Pentaho Fat Clients: Breaking into Double Digits

Business Intelligence is a complex diverse space. There’s a bunch of technologies that typically need to be combined together to get a comprehensive, end to end solution.

One of the things that I believe is confusing for users of Pentaho is the sheer volume of clients that are available to “quickly and easily” build your solution. The quickly and easily is predicated on the fact that if you need to build a “prompt” for a report, you know which of the fat clients to fire up. Want to dynamically hide a field? In order to do that you have to know that’s in a different fat client.

I know of at least 10 different good ole fashioned, download and install to your desktop clients that you’d use if you were doing a full, soup to nuts everything used Pentaho installation.

  • Design Studio
  • Report Designer
  • Report Design Wizard
  • Mondrian Workbench
  • Pentaho Metadata Editor
  • Spoon (Kettle)
  • Cube Designer
  • Weka Explorer
  • Weka Experimenter
  • <<new fat client Pentaho hasn’t announced yet>>

This is no easy challenge to solve for Pentaho. Part of the open source mantra includes making each of the individual projects (Kettle/Mondrian/Weka/etc) useful on their own, without some big Pentaho installation. What that means is a challenge to make a UI/designer/etc that works “standalone” but could also be included in some master development environment? That’s tough, and to date Pentaho has made only modest steps at this (Wizard inside of Designer).

I have no good advice for Pentaho in this regard. There’s a very good reason for keeping them as separate installations and I think it shows respect to the individual communities. However, this is an issue for people coming to Pentaho as a full BI suite. Does anyone have any good ideas on how to solve this pickle of a problem? We should all help Pentaho with this as it benefits everyone to come up with a good way to approach the development tools (as a suite and as individual products).

PS – My $HOME/dev/pentaho directory is littered with old installations. Every time Pentaho goes from 1.6.0 GA to 1.6.1 GA the only way to ensure you’re getting the correctly matched versions is to upgrade all those clients.

7 thoughts on “Pentaho Fat Clients: Breaking into Double Digits

  1. Joseph A. di Paolantonio

    Nick, this somewhat reminds me of MS Office approach to their suite vs. the approach. MS Office requires that you launch MS Word or Excel or Powerpoint or whatever separately. With the open source suite, you launch the suite from which you can open any type of file or start a new Text Document or Spreadsheet or Presentation or Drawing or Database… which then launches Writer or Calc or Impress or Draw or Base…

    I’m sure you got the idea many words ago 😉

    A plugin architecture with a common framework & UI.

  2. BI Engineer

    While I can understand the frustration that can come with installing multiple fat clients in order to build a “soup to nuts”, “end to end” solution. This is not only an issue with open source. If you look at any proprietary vendor that has a stack even capable of developing an end to end solution (which is there really any out there as comprehensive as Pentaho) you will find that the way they accomplish this is by having to really on a series of many different applications and even supplement with other technology. Fact is that implementing a soup to nuts BI is a very complicated endeavor. Additionally, most companies already have taken steps in building BI applications, so in order to meet the needs of any company, I agree with what you said, it is beneficial to keep most of it separate.

  3. John Sequeira

    I believe that Eclipse is currently the leading technology addressing the need for composable rich client UI’s… getting the various pentaho communities to support Eclipse, however, might make it not the solution.

  4. Fabio

    di Pauloantonio has given the solution. I can imagine how well that would work. Go for it, tribesfolk!

  5. Patrick Choi

    I think all that’s necessary is a somewhat “smart” launch pad application that recognizes the current version of your Pentaho BI Suite.

    So say you wanted to develop Kettle + Pentaho 1.6x, then it would download (if not installed) + launch Kettle 2.52. If you wanted to do Reporting on 1.70GA, it would run Report Writer 1.7x and so forth.

    This would be a really nice way to ensure you have components that work together as intended (i.e. Kettle 3 doesn’t play nice with 1.60) and it saves the users from trying to sort out the versioning mess.

  6. joe

    not sure it can or should be solved. I’m a die-hard Pentaho fan but the pieces and parts are at different levels of maturity – some I bet my livelyhood on, others I play with.

    With Kettle or Mondian, a new release is almost always a good thing, with some of the other components, I’m very reluctant to jump on a new release because – though the overall progress is always forward – new releases can go backwards.

    Not at all a criticism, but a reality that comes with moving as fast as Pentaho and its projects have.

  7. Ben

    all the different clients have been frustrating for me too. It took me A WHILE to figure out which one to use for what. I think it’s fine to have different tools for different jobs (ETL, Reporting, …). But I would like to see the Schema Workbench integrated into the Metadata Editor because in some ways you do the same tasks (defining your underlying data) in both tools. And creating your Mondrian Schema out of your Metadata would be very nice too.


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