A Plug for the PLUG

May 24, 2011

On Thursday, May 19, I was a fly on the wall at the third Pentaho London User Group (PLUG) meeting hosted by Dan Keeley and Tom Barber.  Here’s Dan opening the meeting, spurred on by a little ‘flower power’:

The theme for this meeting was column-oriented databases.

Tom kicked off the proceedings with a short demo of WebDetails CDF (community dashboard framework), a Pentaho extension for making light work of building dashboards.  You can read more about this in Tom’s blog.

Next, we fastened our seatbelts for a lively presentation by special guest John Smedley of Ingres, who briefed us on VectorWise, an exciting open source community project originating from the University of Amsterdam, later acquired by Ingres, for processing data at 10X -75X faster over traditional databases. It achieves this by tapping into the power of modern commodity CPUs with a database engine that leverages vector-based processing and on-chip memory.

John’s priceless quote of the evening: “de-normalizing can make your life easier”.  (Hey, I’m no database techie, but I can get down with that sentiment)

This was about the only time John stood still long enough for me to take his picture:

The evening concluded with an Academy Awards-style recorded video demonstration hosted by Nick Goodman, CEO of Seattle-based Pentaho partner DynamoDB.  Nick walked us through LucidDB, billed as the only open source database purpose-built from day one for doing business intelligence.  Among the interesting things Nick showed us was how DynamoDB allows users to perform ‘back-in-time’ queries based on data sets from an earlier time period, reminiscent of the Wayback Machine.  LucidDB’s columnar storage means data can be compressed into a much smaller space that with traditional database structures.

The meeting was generously hosted by Skills Matter, an organisation that supports the Agile and Open Source developer community through free events, training courses, conferences and publishing.

PLUG needs your support and involvement to flourish, so if you’re in the Southeast and want to take part or recommend a theme for the next meeting, visit here or contact Dan Keeley.

The next meeting will be held in September or October  - we hope to see you there!

Sarah Lafferty
Director and co-founder
Round Earth Consulting


Pentaho trip to Gatorland

May 18, 2011

Earlier this month, the sales and marketing teams gathered at the Pentaho Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, Florida for training, meetings and of course some fun.

Our surprise outing was to Gatorland. The night was a first time experience for all of us coming from around the world. From holding tarantulas, gator wrestling and gator feeding, we had a blast. Click here to check out photos from the event. It will give you a better explanation behind the title of this blog, BI from the Swamp!


This was also a great opportunity to bring the company together at the “West Campus,” the Miller Ale House for a company-wide happy hour. Click here for more photos from the event.



What does the economic buyer of Agile BI know that you don’t?

May 18, 2011

Agile is a familiar term to product managers and software developers who are looking to build rapid prototypes and iterate through software development life cycles fairly quickly and effectively.

With recent market trends, Agile has now made it to the agenda of the economic BI buyer. If you are a CFO, CIO, or CEO, and have been hearing about Agile BI in the industry, you are probably looking to quantify the benefits of Agile BI in terms of direct cost savings.

As a CxO you know that your Business Intelligence costs are mainly driven by these 4 areas:

  1. License acquisition costs
  2. Skill development and training
  3. Project deployment duration and man hours
  4. Ongoing cost of change management once the solution is deployed

The question is whether Agile BI can save you costs in any of these categories? While Agile BI can immediately imply faster deployment of the BI solution (#3 above), in Pentaho we add value in all the 4 areas. Here is how:

  1. Consolidation of licenses: Any BI implementation requires some form of Data Integration, Data Warehousing/Data Mart development, and Data Visualization (Reports, Analysis, and Dashboards). Current BI vendors in the market have disparate products for each of these areas, and offer each product at a separate license acquisition and maintenance cost. Pentaho provides great value in this area as it includes all these components in “one” subscription to Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition, giving you an ultimate price tag that is by far a fraction of the cost of other BI tools in the market.
  2. Collapsing skill sets into one: Each specialized tool mentioned above also requires a set of highly trained staff. In a traditional BI project, a crew of ETL Developers, DBAs, Data Modelers, and BI Developers were involved, each building one piece of the big puzzle. An all in one tool such as Pentaho BI Suite EE offers “one” single integrated tool set for all areas of BI development. This enables organizations to collapse the diverse skill sets into one. This level of self-sufficiency reduces the amount of IT staff that needs to be on board for building and maintaining a successful BI program.
  3. Rapid deployment – Pentaho offers an Agile Development Environment, as part of its BI Suite EE. This integrated data integration and business intelligence development environment turns data to decision in a matter of days as opposed to months/ years. Interactive data explorations and visualizations for slicing and dicing data across multiple sources are instantly auto-generated using this tool. Unlike a waterfall approach, this tool allows business and technical teams to build quick prototypes, and iterate upon that all within a unified workspace that empowers sharing, collaboration, and rapid results.
  4. Rapid change management – The need for quick turnarounds when adding additional business metrics or changing existing ones is a reality in BI deployments. When disparate tools are used, adding a new data source, or changing a metric, can take a long time. With Agile BI Development Environment, unique to Pentaho, any change to ETL flows or to the business semantic layer, is automatically reflected in the visualization layer (Reporting, Analysis, Dashboards). This helps organizations to quickly incorporate changes and adjust their BI solution to current business requirements, without long wait times and IT bottleneck delays.

Ready to start saving? How about this….try the Agile BI functionality of Pentaho BI Suite or Pentaho Data Integration for FREE (30-day supported enterprise evaluation). Ready now?

Farnaz Erfan
Product Marketing Manager
Pentaho Corporation


Q&A with Pentaho Senior Sales Engineer, Wayne Johnson

May 12, 2011

Q&A is a series on the Business Intelligence from the Swamp Blog that interviews key members of the Pentaho team to learn more about their focus at Pentaho and outlook on the Business Intelligence industry.

Our Q&A today is with Wayne Johnson, Senior Sales Engineer at Pentaho. When he’s not on webcast or in meetings with potential customers, Wayne is SuperDad to five kids, an adjunct college professor and competes in triathlons. To learn more about Wayne’s role at Pentaho and view on Business Intelligence we asked him four questions:

1.  What brought you to Pentaho?
Back in 2009 I was made aware of Pentaho by competing against them in an opportunity where I represented a proprietary BI Vendor.  When Pentaho approached me to discuss the possibility of joining their team, I was very apprehensive due to their business model.  I just didn’t understand it.  Instead of writing it off, I decided to do my research and started reading a book called Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams.  This book not only changed my view on Pentaho but no pun intended, it opened my eyes to the benefits of Open Source (it was also a plus that Pentaho was mentioned in the book).  So I decided to take a risk and jump on board.

2.  What do you do for Pentaho?
Currently I am a Senior Sales Engineer who specializes in managing the Evaluation Experiences our evaluators have with our software.  Opposed to proprietary BI Vendors, companies are encouraged to try our software out to see if it is a fit for their organization.  Anyone with even a little experience in BI knows, however, that downloading, installing and building solutions with Enterprise Software would require some hand holding.  That is where I come in.  I make sure that those people that are evaluating our software have access to the resources and people they need to be able to accurately and efficiently evaluate Pentaho successfully.

3. How do you define a successful evaluation?
You would probably think my answer to this question is simply, one that ends in a subscription to Pentaho:-)  A more accurate answer is: A successful evaluation is one that has provided the evaluator with enough information to make an informed decision on whether they can meet their business needs with the use of Pentaho.  While the majority of our prospects come to the conclusions that Pentaho is the right solution to meet their business needs, some organizations do come to the conclusions that it is not.  I view both evaluations as successful because we have kept the customer in mind and solving their business needs as a priority, not just trying to make a sale, that is something I take great pride in.

4.  What characteristics do successful evaluations have in common?
There are definitely some common characteristics that I have seen in companies being able to successfully evaluate not just Pentaho, but any enterprise software package.  These are:

  •  Clearly Identified Business Needs – As I stated earlier, that a successful evaluation determines the ability to solve a specific business need, knowing that need is vital to gauging whether or not the software package will meet that need.
  • Having a Plan – If you were to take a trip driving from San Francisco to New York, you can either just get in your car, head east until you hit the coast then drive north along the coast until you hit New York.  This method would prove to be very time consuming and costly, especially considering gas prices these days.  Similarly, evaluating a software solution to meet your clearly identified business needs without a plan will be very time consuming and costly, especially with the limited amount of time and resources most companies are struggling with today.  Additionally, you run the huge risk of making the “wrong turn” on your evaluation route.  Having a plan ensures that you keep your eye on the objectives and have concrete milestones to check off during your evaluation.  It will also help you make your decision once you have arrived at your destination.
  • Executing the Plan – this may require a custom demonstration from the software provider, a test drive of the software using sample data, an evaluation of the software in your environment using your own data or engaging with Professional Services in order to prove out your plan.  Each company’s needs are different and may require a different execution of their plan.  The important part is to seek out is a software provider that provides ALL of those plan execution methods and does not limit you to their plan.  The problem is that most don’t allow you to download, install and test the software yourself.  For this reason I really enjoy working here at Pentaho, not only do we give you access to download and test the software for free for 30 days, but we also provide you with free evaluation support for those 30 days.

By following these three best practices around evaluating Pentaho or any other enterprise level software, you are guaranteeing that no matter what the decision is, you will have a successful evaluation.

Do you have additional questions for Wayne? Is there someone or a certain role at Pentaho you would like us to interview? Leave your questions in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.


Pentaho’s support of EMC Greenplum HD – what it means and why you should care

May 12, 2011

On Monday we announced our support for the EMC Greenplum distribution of Hadoop called EMC Greenplum HD. You can read about all the details in our press release, Pentaho Makes Hadoop Faster, More Affordable and Easier to Use with EMC.

This week we have been at EMC World in Las Vegas as a sponsor in booth 211 (if you are at the conference come visit us). We’ve had a great crowd and interest in Pentaho BI Suite for Hadoop, Pentaho Data Integration for Hadoop and our new native support for the Greenplum Database GPLoad high performance bulk loader. Two questions that attendees keep asking are: “How is Pentaho supporting EMC Greenplum HD,” and “Why should I care?” You can read my answers below and more details about our announcement in the press release and Pentaho & EMC web page.

How Pentaho supports EMC Greenplum for Hadoop
Pentaho is the only EMC Greenplum partner to provide a complete BI solution from data integration through to reporting, analysis, dashboarding and data mining, from a single BI platform with shared metadata. Pentaho’s support and certification complements the Greenplum distribution of Hadoop by providing an end-to-end data integration and BI suite with the cost advantages of open source that enables:

  • An easy-to-use, graphical ETL environment for input, transformation, and output of Hadoop data;
  • Massively scalable deployment of ETL processing across the Hadoop cluster;
  • Coordination and execution of Hadoop tasks by enabling them to be managed from within the Pentaho management console;
  • Easy spinning off of high performance data marts for interactive analysis;
  • Integration of data from Hadoop with data from other sources for interactive analysis.

Why this is a good thing and how it changes the industry
EMC Greenplum, in combination with key technology partners, for the first time is giving the industry an integrated, supported and certified data management and BI stack that includes storage, a MapReduce framework for processing unstructured data, an analytic database, predictive analytics and business intelligence.

By combining Pentaho’s powerful BI suite with the strength of EMC Greenplum’s storage and data management domain expertise, the industry benefits from maximum data throughput and significantly shorter implementation cycles for new Hadoop deployments.

Already an industry leader in data and storage, EMC is now well-positioned to play a pivotal role in commercializing Hadoop and giving businesses a more cost-effective and simple way to perform advanced analytics in a massively scalable way. For Hadoop to truly get to the next level, it needs to be as easy-to-install and use as off-the-shelf software.

If you are interested to evaluate Pentaho BI Suite and Pentaho Data Integration for the EMC Greenplum distribution of Hadoop, contact us at Pentaho_EMC@pentaho.com

Ian Fyfe
Chief Technology Evangelist
Pentaho

Photos from the Pentaho booth at EMC World this week

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