Pentaho Visit : Day 3

This is the first time that Pentaho has engaged partners and customers directly in this sort of classroom training. Needless to say today was a bit of a challenge in terms of getting the examples to work properly, make tweaks, do some very rough exercises to get to know the platform a bit better. I’ve met with many engineering teams across organizations, nationalities, geographies, and industries and suffice to say many have lots of issues and politics going way back. It is always nice to see a team that gets along, has a sense for that right amount of “right” versus “ship it” mentality and I think Pentaho has that balance. Their engineers have helped move Open Source BI along further than I would have thought six months ago…

On that note… the product is still quite technical. They have a workbench (refer to yesterdays post) that provides just one layer of abstraction on the XML document solution. It’s an earnest effort, but falls short of any product based “BI Solution Builder” that I’ve seen. Time of course… Time, and money. Like any product still in it’s maturing phase it will improve…Version 1.0 shares the vision, builds the evangelists in the early adoptors. Version 2.0 is the robust product, right? (Did anyone actually find Windows version 1.0 intuitive and mature)?

We created our own “Action Sequence” today… These are the composite pieces of a reporting solution (run a query, iterate and print reports, and email). While the engine appears to execute the XML based documents properly and well, building these files using the workbench took some efforts. Many in the class found it easier to pop behind the scenes and just edit the documents directly. That being said, the power behind the architecture selected is compelling. With an XML solution of about 50 lines we were able to build define a solution that:

  1. Received a parmeter request (customer_id) from JBoss
  2. Queried a web service to determine which business unit that account is managed by
  3. Build a query based on the specifics of the business unit (Canada needs this query, US needs this one)
  4. Executed that query
  5. Built a PDF report based on the results using a JFreeReport template
  6. Delivered it back to the browser

The core of their product is pretty robust, and I think they have significant competitve advantage (not even just Open Source) with their report delivery intelligence. Pretty cool stuff… Does anyone know of any other BI product with intelligent workflow report processing (flows, cases, loops, web services, etc)?

We covered scheduling components. This is a feature need in the platform, but I wasn’t all that jazzed about it. It uses Quartz, and follows a pretty basic schedule, restart, pause, etc. I think it’s value add to the project, but not exactly anything I get excited about.

We also discussed OLAP, Mondrian integration, and what that looks like under the Pentaho umbrella. I wasn’t expecting much, because Pentaho is clearly focused on delivering reporting features. There really isn’t much in there in this regard, apart from the already good project work to date by the Mondrian/JPivot projects. There were some simple integrations into the platform, but it really isn’t that different from what you get if used these seperately. Most of the other pieces of the platform there is a clear roadmap (we plan on building feature X in Q2), however the OLAP/Crosstab pieces there was some uncertainty other than “we know it’s not great, but we’ll continue to improve.” I’m hopeful that I might be able to make a contribution here, but I don’t exactly know how.

Tommorrow we get into the star schema, and ETL side of the house…

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