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Open Source ETL Takes On Proprietary Intelligence

One of the pillars of business intelligence capabilities is something called ETL , an acronym standing for extract, transform and load. ETL can also be a pillar for business integration as well.

ETL allows applications to take data from outside sources, turn it into something usable and then make it available for loading in a database or business intelligence application.

Until recently the ETL market was comprised of proprietary vendors. In recent years, however, open source players like Pentaho, Talend and Apatar have started to make their play for a share of the lucrative market.

While there is certainly competition between the open source vendors themselves, the real target is to take share from the proprietary incumbents.

"I think most of the growth for open source data integration is really happening at the expense of traditional proprietary ETL, and with more and more organizations moving away from custom code and scripting for data integration to robust packaged tools like Pentaho Data Integration [Kettle] it's not as much about open source vendors fighting it out," Lance Walter, vice president of marketing at Pentaho, told internetnews.com.

That's not to say that the open source vendors don't have competing claims, even though open source ETL hasn't been around all that long to begin with.

Renat Khasanshyn, CEO of open source ETL vendor Apatar, explained that the early open source ETL projects released their first code in the 2004-2005 timeframe.

Apatar purports to be the first on-demand solution where users can publish, share and reuse metadata through a browser. Talend recently launched its own on-demand offering, which it claims to be 'the "the first," too. Khasanshyn did admit that Talend is the first pure-play open source ETL company to receive venture financing.

The first version of Talend Open Studio was released October 2006. Open source business intelligence vendor Jaspersoft integrates Talend's ETL as part of the Jasper ETL solution.

Yves de Montcheuil, vice president of marketing at Talend, was quick to point out to internetnews.com that since Talend's first release the company haven't seen much of Apatar on the market.

"In the majority of the competitive situations we are involved in, clients are evaluating Talend's solutions for large, enterprise data integration needs, against proprietary tools such as Informatica, DataStage and Business Objects," de Montcheuil said.

In de Montcheuil's view, Apatar is focusing on the Web 2.0 space, mostly integrating data from hosted applications.

De Montcheuil argued that Talend has a broader vision of data integration and believes that all data sources must interoperate. That includes software-as-s-service (SaaS) with Talend's business connectors to applications such as SugarCRM or Salesforce.com as well as both open source and proprietary databases.

Meanwhile, neither Apatar nor Talend, consider Pentaho Data Integration, which is also known as the Kettle project, to be a direct competitor.

Talend's de Montcheuil noted that Pentaho Data Integrator is active in the ETL space –- the subset of the data integration market that is focused on loading data warehouses.

"We don't see a lot of them outside of this space," de Montcheuil said "I am reluctant to call them a competitor, as we are pursuing the same goal, which is to democratize data integration and make it more open. Our real competitors are the proprietary vendors such as Informatica, IBM and Business Objects."

Bloor research analyst Philip Howard sees the market in much the same way. Howard admitted that he was not familiar with Apatar so he was unable to comment specifically about them.

"The big difference between Talend and Pentaho is that the latter is a BI vendor and it will offer Kettle as part of its BI products but is not a general-purpose ETL tool that you might use, for example, for a data migration project," Howard explained to internetnews.com.

"Talend, on the other hand is such a general-purpose product and if you want it as part of a BI suite then it is resold by JasperSoft as a part of its BI suite. Thus Talend has a broader market opportunity than Pentaho and should be better placed."

All the open source vendors have certain barriers to adoption that they'll need to overcome in order to improve their respective market shares.

Apatar CEO Khasanshyn said that the primary barrier to adoption for them is credibility.

"We just started working with early adopter clients like Autodesk and R.R. Donnelley, and it may take a few months before we could have sound case studies proving the business value of Apatar," Khasanshyn said.

Khasanshyn also admitted that the maturity of Apatar ETL offering is also a barrier, noting that Apatar may lack some enterprise features as well as the breadth and depth of support documentation, which most of its proprietary competitors have.