The next wave in BI

Pentaho, quo vadis?

05/10/2009 12:54

The acquisition

Today Pentaho announced the acquisition of parts of the LucidEra BI solution (formerly called 'ClearView') to replace the current OLAP client JPivot. For the past couple of years JPivot has been the ugly duck in the Pentaho BI solution but although there are better/prettier open source OLAP clients available (e.g. JPalo) it was never replaced by something better, nor has there been done much work to improve JPivot. But don't get me wrong: JPivot has a lot of nice features and is fine for some basic OLAP stuff. To do any complex stuff however (or even quite simple things like adding a calculated member), you'd have to master the MDX language. Oh, and did I already mention that it's ugly? So there was some pressure in getting a better piece of software in place, especially since Jaspersoft has had a nice drag & drop OLAP gui for some time already. So from a competitive point of view, acquiring the LucidEra software was a very good idea. On the other hand, adding it as a closed piece of software might raise some eyebrows here and there...

Enterprise Edition only

At first sight it looks like Pentaho is following Jaspersofts lead in becoming an 'open core', instead of an 'open source' vendor, meaning that the basic stuff is open source, but the advanced components like the nice OLAP client and the Dashboard Builder are only available in the paid Enterprise Edition. That's not necessarily a bad thing; the Enterprise Edition was always intended for companies who needed a) full support, b) ease of use and c) additional features, especially in the area of deployment & managability. Adding a better and more user friendly OLAP client fits in the strategy of adding value to the Enterprise Edition, as would adding a new web based ad-hoc reporting component. After all, without customers willing to pay for your software or services any company would be out of business pretty soon. Still, I think acquiring this product and releasing it as an EE only component shows a couple of things:

  • Customers are apparently not interested in paying for a supported full open source product plus services without getting additional features
  • Pentaho apparently wasn't able to either enhance Jpivot or build a better solution itself, internally or with the help of the community, within a reasonable amount of time.

Community efforts

It was not only Pentaho the company that was looking for a better OLAP client; the community has been working on this as well. During the last Pentaho Community Meeting in Barcelona Tom Barber and Paul Stoellberger presented the current state and future development plans of PAT (Pentaho Analysis Tool). Since then they've been working feverishly to have the 0.5 version ready for presenting it at the upcoming Community Webex meeting on October 7. To give you an idea of what PAT will look like, here's a screenshot of the tool and the first chart produced. Please note that this is a flash chart (unlike in Jpivot and ClearView) which will be drillable in the 1.0 release (currently there are no drillable charts in Jpivot nor ClearView)

What's next?

It'll be interesting to see how the Pentaho BI Suite will evolve and keep both the community and the paying audience happy (and thus, the company financially healthy). Pentaho is one of the rare open source/open core companies that actively seek cooperation with their community, and many new developments have been initiated by the community and were later adopted by Pentaho. And in contrast with other BI suites (whether open or closed source) you can build a complete BI solution with the community edition of the Pentaho suite (as Roland Bouman and I showed in our book 'Pentaho Solutions'), including ETL, OLAP, Data Mining, (interactive) Reporting and Dashboards. And maybe the acquired OLAP tools will trigger the PAT team to build an even better solution, but than as a Community version. Long time community member Pedro Alves already showed them how to do that: the Community Dashboard Framework (CDF) and the more recent CDF Editor may require a bit more work in setting things up, but are capable of creating far more powerful solutions than currently achievable with the Enterprise Edition Dashboard Builder. So for now, kudos to Pentaho for acquiring a nice piece of software to be added to the Enterprise Edition (and for offering it free of charge to both existing and new customers!), and hopefully these developments don't stop Tom and Paul from delivering an even better solution with PAT.


ps. it seems that James Dixon (CTO of Pentaho) was writing a blog simultaneously which makes for a great complimentary read. He clarifies some of the doubts I expressed in my post and he's right on the mark. The part I like best is quoted here (underlining by me):

"The open core model only works if the open source software is full-featured and valuable. If it is not there will be no community, and no community contributions. Without this the development costs will be the same as with a proprietary development model and the company will fail."



Topic: Pentaho, quo vadis?

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Date: 10/10/2009

By: Sylvain Decloix

Subject: An integrator vision...

Hi Jos,

Your post is very interesting because it raises important points about Pentaho strategy.
First, let me tell you that I am in a french company (Atol CD) that sells service on Pentaho since 4 years...
We started doing this with Kettle, one of the full brilliant ETL open source (Talend Open Studio is another one) and we do the same for the Pentaho BI server Community Edition since 1.7.

This leads me to several thoughts :

A/ On our way, we contribute to the promotion and the implementation of the Pentaho platform (Kettle & BI Server), but we never sold any enterprise version...
The reason for this was that until now there were only little difference between CE and EE versions.
(As you write in your post, it's possible to do the same dashboards in 3.0 EE and with the Pentaho CDF)

B/ But I agree with Matt: Having another nice OLAP option available to EE customers is a great thing !
In this case, as an OSBI integrator, I could play my full part and there are 2 options:
=> 1: sell service and training for customers who want the benefits of the CE version without spending money (buy server licenses)
=> 2: sell Enterprise Edition for customers who wants a very nice full package and allow Pentaho to earn money because of the quality and the richness of its product

Pentaho's business model is clear and perfect in my opinion, we should just remember one thing, the CE version should always present the same basic features as EE version (Unlike Jasper...)

James Dixon is absolutely right in sayings "The open core model only works if the open source software is full-featured and valuable".

It's a great thing for the future of Pentaho and those who use it



Date: 10/10/2009

By: Jos van Dongen

Subject: Re: An integrator vision...

Hi Sylvain,

Thanks for your comments! It's a tough balancing act a company like Pentaho has to do and I admire them for the way they have been doing that over the past years by building a strong community on the one hand while on the other hand offer an attractive solution for which Enterprise customers are willing to pay. It's a two edged sword: without commercial success, there's no company to serve the community, and without a strong community, offering a competitive commercial solution isn't possible. So as much as the purist in me would like to see a 100% FOSS BI software stack, this is the way it is and probably the only way Pentaho (or any commercial OS vendor for that matter) can prosper.



Date: 05/10/2009

By: Matt Casters

Subject: Other option

Hi Jos,

you seemed to think that Pentaho had the choise of releasing ClearView as open source. I'm not sure that this option was even on the table or doable in such a short period of time.

Also, I'm not sure I agree with the viewpoint that our EE customers should simply stick with JPivot indefinitely or until PAT is usable. What kind of pressure does that put on the PAT team? Or do you propose that Pentaho performs some kind of hostile take-over of the PAT code? None of those options sound too good to be honest.

No, having another nice OLAP option available to our customers is a great thing. Since nothing got closed sourced or anything "evil" like that, the open source community is not in any position to question the move at all.

Personally I think that the only conclusion you can draw from this acquisition is that it's absolutely great you can buy the rights to a 3rd party piece of software as complex as ClearView and integrate it into the Pentaho BI stack in a a few months of time. It shows the strength of both ClearView and the Pentaho BI stack in that regard.

It's this integration strength that's import for any BI platform out there, not just the integrated tools themselves.

Talk to you soon,



Date: 05/10/2009

By: Jos van Dongen

Subject: Re: Other option

Hi Matt,

I don't think open sourcing Clearview was a viable option, and as things are right now, it seems like we are getting the best of both worlds: the community is still very well served with JPivot and the upcoming PAT, while EE customers get great additional value from ClearView. And I agree on the strength of the platform; being able to integrate an acquired piece of software in a matter of weeks (not months) proves the power of the plugin architecture.

best, Jos


Date: 05/10/2009

By: Cristian Orellana C.

Subject: About ClearView and Pat

Nice read,

as Tom said, I was hoping for PAT to become the replacement for JPivot. Maybe it will for CE version, who knows ;)


Date: 05/10/2009

By: Tom Barber

Subject: PAT Development

Interesting read Jos, it is indeed a shame the Pentaho guys couldn't hold off a little longer/throw some resources at PAT, but thats the way the cookie crumbles. Anyway PAT will sometime soon be a market leading analysis tool ;) We will be sticking to our roots though and shipping an installer or something for the community edition.