. And given the nature of open source, these experimentations will happen in public domain — and so you’ll keep seeing some fun new stuff appear on this site.
The BI landscape has definitely evolved since OpenI started back in 2005. Most of the big guys (Busienss Objects, Hyperion, Cognos, SPSS) have been acquired by even bigger guys (SAP, Oracle, IBM). On the open source BI side, Pentaho and JasperSoft have done a remarkable job in leading the sector. Plus there has been a great deal of movement in on-demand BI as well – with Swivel, GoodData, and PivotLink, and also at desktop level with Tableau. We will definitely give our best shot to stand on the shoulders of these giants and raise the bar a bit differently.
I recall Sting (lead singer of The Police, for the benefit of our younger readers) say this in a Rolling Stone interview once when asked about his unique singing voice — something like “Nobody can sing like me — I’m not saying that I have the best voice in Rock ‘n Roll, it’s more like someone can sing better or worse, but they can’t sing exactly like me”
So, this I can say — OpenI will be unique in its approach to BI. Stay tuned..
Project Lead, OpenI.Org