If open source did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it, if only to deal with the ragbag collection of data formats out there.
For open source has a unique flexibility and extensibility not generally available to proprietary programs, which allows it to cope with most applications and situations. This makes it ideal as a kind of software “glue” for stitching together pre-existing computer systems, which were created in an ad-hoc way with little thought of any eventual need to make them talk efficiently to each other.
This powerful feature of open source was pretty much the driving force behind the creation of the data integration company Talend. Here its cofounder and CEO, Bertrand Diard, talks eloquently about the genesis of his company, open source's unique advantages in this sphere, the state of free software in his native France, and just why Talend decided to snuggle up to Microsoft last year.
GM: What was your background in computing before you founded Talend?
BD: Prior to Talend, I managed a Business Unit at a large systems integrator implementing a proprietary data integration solution. There, my fellow co-founder, Fabrice Bonan (Talend’s COO) and I became extremely well-versed in data integration technologies. Realising the limitations of proprietary solutions—expensive; lengthy learning curve; vendor dependencies — we decided to enter the open space arena.
This was a period when open source was gaining a lot of traction in the IT arena — specifically in the database, operating system and application server spaces. The technology had yet to gain visibility in middleware and business applications. The company’s intent was to shatter the traditional proprietary model and make data integration accessible to enterprises of all sizes, and for all their data integration needs.
GM: When did you first come across open source, and what did you think of it?
BD: Open source has been around since the 1970s, but commercial open source software companies as we know them today only started to emerge in 2003. In late 2005, when Talend was founded, the data integration market was dominated by a handful of proprietary vendors who were—and still are—charging very high prices. Costs for proprietary systems were in the neighbourhood of $500,000. Informatica, the leading solution on the market at the time, has only acquired 3,000 customers in 15, years whereas Talend’s products have been downloaded 3.3 million times in just over 2 years and the company counts at least 200,000 active users.
Today’s economic crisis favours enterprise-ready open source players and Talend is set to democratise data integration. A lot of companies can’t afford the premium prices of the proprietary solutions. And, it’s not just smaller companies; even large enterprises can’t afford to deploy proprietary solutions for every single project.
This is true in data integration/ETL for business intelligence and analytics, and even more true for operational data integration, (i.e., when organisations need to move data between systems. A lot of these processes are developed manually—people writing programs, scripts with all kinds of languages—and are costly to develop and difficult to maintain. Open source is really the alternative that IT departments need to deploy and maintain their data integration solutions.