With open source BI, users have access to the source code for the business intelligence software that they use. This gives them the ability to make changes and add applications in a way that they wouldn’t be able to with an out of the box platform. Commercial software does not give its users access to the original source code, nor does it give them any right to change or make modifications to the product. Users of commercial business intelligence must wait until the provider releases a new version of the platform or a new application to get added functionality for their system. With open source, users are able to make modifications to the code as needed as long as they adhere to the restrictions dictated by the license that governs the original code.
What is Open Source Code?
Open source code is software that has been written by a person or a company and copyrighted, but is also licensed to include a large user population, who is able to make changes and fix bugs in the code. As users need different applications from their open source software, they can change it to fit their demands without facing the repercussions of copyright infringement. There are a couple of different licenses that designate code as open source and users must adhere to the guidelines put forth by these licenses in order to use and modify the software.
Open Source Licenses
There is a variety of licenses that have been approved by the Open Source Initiative or OSI. Two common licenses are the Berkeley License and the GNU General Public License (GPL). The Berkeley License allows users to take the source code and make changes to it before releasing it again under a separate propriety license. With the Berkeley License, the original creators of the code would have to be acknowledged publicly when the new software is released. With GPL, if derivative software is created using the original code, it has to be made available as a GPL product, allowing other users access to the new code and allowing other users to modify it for their needs.
Freeware vs. Open Source
Open source is different from freeware, in that the actual code is made available to users, not just the software. Freeware is software that you can download for free for a trial period or permanently, but has to be used as is without any modifications. There is some very reliable freeware that can be downloaded permanently, but freeware is also used by commercial software providers to entice buyers to buy their product after the trial period is up.
Because they have ability to make changes to the code in open source, users can customize their business intelligence software to best serve their company. Users also have access, the majority of the time, to upgrades and applications that other users have developed, in addition to any bug fixes. This means that there is no waiting on the parent company to come out with an upgrade or develop add-ons.