Birst offers concurrent user pricing for BI

Analyst: It's something BI vendors really 'hate to do'

On-demand BI vendor Birst announced Tuesday that it is now offering the option of concurrent user pricing, a licensing model few BI providers use because it can limit the amount of money they make compared to typical "named user" pricing.

Under the concurrent user model, customers pay for the total number of seats they want to have available for Birst's software at any given time. If all the seats are being used, additional workers have to wait until one opens up. This model can result in big savings for companies that want to give many employees access to BI (business intelligence) tools, but only once in a while.

While most Birst customers end up signing subscription deals in one-year increments, month-to-month arrangements are also possible, adding even more flexibility, according to CEO Brad Peters.

Beyond lost licensing dollars, it is "extraordinarily difficult" for on-premises BI vendors to make sure concurrent user agreements remain in compliance, Peters said. But that's not the case with Birst's SaaS (software as a service) model, since its platform handles the access and provisioning, he added.

Birst expects the concurrent model to appeal to companies with "large distributed work forces that need to get information out to them in a more casual way," Peters said. "People with large field forces, either service or sales field forces. That's where we've seen huge interest."

In terms of cost, for a customer with "10 hard-core users using [Birst] all day long," the named user license model is preferable, while the concurrent approach would be better for those with "10,000 users, using it once a week," Peters said. He declined to provide more specific pricing details.

One observer gave a thumbs up to Birst's announcement, but with tempered expectations.

"Concurrent user pricing is something that all BI vendors hate to do. But they do it for enterprise-level deals," said Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson. "So it's nothing new, but it is indeed a highly desirable feature."

"If a large BI vendor would announce concurrent user pricing, that would be a very big deal," he added. "Birst is too tiny to influence anyone. But if it's a beginning of a trend, it's interesting to watch."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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