Saturday, May 20, 2006

Checking out the Pentaho Open Source BI Platform

Recently, I've started checking out the Pentaho open source BI (Business Intelligence) platform. .

So far I'm really impressed about their demo environment.

Clearly, it reveals the ambition of being a top notch BI platform - not just the umpteenth tool. It integrates virtually all of the functionalities associated with BI Projects (ETL, Reporting, Graphing, OLAP, Business Rules Integration, Bursting, Output Formatting for Excel/PDF/Web, Dashboarding) with a workflow engine (Shark) and this really offers an edge.

Pentaho claims that traditional BI usually fails because the perspective of what entails a solution to a business process is just too narrow. A typical BI solution is a product like a report or a datawarehouse - period, end of story. The people behind Pentaho take a more organic view:

  1. a Business Problem is a Problem that has to do with the Business Processes.

  2. The solution to that problem is an alteration/modification of Business Processes

  3. Business intelligence forms just a part of that solution - NOT the solution in itself.

  4. BI can play it's part more succesfull is it integrates with the business process

  5. Pentaho has all the facilities to implement that integration

Literally everything inside Pentaho should be coupled to a business process. To support this, it's built entirely as a Service Oriented Architecture, making it easy to integrate.

I think that taking a sophisticated view like pentaho does, really candidates this platform as a true competitor to the larger Vendors, and I'm thinking of Microsoft and Cognos. I don't think Pentaho is yet as mature, but it's got a lot going for it.

I showed it off to the managers at the office, and guess what! I can present my findings, and tell the rest of our BI unit about this. I hope I can make some waves there...


Anonymous said...


What does Pentaho mean when they say integration with 'Business Rules'. Is there a business rules engine connected to the project, or is there are area that specifies business rules?

rpbouman said...

Hi Tom,

Good question! I admit right away that I don't know from real world experience - haven't had time to check it out.

Sofar, I checked out the demo environment only briefly, and the business rules samples there did not immediately give me a good understanding of how to use these features.

However, the documentation claims suggests you can hook up several business rules engines:

The definition of the platform processes are externally defined, but what about the rules that govern the
workflow? XPDL has built in support for complex routing control, and we have added support for multiple
rules engines so business logic can be integrated easily into the processes. Multiple rules engines are
supported and required because it is unlikely the logic for every decision in every process can be defined
easily by only one rules engine.
(page 2)

So it seems that Business Rules can and should be used to control the workflows.

On page 7, there's an overview of the architecture. This suggests that Pentaho provides an interface to define business rules, and that one is free to plug in several business rules engines to guard them. The overview also suggests that pentaho comes with at least some sort of business rules engine.

Anyway, I will be examining Pentaho and reading the docs during the weekend and next week. When I've learnt some more I will probably drop a note of my findings.

Anonymous said...

Roland, hi.

I´m Francisco Sotomayor, from Chile.

Any other findings about Business Rules or Workflow engine?
I´m starting to learn more about pentaho´s arquitecture, but this concepts are, some how, theory and not to many examples.

Excuse my english :D

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