Pentaho 4.8, a new release that focuses on Mobile BI and Big Data

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Pentaho, unlike most of the big BI vendors, is a BI specialist. I was introduced to Pentaho last year and was impressed. With the latest release, Pentaho continue to develop and strengthen their product’s capability. Business Intelligence is a demanding area, and the demand for more capable products is growing rapidly. Whilst the demand is for ever greater sophistication and availability, that is matched by a balancing desire for tools to become ever more intuitive, with the need for technical expertise being downplayed, whilst the ability to support a greater range of business decision making scenarios, with powerful, yet easy to use tools, available on as wide a variety of platforms as possible, is seen as essential. BI vendors have to react to a world in which the business is faced with a need to handle ever more sophisticated scenarios demanding insight that is powerful yet accessible, where decision makers cannot wait until they have technical support, or access to a desktop machine. Added to which, the volume of data that can support those decisions is increasing month on month, so instant access to very large data sets, with the ability to interact with that data, is the order of the day, and these are the challenges that Pentaho 4.8 meets.

The mobile user is catered for with Pentaho being made available for the iPad. The iPad is currently the favoured accessory of a large number of managers and, with 4.8, Pentaho provides a sophisticated environment which allows the iPad to be used as a high quality visual means of consuming, and interacting with, the data. Pentaho for the iPad embraces all of the native gestures that make up the iPad experience. So the implementation is a full drag and drop interactive experience entirely consistent with iPad’s native capability; it’s easy to deploy, easy to use, and the apps are easy to embed. The mobile application is not considered as a desktop replacement, but is very much in line with the lean back and survey style of BI that the iPad encourages, so it should be thought of as the ideal tool for spending up to about half an hour exploring the data.

In a similar vein, when it comes to Big Data, as this comes into the mainstream of data analysis, so the original Heath Robinson nature of big data, with the hand crafting, and technical run and operate cranking of the MapReduce functions that were the way to exploit the data of only a couple of years ago, these are now being replaced by simple to use template-driven tools that do not require data scientists with extensive technical computing expertise to utilise. What Pentaho are offering is three quick steps from data to the analytics, so, with a few simple steps, the data can be grouped, sorted, aggregated and visualised. This capability is being made available for data in Hadoop clusters, and Non SQL data stores, making it possible for a data analyst to access, explore, and visualise any big data set – that is with the same ease and lack of technical barriers they have come to expect with the Enterprise Data Warehouse.

Pentaho provides out-of-the-box templates, which are readily edited, and there is the ability to then create new templates. The templates cover the integration component allowing the required ETL to be set up. The model component to allow the meta data to be managed to configure the data for analysis; and the cache component then controls the access. Pentaho call this Instaview, and describe it as a “schema on read”. What that means is that you do not have to pre-create ETL or models to get going with analysis. Such visual development reduces the time and complexity of the technical requirements to use Big Data. Essentially, with Pentaho you are now seeing a simple visual development environment enabling access to all forms of data that forms the repositories of an enterprise BI solution, from the EDW to the Hadoop cluster to the Non SQL data store. This enhanced productivity in the creation of apps is also matched by enhancements to the parallel execution of MapReduce functions, with Pentaho VisualMap Reduce, which further speeds up the run time execution.

All of which is pretty impressive and shows that Pentaho have not only the ability to understand where the market is moving, but also the capability to fulfil that vision with the appropriate solutions and, as you may know, one of the great strengths of Pentaho is that it also comes at the appropriate price for the vast majority of the market to seriously consider its use.