By Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard
Actuate was once the king of production reporting. But the rise of self-service BI tools, BI suites, and industry consolidation made Actuate a bit player in the larger BI market. Over the past several years, the company has been re-inventing itself and hopes its new "fremium" iHub offering will allow it to capitalize on millions of BIRT developers.
Actuate is the sponsor of open source BIRT, the Business Intelligence Reporting Tool, used by an estimated 3.5 million developers. Actuate also have a complete BI solution, based on its iHub server, that customers can buy on a perpetual or subscription basis. Many of the BIRT developers are unaware of Actuate's broader BI offerings. Others find the move from free open source, to paid premium capabilities too steep.
With the iHub F-Type, customers get all the capabilities offered in the paid-for iHub server–interactive reporting, scheduling, security–for free. The catch? Customers are limited to 50 MB per day. The usage resets itself each day, and there's a nice thermometer to advise how much disk space is currently used by reports (note: screen shot below based on 500 MB license). Customers can then buy additional capacity at $500 per month per 50 MB.
The iHub F-Type also has a really nice pop up tutorial that guides the developer through the most compelling capabilities of the server. In the screen below, note the buttons on the left pane. The Interact button will show the developer how with the iHub F-Type, a previous static report is now interactive with a pop-up menu to sort or filter, requiring no new programming. The interactive reporting capabilities are a strong-point of the platform (see the BI Scorecard summary and detailed scores for more information), and a core aspect of self-service BI that many vendors are overlooking.
Pay-as-you Go the New Norm
Actuate is betting big on iHub F-Type. It's also betting big on a move to subscription-only pricing. Previously, Actuate offered both subscription and perpetual licenses. In the company's last quarterly investor call, CEO Pete Cittadini said that "going cold turkey to subscription … was the right thing to do." The move to subscription-based pricing is also a stated direction from competitor TIBCO in its acquisition of Jaspersoft in April this year. With BI cloud gaining momentum, customers and vendors alike seem more accepting of the pay-as-you-go model. I have always liked about subscription-based pricing for ensuring customers don't buy any more BI than they need, and conversely, for keeping a vendor focused on meeting the customer's needs. With perpetual licensing, customers risk shelf-ware and when dissatisfied with a product, the license is a sunk-cost with leverage only on a typical 22% annual maintenance fee.
Embedded BI: The Next Wave
Self-service BI and visual data discovery have been all the rage the last two years. These tools typically meet the needs of business analysts trying to mash multiple and new data sources together. At the other end of the user spectrum, front-line workers often consume data embedded within operational applications. In the past, reports and nuggets of data embedded within operational apps may have been custom developed. As these applications get refreshed, and with the growth of start-ups, embedded BI may be the next wave of BI growth. It is a BI segment that Actuate is specifically targeting, along with several other vendors: Jaspersoft, LogiAnalytics, Information Builders, and Oracle has identified this segment as a future direction.
To make embeddability easier, in Actuate's F-Type, an "Integrate" button nicely allows a developer to cut and paste the requisite Java Script into custom apps or portals.
Actuate may not have the mindshare of some of the bigger BI vendors, but they certainly have sown millions of seeds of developers. This latest offering seems a strong move to allow them to capitalize on that base of developers.