Project of the Month, October 2006

Pentaho - Business Intelligence Logo

Project leaders:

Name: Doug MoranDoug Moran
Title: Founder and Lead Architect
Education: BS Computer Engineering, MS Electrical Engineering
Location: Orlando, FL

Name: James DixonJames Dixon
Title: Founder and CTO, a.k.a. “Chief Geek”
Location: Orlando, FL

Name: Marc BatchelorMarc Batchelor
Title: Founder and Lead Architect
Education: Just a really smart guy
Location: Orlando, FL

Name: Anthony de ShazorAnthony de Shazor
Title: Director of Application Development
Location: Orlando, FL

Name: William SeylerWilliam Seyler
Title: Senior Software Engineer
Education: School of Hard Knocks
Location: Orlando, FL

Name: Gretchen Moran
Title: Pentaho Community Developer
Education: BS Computer Information Systems
Location: Orlando, FL

Why did you place the project on SourceForge.net?

Sf.net is the center of the open source universe. It was a no-brainer.

How has SourceForge.net helped you?

Exposure to numerous communities, excellent hosting facilities, and all for free!

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:

Distribution and visibility – as soon as our project was on SourceForge, we knew we had a global audience, and that people looking for open source BI would find us.

Description of project

The Pentaho BI Project provides enterprise-class reporting, analysis, dashboard, data mining, and workflow capabilities that help organizations operate more efficiently and effectively. The software offers flexible deployment options that enable use as embeddable components, customized BI application solutions, and as a complete out-of-the-box, integrated BI platform.

Trove info

  • Developers : 15
  • Database Environment : JDBC, MySQL, Firebird/InterBase, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL (pgsql)
  • Development Status : 4 – Beta, 5 – Production/Stable
  • Intended Audience : Advanced end users, developers, financial and insurance industry, government, healthcare industry, information technology
  • License : Mozilla Public License 1.1 (MPL 1.1)
  • Operating System : OS-independent (Written in an interpreted language)
  • Programming Language : Java, JavaScript, JSP, XSL (XSLT/XPath/XSL-FO)
  • Topic : Enterprise, Data Warehousing, ERP, OLAP
  • Translations : Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified), Dutch, English, French, Spanish
  • User Interface : Java SWT, Eclipse, Web-based

Why and how did you get started?

Many of the original project team have been in EIS/DSS/BI for over 20 years. By making superior BI freely available, we can be a part of the biggest worldwide proliferation and adoption of BI ever.

What is the software’s intended audience?

Both a technical audience -– developers, architects, administrators — and a business audience –- casual and power users who want reports, analysis, and dashboards.

How many people do you believe are using your software?

We’re now seeing more than 85,000 downloads a month, with more than a million lifetime downloads. In terms of total end users for all Pentaho projects, it’s more than 100,000.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

We have one company that is using Pentaho for analysis of airline capacity information, helping them fill their airplanes with customers. Fewer planes leaving with empty seats gives them a huge ROI. We have another company using Pentaho in an extranet allowing their customers to report on their own data. Before Pentaho, customers had to call the company and request specialized reports. The savings for them was also huge. Cendant implemented Pentaho reporting as a solution for its travel agency portal. They rolled out to thousands of travel agents and were a 2006 JBoss Innovation Award winner. DivX is using Pentaho to integrate multiple streams of consumer purchasing information from Fireclick, Asknet, and others for sales reporting.

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

Marc: I was certain the project was going to be successful when I realized that people were using it in ways we hadn’t thought of, but the design was sound enough to accommodate their use cases without our intervention.

Anthony: The trend of increasing downloads, the noted executives joining our team, and the amount of Pentaho news buzz.

Doug: When we first started, if you Googled “Pentaho” it would return two links and ask if you meant “Pentagon.” Not long after our first release on SourceForge, Google returned over 10,000 hits with reviews, blogs, news, etc.

Gretchen: The number of downloads started at around 5,000 in August 2005 and has grown steadily to more than 85,000 per month (including all Pentaho projects).

What has been your biggest surprise?

Marc: How much positive feedback we’ve received on the project.

William: How well-engineered the platform is. It was easy to integrate new features and changes without disrupting the codeline.

Anthony: The growth and activity of our community has been a welcomed surprise.

Doug: How quickly people started contributing. In the beginning it was translations of documentation and product.

James: The encouragement and contributions from our community and the number of translations that people have contributed.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Marc: Balancing flexability with ease of use. We’ve purposely designed the project from the ground up to make everything possible first. After that, we’re adding ease-of-use features. Usually, projects focus on ease of use off the bat, and sacrifice capabilities in the process.

Anthony: I’ve had issues adjusting to the open source view of the world. The release early and often mantra has been hard for me to swallow. I’m used to keeping a product in-house until all issues have been resolved.

Doug: Keeping up with the rapid growth of the platform. The growth is not only from writing new features. We have been bringing other open source projects under the Pentaho umbrella: Mondrian, JFreeReports, Kettle, Weka. This translates into exponential growth, and has been exciting, exhausting, and challenging.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

Marc: Because of its inherent flexibility.

William: Because we are filling a vacuum. Other BI projects aren’t as complete or wide-ranging as the Pentaho platform. We also try to be responsive to our community. They’ve driven much of our roadmap and we spend a lot of effort trying to anticipate their needs.

Doug: The current tools in the BI market are very expensive. Most small and medium-sized companies can’t afford them. In addition to the value, the Pentaho platform spans most of the BI space.

Gretchen: It is the best alternative to closed-source, proprietary BI products. We work very closely with our community to make sure we’re delivering the right features.

Where do you see your project going?

Marc: I see us regularly unseating proprietary BI software vendors in the near future. They won’t use our stuff because it’s free, they’ll use it because it’s better!

William: We’re already becoming a viable option to the big boys (Hyperion, Cognos, Business Objects, etc.). I think it is just a matter of time before we become the platform of choice.

Gretchen: Continuing to dominate and being the de facto open source BI project and soon becoming the favorite in BI period.

What’s on your project wish list?

Unification of charting in the platform.

What are you most proud of?

Marc: The fact that it’s been so well-regarded.

William: How much high-quality code we’ve generated as a team over the last year and a half and the inroads we’ve made into the business community.

Doug: The people I work with are top-notch. I am most proud of them!

James: The architecture is really cool.

If you could change something about the project, what would it be?

James: The name. We have more than five “ho”s now.

Gretchen: An easier name for people to pronounce!

How do you coordinate the project?

We assign development and testing tasks based upon each developer’s skill and passion. For example, a task involving a particular technology would be assigned to a developer who is either skilled or interesting in learning the technology.

Each milestone and release must pass a set of regression or acceptable quality tests. Most of these are associated with samples we provide with the application. We supplement those by retesting strategic issues known to be resolved.

We also rally the community for development and testing cycles, polling for requirements, feedback, bug reports, fixes, and forum support.

What is your development environment like?

We use a variety of operating systems, specifically Windows, Max OS X, and Linux. We’ve found that developing on the various platforms helps to uncover any OS-specific assumptions made during design or implementation. Eclipse is our IDE for development. Some of the developers use MyEclipse and others use the JBoss plugins for Eclipse.

Milestones:

Past

  • Code Launch of the Pentaho BI Project, June 2005
  • JFreeReport Project Joins Pentaho as Pentaho Reporting, September 2005
  • Launch of Pentaho Design Studio, November 2005
  • Mondrian Project Joins Pentaho as Pentaho OLAP Server, November 2005
  • 1.0 GA available, December 20, 2005
  • Launch of Pentaho Report Design Wizard, January 2006
  • Kettle Project Joins Pentaho as Pentaho Data Integration, April 2006
  • Contribution of the once commercial Report Designer, June 1, 2006
  • Release Candidate for the 1.2 release available, July 14, 2006
  • Weka Project Joins Pentaho as Pentaho Data Mining, September 2006

Future

  • Release Candidate 3 for 1.2 should be available in early October.

How can others contribute?

See our list at http://community.pentaho.org/involved/. To get involved with the Pentaho project, the first thing you should do is download the demo and take it for a spin. Then check out the Web site, join the forums, and decide where your skills best fit our project. While writing code for the project is an enormous contribution of time, effort, and intellectual sweat-equity, we value feedback, case studies, documentation, forum participation, testing, and internationalization efforts as well. If you can’t find a place where you fit in, contact communityconnection@pentaho.org and tell us you’re interested in participating, and we will help you get started.

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