Pentaho BI Platform FAQ

What is a business intelligence (BI) Platform?

A comprehensive development and runtime environment for building complete solutions to business intelligence problems. The Pentaho BI Platform is the infrastructure and core services that integrate business intelligence components to complete the BI Suite. This includes the infrastructure necessary to build, deploy, execute and support applications.

What is a BI solution?

In the Pentaho architecture, a "solution" refers to a set of documents that define the processes and activities required to solve a specific business intelligence problem. The Pentaho BI Platform loads solution documents at runtime and executes the instructions they contain much like the way a computer executes a program.

What is in the BI Platform?

The Pentaho BI Platform is the underlying infrastructure which supports Pentaho's reporting, analysis, dashboard, data integration, and data mining capabilities. The Pentaho BI Platform provides the architecture and infrastructure required to build complete solutions to business problems, and is designed around these low level BI services. Authentication, logging, auditing, workflow, rules engines and a solution engine provide the foundation of the platform, while service-oriented components such as Pentaho Reporting, Pentaho Analysis, and Pentaho Dashboardsprovide the higher-level, business user functionality. This Service Oriented Architecture allows the components to be called by the solution engine autonomously. Solution documents are used to define the order and relationships between these calls allowing the platform to be programmable without changing code.

How would I evaluate the Pentaho BI Platform?

Just download the full binary distribution from www.pentaho.com/download/ and unzip in the directory of your choice. Follow the configuration instructions and try out the samples. We have gone to great lengths to make the evaluation process as easy and painless as possible.

Can I use the Pentaho BI Platform in a stand-alone fashion?

The Pentaho BI Platform is normally deployed as a standalone server with a standalone Design Studio. In order to solve business problems, a solution will need to be deployed as well. New solutions can be created with the Pentaho Design Studio or pre existing solutions can be obtained from Pentaho or other sources.

Can I swap out components of the BI Platform for ones that I use elsewhere?

The Pentaho platform was built to be open and flexible, and to allow developers to integrate third-party components. As such, it is easy (depending on how smart you are) or at least possible to plug in other components or applications using our published interface. Developers who implement these interfaces to other products are welcome to contribute them back to the project.

Can I use non-Pentaho reporting or analysis products with the BI Platform?

The Pentaho platform was built to be open and flexible, and to allow developers to integrate non-Pentaho reporting and analysis. Pentaho does not "support" those non-Pentaho reporting and analysis products, in the sense that Pentaho Support will not answer questions on them, and Pentaho engineering would not fix a "bug" within any, other than JFreeReport or Mondrian.

What application servers does the Pentaho BI Platform work with?

The Pentaho BI Platform server is written entirely in Java and runs on J2EE compliant application servers. Currently we use JBoss for our primary development platform, but we encourage developers to use it on their J2EE application server of choice.

Why is workflow so important to the Pentaho BI Platform?

Workflow is a key architectural component that drives many of the control and solution monitoring features built into the BI platform. Workflow also provides a layer of abstraction that serves to bridge the integration gaps between internal and external layers of the platform. To a user the workflow is transparent, but a solution builder can create rich end-to-end BI applications.

Who benefits from the Pentaho BI Platform?

Anyone who needs to solve enterprise class business problems can use the platform to implement solutions. Because the total cost of ownership is dramatically lower, resources can be invested in developing the business logic, reports and workflows that implement the solution. This provides tremendous benefits to end-user organizations, consultants, ISVs and OEMs. Now that I think about it - the only people that don't benefit are commercial vendors selling overpriced BI tools to unsuspecting customers.

What operating systems does the BI Platform support?

The Pentaho BI Platform server is written entirely in Java and runs on J2EE application servers. As long as it is deployed into a compliant J2EE server, the operating system is not a factor. The Pentaho Design Studio requires the Eclipse framework and can only be deployed to platforms supported by Eclipse. Currently all versions of Windows from ME to XP are supported as are many versions of Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris and other UNIX platforms. See http://www.eclipse.org for a complete list.

What IDEs does the Pentaho BI Platform support?

Ultimately, solutions are made up of collections of XML documents. The Pentaho Design Studio is built with plug-ins to make editing and managing these documents - easy and fun for the whole family. For example, for UNIX users, vi or even Notepad can be also be used but is not recommended.

What other software do I need in order to use the Pentaho BI Platform?

The Pentaho BI Platform can be deployed as individual components or as a complete system. When deployed as a complete system, everything needed for the platform is included in the download. The only other software that may be required are any JDBC drivers needed to access your transactional database or data warehouse.

I am an IT developer - What is the benefit of the Pentaho BI Platform?

As an IT developer, the Pentaho BI Platform gives you and your company the opportunity to implement enterprise level BI solutions at a dramatically lower overall cost than traditional solutions. You will be a hero and worshipped among your coworkers. The sun will shine brighter and food will taste better. And if you are not actually smart enough to do this on your own, the full resources of Pentaho and the Pentaho community are available to provide support and solutions. Even with Pentaho support, we will give you - Mr. or Ms. IT Developer - all the credit.

I am an ISV - What is the benefit of the BI Platform?

As an Independent Software Vendor, you have the opportunity to sell solutions based on a solid, tested and reliable BI platform. You will save development costs, third party royalty costs and tech support resources by joining the Pentaho community.

What is a "Solution-Oriented" Approach?

The realization that business problems are solved using processes and procedures and usually require information presentation, analysis, and delivery (BI) has lead to our Solution-Oriented approach. The process exists to solve the business problem and it is the solution. The Pentaho BI Platform centers it's solutions around a workflow core and a Service Oriented Architecture.

What is a Service Oriented Architecture?

When you design a system with a workflow engine as the conductor and director, every activity in the system must be implemented as a standalone, re-usable component that can be directed to execute the activity required. As a result the components operate as services that can be orchestrated based on an input document or definition.

What are the key pieces of the Pentaho architecture?

The technical whitepaper describes the architecture of the Pentaho BI Platform. It is available here.

Can I monitor performance?

Yes. The same auditing system that provides report usage information provides performance information.

How does the Pentaho BI Platform scale?

The Pentaho BI Platform server is J2EE based and will benefit from scalability services available from the Application Server it is deployed into. Clustering, connection pooling and caching are examples of application server scalability services. The Service Oriented Architecture also helps the Pentaho application server scale. Services are called, they perform a task, save state information and terminate. This stateless approach allows processes to be swapped out and memory to be recovered between invocations.

The Pentaho BI Platform uses a sophisticated combination of business rules, services, assured messaging, workflow, clustering, and auditing providing the following benefits:
  • Business rules are used to identify exception cases filtering out non useful data, freeing memory and reducing spam.
  • Workflows with subflows are used to reduce the overhead of storing redundant definitions
  • Subflows use assured messaging to call services to generate reports
  • Clustering can be used to distribute report generation and delivery
  • Auditing tracks that each exception is handled successfully
James Dixon, Architect and CTO of Pentaho gave a presentation at JBossWorld 2006 on "Large-Scale Information Delivery Using JBoss Clustering" which includes architecture and performance information. You can access it from the JBossWorld presentation archive here.

What security is available?

Pentaho BI Framework uses Acegi Security for a pluggable framework to implement and combine multiple authentication schemes and credential stores and CAS for platform-neutral single sign-on (SSO).

If I already have a security infrastructure, will Pentaho Reporting leverage it?

Yes, Acegi security supports a pluggable framework for authentication.

How is the Pentaho BI Project different from other Open Source BI or Reporting projects?

The Pentaho BI Project is provides a comprehensive BI suite. This includes reporting, analysis, dashboards, data integration, data mining, and a BI platform necessary for true production deployment. Many other projects that exist address a specific function like reporting, but not the entire BI spectrum. Most also lack the necessary infrastructure like security, administration, auditing, fail-over, scalability features, portal, and other key framework functionality. Beyond that, some projects offer open source reporting, but require an upgrade to an expensive, closed-source offering for web-based deployment or other BI platform functionality.

Customers can start with something simple like Reporting from Pentaho and know that they'll be able to add things like Analysis and Dashboards to their solution if they need it in the future. They'll know that everything will be integrated, supported, and continuously improving. The Pentaho BI Project gives users peace of mind via longevity, support, and continued innovation.

Why are your downloads on SourceForge?

SourceForge.net is the world's largest Open Source software development website, with the largest repository of Open Source code and applications available on the Internet. Its mission is to enrich the Open Source community by providing a centralized place for Open Source developers to control and manage Open Source software development. To fulfill this mission goal, SourceForge offers a variety of services to projects, and to the Open Source community.

The Pentaho BI Project utilizes many of SourceForge's services to streamline software development. Project files hosted on SourceForge are mirrored on high performance servers around the world and SourceForge also provides useful related services such as notifying you when new project files become available. We direct you to SourceForge for file downloads because it helps us provide you with better service and it also acts as a gateway into the wealth of Open Source projects available to help you with other business needs.