SQL Server Alternatives
We’ve talked mostly about SQL Server mainly because Microsoft has focused not just on enterprise level BI, but also on the needs of smaller companies. David Hobbs-Mallyon, SQL Server product manager, claims: ‘Right from the start, Microsoft hasfocused on ensuring that its BI tools are both highly cost-effective and also easy to use. Those two factors combine to make them perfect for small to medium sized enterprises.’
If your client has a licence for the Standard or Enterprise editions of SQL Server then you already have the tools you are likely to need. But what if they haven’t? Are there alternatives? Yes. However, remember that BI can produce huge returns on investment (ROI) which equate to huge sums of money and, generally speaking, that means that software companies charge concomitantly large sums for their wares. Products such as IBM Cognos’ TM1 are typical: TM1 offers ‘fast, easy-to-use analytics for financial performance management’ and the entry level price for the Enterprise edition is around $75,000.
The open source industry has a couple of alternatives: two of the biggest players are Jaspersoft and Pentaho. Their products are aimed at enterprise customers and ‘open source’ is certainly not synonymous with cheap (it pays to remember that open source refers to the code base, not the licensing model). Jaspersoft’s Business Intelligence Suite Professional Edition, for instance, will cost significant money; you need to apply to the company for a specific quotation.
Several companies, Birst, for example, offers free BI to get you started and then charges monthly costs depending on the features you select. There is also Adersoft’s OlapCube 1.1 for a mere £58 for a single user license: it is capable of creating local cubes from data stored in many relational databases, including Microsoft Access, SQL Server and its Express version, Oracle, Oracle Express, MySQL and others.