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Barry Klawans, CTO, JasperSoft

Barry Klawans Open Source business intelligence vendor JasperSoft wasn't always an open source vendor.

JasperSoft made the decision to become open source just over two-and-a-half years ago and since then has become a leading open source business intelligence vendor.

The business intelligence vendor recently added the final pillar to its solution suite with the release of JasperETL ETL (Extract, Transform and Load), which allows applications to take data from outside sources, turn it into something usable and make it available for loading in a database application.

JasperSoft is also taking a leading role in the open source solutions community as a founding member of the Open Solutions Alliance, which aims to promote interoperability between open source applications.

Internetnews.com recently spoke with JasperSoft's CTO Barry Klawans about the challenges, misconceptions and opportunities the company faces.

Q: JasperSoft has been in business for over five years now. Have things gone according to plan or have there been some surprises along the way?

Looking back over our history, I think there was one major shift, which was two-and-half years ago when we made the shift from proprietary to the open source model. That was the one thing we hadn't planned on five years ago, but most people then didn't really think about open source as being a viable business model.

Since we've made the shift things have been going really well.

Q: What do you see as the biggest misconception in the marketplace today about what Jasper does or doesn't do?

I find that there are a couple of things that we run into over and over again. One is about JasperReports. People ask about how they can use Jasper as part of another business intelligence solution. I respond that we've got all the stuff that they are talking about and why not just use our package.

The awareness of the entire product suite isn't always there. There is still a lot of confusion in the marketplace around open source licensing. It's not unique to us, but people just don't understand why they can and cannot do with our stuff.

Q: Speaking about open source licenses, are you moving to GPL v3? Is it something customers ask about?

Our plans are to stay with GPL version 2, at least for the immediate future. There is a lot of confusion about GPL version 3; the various drafts have seen some significant changes.

Whether or not you agree with the Free Software Foundation's goals, I think that the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) in the press is good enough reason not to go there now. Especially since Linus Torvalds is sticking with version 2, it's hard to argue a case for GPL version 3.

Q: Is the competition over other open source projects -- let's say Pentaho -- or is it more about displacing proprietary vendors? Or is it green field startups?

It's actually all of the above. Some cases its green field. If they are looking at only open source, it's us versus Pentaho, but it's not uncommon for us to go against a proprietary vendor.

Q: What are the biggest technology innovations you're working on to push the envelope on Jasper's products?

I'm really excited about Jasper Babylon, our translation project. I think that is an incredibly innovative way of dealing with localization, and it really leverages the community.

Right now I think a lot of the innovations going on in open source aren't in technology, per se, but in working with a community -- how to leverage the community, how to take advantage of it and how to give back to the community.

Q: What have been the barriers to adoption so far for JasperSoft's products, and what are you doing to overcome them?

I think the biggest barrier has been the uncertainty around open source. A certain amount of the selling cycle is almost unrelated to the product. Why is it safe? Why is it now three guys in a garage and convincing people that we have a viable business model?

We don't have many technology barriers except when competing for a big deal bake off against proprietary vendors. They say that certain obscure features are needed and we have to convince them that those features aren't ever going to be used.

Q: As CTO of an open source vendor what are your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge is figuring out which path to go down. Where should we focus our energy? The biggest challenge is staying focused. We can come up with dozens of projects to work on, and in fact we always do.

At some point you have to say we can't do a dozen projects simultaneously. We have to identify which two or three offer the biggest reward for our customers and ourselves.