Open Source BI: Embedded BI Tools, Key Features & Challenges

Open-source Business Intelligence (BI) platforms have gained significant traction in the data analytics landscape, offering cost-effective and customizable solutions for organizations of various sizes. 

Integrate your CRM with other tools

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Between 2020 and 2022, business data doubled, which resulted in reshaping the information landscape.  

The surge in data growth has paved the way for a new frontier in Embedded Business Intelligence (BI), where companies use tools to navigate and make decisions in this data-rich environment, staying ahead in the fast-changing business.

Now, picture embracing open-source BI for decision-making within your applications. It's a transformative journey that unlocks the potential of your data.

In this guide, we will explore embedded BI through the lens of open source and how it benefits your business. 

What is Embedded BI? 

Business Intelligence (BI) is how organizations collect, analyze, and show business data to make decisions. It includes gathering data, storing it, analyzing it, and presenting insights.

Taking BI to the next level, Embedded Business Intelligence (Embedded BI) seamlessly integrates analytical tools directly into existing software applications or business processes.

It means you can see live data, make reports, and visualize info right where you work without switching between different tools.

Understanding Embedded BI from Open Source Perspective

Instead of depending on exclusive, proprietary solutions, open source enables you to integrate analytics, reporting, and data visualization features seamlessly.

The concept of open-source software development involves a collaborative and transparent approach. 

In this model, the source code of a software product is made available to the public for free, enabling anyone to view, use, modify, and distribute it as they see fit. 

In BI, this accessibility translates to flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and customization. For instance, businesses can tailor the source code to meet specific needs, fostering a robust environment for data-driven decision-making. 

Embracing open-source Embedded BI empowers businesses to harness the benefits of data-driven decision-making within their applications while promoting collaboration and community-driven development.

Key Features and Characteristics of Open Source BI

Embedded Business Intelligence (BI) with an open-source mindset stands out in the competitive data analytics landscape, offering distinct features and characteristics.

Here, we delve into the key attributes that make open-source embedded BI a compelling choice for organizations seeking cost-effective, flexible, and community-driven solutions.

1. Customizability and Flexibility

Tailor-Made Solutions: Open-source embedded BI allows organizations to customize solutions according to their unique business requirements. Developers can modify the source code, ensuring a seamless fit into existing workflows and applications.

Adaptability: The flexibility of open source ensures that BI tools can adapt to changes in business processes, data sources, and analytical requirements over time.

2. Cost-Effectiveness

Free Access to Tools: The heart of open source lies in freely accessible tools and libraries, eliminating licensing costs. Organizations can enhance their BI capabilities without the financial burden of proprietary solutions.

Scalability without Exponential Costs: As businesses expand, open-source embedded BI grows with them without causing a sharp rise in costs. This cost-effective solution aligns well with organizational growth. It achieves this by efficiently adapting to increased demands and complexities in the business environment.

3. Community Collaboration

Shared Expertise: Engaging with the open-source community allows organizations to benefit from shared expertise. Developers collaborate, share best practices, and contribute improvements, fostering a collective effort to enhance embedded BI capabilities.

Broader Ecosystem: The community-driven nature of open source ensures a diverse ecosystem of plugins, extensions, and integrations, enriching the overall embedded BI experience.

4. Transparency and Security

Visibility into Source Code: The transparency of open source allows developers and organizations to scrutinize the source code. This visibility enhances trust and security by identifying and addressing vulnerabilities promptly.

Rapid Response to Threats: With a community of developers actively involved, open-source embedded BI solutions benefit from a rapid response to emerging security threats, ensuring a proactive approach to safeguarding data.

Top Open Source BI Platforms & Tools in 2024

Open-source Business Intelligence (BI) platforms have gained significant traction in the data analytics landscape, offering cost-effective and customizable solutions for organizations of various sizes. 

Here's an overview of some leading open-source BI platforms:

1. Metabase

Metabase focuses on simplicity and ease of use, making it a user-friendly open-source BI tool. It allows users to create and share interactive dashboards and charts without requiring extensive technical expertise.

Key Features:

Intuitive Interface: Use a simple drag-and-drop interface to create queries and visualizations.

Natural Language Querying: Users can ask questions in plain English to generate data visualizations.

Dashboard Sharing: Easy sharing of dashboards and reports with team members.

2. Redash

Redash is an open-source data visualization and dashboarding platform that supports a variety of data sources. It helps teams make sense of their data through visualizations and collaborative features.

Key Features:

Query Editor: SQL-based query editor for data exploration.

Dashboard Sharing: Shareable dashboards with the ability to schedule and automate report delivery.

Integration: Connects to various data sources, including databases, APIs, and third-party services.

3. Superset (Apache Superset)

Apache Superset is an open-source data exploration and visualization platform that facilitates interactive, real-time dashboards. Airbnb originally developed it and later contributed it to the Apache Software Foundation.

Key Features:

Rich Visualization Options: Supports a variety of visualizations, including charts, graphs, and maps.

Multi-Tenancy: Enables the creation of dashboards for multiple teams or user groups.

SQL Lab: Interactive SQL editor for data exploration.

4. Pentaho

As a part of Hitachi Vantara, Pentaho offers a comprehensive open-source BI suite. It encompasses tools for data integration, reporting, and analytics. It provides end-to-end capabilities for extracting, transforming, and visualizing data.

Key Features:

Data Integration: Robust ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) capabilities for data integration.

Reporting and Dashboards: Create interactive reports and dashboards for data analysis.

Big Data Integration: Support for integrating and analyzing data from big data platforms.

5. BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools)

BIRT is an open-source software project that provides reporting and data visualization capabilities. Many BI platforms and applications widely use it as a reporting engine.

Key Features:

Report Design: Eclipse-based report design environment for creating detailed reports.

Data Connectivity: Connects to various data sources, including databases and web services.

Customizable: Extensible architecture allows for customization and integration with other applications.

These open-source BI platforms cater to diverse needs, from simple data visualization to complex analytics and reporting. 

The choice of a platform depends on factors such as the organization's specific requirements, technical expertise, and preferred data sources. 

As the field of open-source BI continues to evolve, these platforms remain at the forefront, providing valuable alternatives to proprietary solutions.

Challenges of Embedded BI with Open Source

Although open-source embedded Business Intelligence (BI) offers numerous advantages, it has its challenges.

Here's an exploration of some of the essential challenges with incorporating open-source BI into embedded analytics solutions:

1. Integration Complexity

Open-source BI tools often come from diverse ecosystems, each with its dependencies and requirements. 

Integrating these tools seamlessly into existing applications can be complex, requiring careful consideration of compatibility and interoperability.

2. Skill and Expertise Requirements

Creating and sustaining embedded BI solutions using open source may require advanced technical skills. 

Organizations need skilled developers with a thorough understanding of open-source technologies to maximize the potential of these tools.

3. Lack of Comprehensive Support

While open-source communities are vibrant and collaborative, the support mechanisms may not match the levels provided by commercial solutions. 

Organizations may face challenges obtaining timely and comprehensive support, particularly for mission-critical applications.

4. Documentation and Training

Documentation for open-source BI tools can vary in quality and completeness.

Inconsistent or incomplete documentation may pose challenges for developers and administrators trying to implement or troubleshoot embedded BI solutions.

5. Security Concerns

With open source, the responsibility for security often lies with the organization implementing the solution. 

While transparency enables community scrutiny, the organization must actively ensure adherence to security best practices and promptly address vulnerabilities.

6. Limited Third-Party Integrations

Open-source BI tools may have limited third-party integrations and plugins compared to their commercial counterparts. 

Organizations relying on specific integrations may face challenges if community contributions do not meet their requirements.

In short, addressing these challenges requires a thoughtful strategy that includes strategic planning, robust development practices, and continuous support and maintenance.

Open Source BI tools vs. Commercial tools

Choosing between open-source Business Intelligence (BI) tools and commercial (proprietary) BI tools is crucial for organizations aiming to establish robust analytics and reporting capabilities. Each option comes with its own set of advantages and considerations. 

Let's compare open-source BI tools and commercial BI tools across various dimensions:

Dimensions Open Source BI Commercial BI
Cost Pros: Lower upfront costs. Organizations can save on licensing fees.
Cons: You'll pay for customizing, supporting, and maintaining your organization's services.
The initial "free" aspect might not cover hidden expenses.
Pros: Provide a packaged solution with a defined cost structure. It covers full support, training, and regular updates.
Cons: You'll face substantial upfront licensing costs. Ongoing expenses involve upkeep fees and extra charges for scaling or adding users.
The Customization and Flexibility Pros: Highly customizable. Organizations have direct access to the source code, allowing for tailored solutions.
Cons: Customization requires technical expertise. The burden of maintaining and updating customizations falls on the organization.
Pros: Offers out-of-the-box features and often includes user-friendly interfaces. Easy to implement without extensive technical skills.
Cons: Limited customization options compared to open source. Organizations may need to adapt their processes to fit the software.
Community and Support Pros: Active community support and collaboration. Access to a wealth of user-generated content, forums, and community-driven improvements.
Cons: Commercial solutions offer more responsive and comprehensive support than counterparts. Organizations may need in-house expertise for problem resolution.
Pros: Typically comes with dedicated support, regular updates, and comprehensive documentation. The vendor is responsible for resolving issues.
Cons: Licensing fees usually cover support costs. Organizations may depend heavily on vendor responsiveness.
Features and Innovation Pros: Rapid innovation driven by community contributions. Constant updates and improvements from a diverse group of developers.
Cons: User-friendliness might be lacking in the features, making it less intuitive and easy for users to navigate or understand.
The community's interests influence development priorities.
Pros: Often includes polished features, intuitive interfaces, and integration with other enterprise tools. Vendors invest heavily in R&D.
Cons: Innovation might lag, and feature updates may come with main software releases.
Use Cases Ideal For: Organizations with in-house technical expertise, specific customization needs, and a preference for community-driven innovation.
Generally Used: Startups, tech-savvy enterprises, and research institutions.
Ideal For: Organizations with limited technical resources, those seeking out-of-the-box solutions, and those prioritizing vendor support.
Generally Used: Large enterprises, industries with stringent compliance requirements.

Creating Dashboards: Databrain vs. Web Technologies

When embarking on dashboard creation, Databrain and the traditional approach using HTML, CSS, and JS offer distinct pathways, each with unique strengths and considerations. 

Here's an overview highlighting the advantages of Databrain:


1. High-Level Abstraction and Streamlined Development: Databrain is a specialized business intelligence tool designed to craft interactive dashboards with minimal coding. It provides a high-level abstraction, enabling you to prioritize data analysis and visualization without delving into intricate code structures.

2. Ease of Integration: Databrain simplifies integrating with various databases, including MongoDB, Redshift, Postgres, MySQL, and more. Seamless integration with React or other frameworks is facilitated through dedicated packages, reducing the complexity and time investment required compared to the traditional approach.

3. Accelerated Dashboard Development: It accelerates the design, customization, and publication of dashboards, catering to users with varying web development expertise.

4. Built-In Interactivity and Customization: Databrain provides intuitive features for interactivity, such as drill-downs, tooltips, and dynamic data filtering. Customizing layouts, adding metrics, and styling dashboards become straightforward, fostering a dynamic and engaging user experience.

Web Technologies (HTML, CSS, and JS)

1. Full Control and Customization: In contrast, the traditional approach using HTML, CSS, and JS grants you complete control over the development process. You can structure content (HTML), style it (CSS), and introduce dynamic behavior (JS) to meet specific requirements.

2. Learning Curve and General-Purpose Nature: This approach may involve a steeper learning curve, especially for those less familiar with web development. However, it offers a general-purpose solution suitable for building a wide range of web applications beyond business intelligence.

3. Rich Developer Ecosystem: Developers working with HTML, CSS, and JS benefit from a vast and mature community, extensive resources, and diverse libraries and frameworks. It provides a rich ecosystem of tools for building web applications with varied functionalities.

In summary, Databrain provides a user-friendly and efficient solution for rapid business intelligence dashboard development, offering streamlined integration and powerful features. 

The HTML, CSS, and JS way provide complete control and flexibility. It may require more manual effort and a higher learning curve. The choice ultimately hinges on specific needs, expertise, and the level of control desired in the dashboard creation process.

If you want to create a dashboard quickly without coding, Databrain might be a better alternative to your needs. 

Learn More:

Embedded BI Implementation Best Practices

1. Define Clear Objectives

Clearly define your objectives and goals for the embedded BI implementation. Understand the specific insights and analytics your users need. 

With Databrain, leverage advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities to define objectives such as predictive modeling, anomaly detection, and real-time data analysis.

2. Understand User Needs  

Know your audience and understand the needs of your end-users. Tailor the embedded BI solution to address their specific requirements. 

Databrain offers customization options, and interactive components can be seamlessly embedded in web applications, allowing you to align the solution with user preferences and needs.

3. Ensure Data Quality and Security

Prioritize data quality and security. Implement measures to ensure the accuracy, consistency, and security of data used in embedded BI. 

With Databrain, rest assured as it follows robust security protocols and provides authentication mechanisms to ensure secure access to advanced analytics and machine learning functionalities.

4. Select the Right BI Tools

Choose BI tools that align with your organization's goals, technical requirements, and user preferences. Databrain contributes to a comprehensive solution by offering a specialized platform for advanced analytics and machine learning, complementing traditional BI tools.

5. Focus on User Experience

Prioritize a user-friendly interface and seamless user experience. Embed BI content in a way that feels native to the existing application. 

Databrain facilitates this by providing JavaScript SDKs and RESTful APIs to embed the advanced analytics components seamlessly, ensuring a cohesive and intuitive user experience.

6. Scalability Considerations   

Plan for scalability to accommodate future growth in data volume and user base. Databrain is designed for scalability, allowing your organization to handle increasing data loads and user interactions with advanced analytics.

7. Regularly Update and Maintain

Stay current with updates and maintenance to ensure your embedded BI solution remains secure and performs optimally. 

Databrain contributes to this best practice by continuously updating its platform and providing new features, security enhancements, and performance improvements.

8. Implement Proper Authentication

Implement secure authentication mechanisms to control access to BI content and features. 

Databrain provides authentication features, ensuring only authorized users can interact with advanced analytics and machine learning functionalities embedded in your application.

9. Document Integration Processes

Document the integration processes for transparency and ease of maintenance. 

Databrain assists with this by offering comprehensive API documentation, making it easier for developers to understand and integrate advanced analytics and machine learning functionalities into their applications.

10. Monitor and Optimize Performance

Implement monitoring tools to track the performance of embedded BI components and optimize as needed. 

Databrain provides performance optimization features, ensuring advanced analytics and machine learning functionalities operate efficiently within the embedded environment.


Open-source Embedded Business Intelligence (BI) offers cost-effective customization and community collaboration but brings integration complexities and skill requirements. 

Databrain excels in streamlined dashboard development and domain-specific functionality. Traditional web technologies provide control but involve a steeper learning curve.

Implementing Embedded BI demands strategic planning, addressing challenges like security concerns and limited support in open source. Databrain's integration involves defining objectives, understanding user needs, ensuring data quality, selecting the right tools, focusing on user experience, scalability, regular updates, authentication, documentation, and performance optimization.

In conclusion, navigating the open-source BI landscape requires careful consideration, and tools like Databrain, coupled with best practices, empower organizations for data-driven decision-making in the competitive business landscape.

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