General FAQ

What is the Pentaho BI Project?

The Pentaho BI Project is an ongoing effort by the Open Source community to provide organizations with best-in-class solutions for their enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) needs. The Pentaho BI Project encompasses the following major application areas:
  • Reporting
  • Analysis
  • Dashboards
  • Data Mining
  • Business Intelligence Platform

Who benefits from the Pentaho BI Project?

  • Java™ developers who can use project components to rapidly assemble custom BI solutions
  • ISVs who can enhance the value and capability of their solutions by embedding BI functionality
  • End-Users who can rapidly deploy packaged BI solutions which are either competitive or superior to traditional commercial offerings at a dramatically lower cost
  • The Pentaho BI Project team who are free to pursue their passion for BI while being a part of the Open Source movement which is revolutionizing the software industry to better serve users

What role does the Pentaho Corporation serve?

Pentaho Corporation is the Commercial Open Source Company that centrally facilitates and manages the Pentaho BI Project. More specifically, Pentaho Corporation:
  • Builds components for the Open Source community
  • Enhances components developed by others
  • Integrates components into cohesive and flexible building blocks that Java developers can use to rapidly assemble custom solutions.
  • Uses these building blocks to create complete, out-of-the-box products and a comprehensive BI Platform for end users
  • Provides comprehensive technical support, release management, quality assurance, and enterprise services

Why was the project started?

There are a number of very easy answers:
  • Open Source development allows for better innovation with better security and quality, and at a faster pace
  • The project team can attract the best BI minds worldwide to produce superior products than any single commercial vendor could achieve
  • Customers are tired of paying outrageous license fees for commercial BI products
  • ISVs are tired of paying outrageous royalty fees to embed and/or resell commercial BI products
  • Commercial software vendors only use 20% of every dollar they charge to customers for Research & Development
  • Many of the original project team have been in EIS/DSS/BI for over 20 years and by making superior BI freely available they can be a part of the biggest worldwide proliferation and adoption of BI ever

So is Pentaho basically an open source version of the proprietary BI suites of vendors like Business Objects, Cognos, and Hyperion?

Definitely not. Pentaho provides numerous advantages over proprietary BI suites.
  • Open standards support - Pentaho was built from the ground up on open standards. Proprietary BI vendors only expose certain pieces of their functionality programmatically, often through their own proprietary APIs
  • Process-centric architecture - Pentaho was architected with workflow at its core. While the proprietary BI vendors have architected their platforms with the idea that BI should be a standalone, monolithic application, Pentaho is built to be easily integrated into any business process via popular standards like BPEL.
  • No migration legacy - The proprietary BI vendors built on proprietary technology, and have huge installed bases to support and migrate through every release. This significantly slows their ability to innovate, and complicates migration and upgrading for their customers. Pentaho's architecture and technology allow developer efforts to focus on functional enhancements, rather than migration of customers on multiple versions of prior software releases.

What is commercial Open Source?

There are a some basic concepts to commercial Open Source:
  • The lead developers on the open source project are professional. That means they make a living from working on the project on a full time basis, and are employees of the commercial Open Source company - in this case, Pentaho.
  • Using open source should be safe. This means a high quality assurance (QA) cycle for the open source project, and a full set of services.
  • Professional support offerings must be available so clients can depend on timely and accurate assistance.
  • Ultimately, commercial open source helps drive open source adoption. Many more organizations will use open source software if they have access to support and services. Beyond that, a company behind an open source projects helps assure potential users that the project has consistent vision, discipline, and longevity.

What is"Free Range Development"?

Free Range Development is a central theme in Pentaho's development approach. Rather than forcing our developers into small cubicles that were recently disavowed by their own inventor, we provide wide open space with individual and group tables, and encourage collaboration, movement, and open dialog.

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

The Pentaho BI Project provides a comprehensive BI suite. This includes reporting, analysis, dashboards, 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.

Where does the name Pentaho come from?

Allegedly from the Pentaho Indians, who might have settled in Florida in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and may or may not have been responsible for domesticating the West Indian Manatee. According to some reports, prior to the mid-nineteenth century, manatees were aggressive animals; faster than a porpoise, with a belligerent nature and a penchant for grabbing oars and tipping canoes. Some accounts assert that the manatee problem became so severe that trade and communication along the waterways of Florida became almost impossible.

The alleged Pentaho Indians, in an attempt to improve communication and trade amongst Indian nations, set about to tame the wild manatees. After identifying the high caffeine content of water hyacinth as a primary factor, they invented a selective breeding program for the aquatic plant to remove the stimulant from the disruptive mammal's diet. They were so successful that today the manatee is a slow moving, docile animal. The Pentaho Indians have never been given credit in the history books for this unbelievable feat, possibly because we made them up. Or perhaps not.

What if I or my organization wants to distribute software that embeds the Pentaho BI Platform to customers?

The current version 2 alpha release of the Pentaho BI Platform, as well as future versions, will be distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2). Under the GPL, if you intend to distribute GPL-licensed code to your customers as part of other software you have created, you may, depending on the software you have created, be required to GPL that code. Companies that wish to distribute the Pentaho BI Platform have the option of purchasing a commercial license from Pentaho Corporation. A commercial license would exempt you from GPL obligations.

What license types do Pentaho use?

The Pentaho BI Platform is the underlying infrastructure which supports Pentaho's reporting, analysis, dashboard, data integration, and data mining capabilities. While the Pentaho BI Platform provides integration of all of these capabilities into the Pentaho Open BI Suite, from a technical and licensing perspective, it is separate from other modules and components like Pentaho Analysis (Mondrian), Pentaho Data Integration (formerly Kettle), Pentaho Reporting (formerly JFreeReport), Pentaho Data Mining (Weka). These modules and components have the following licenses types:
  • As of Version 2, the Pentaho BI Platform is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2)
  • The Pentaho Reporting engine (JFreeReport) is provided under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL)
  • Pentaho Data Integration (Kettle) is provided under the terms of the Apache 2.0 license
  • Pentaho Analysis Services (Mondrian) is provided under the Eclipse Public License (EPL)
  • Pentaho Data Mining (WEKA) is provided under the GNU GPL
  • Components which are sourced from other open source projects are licensed under a generally similar license types. We refer to these as "LGPL-type" licenses. These include Eclipse, Apache, CPL, Sun and BSD.

Why does Pentaho's product portfolio include multiple license types?

Some of the projects that Pentaho Corporation now leads and sponsors, like Mondrian, Weka, and Pentaho Reporting (formerly JFreeReport) existed prior to the founding of Pentaho Corporation and the creation of the Pentaho BI Platform project. Those projects had different contribution processes and policies, and use different open source licenses including the Common Public License (Mondrian), GNU General Public License (Weka), and GNU Lesser General Public License (Pentaho Reporting).

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When is it appropriate to tip?

If you feel you'd like to give back by contributing financially to the project, we certainly would appreciate it and use the money to support the development community and further the project. There are several ways you can contribute as an individual or corporation, including:
  • Buy logo wear from the Tribal Store. Items are priced at our cost plus a $5 donation which goes straight to the project team, plus it helps get the word out.
  • Donate via our project page
  • Purchase support or other professional services
  • Provide corporate sponsorship of an area of our web site
  • Offer to fund the development of a particular feature you would like us to prioritize

Is Pentaho a Trademark?

Yes, Pentaho, its logo device, Pentaho BI, the Pentaho BI Project, and other related terms are all trademarks that are owned by the company. Trademarks and the resulting brands are an important asset, especially to an Open Source project.

What markets or industries is Pentaho targeting?

Business intelligence (BI) is very "horizontal" from a technology perspective. BI has been used in every department, and in every industry from the public sector to manufacturing to financial services and healthcare. Pentaho's focus is on building the world's best BI technology, and while we don't specifically "target" any given industry, we have partners who specialize in certain horizontal applications (i.e. Human Resources) or vertical industries.

Does Pentaho provide support?

Yes. Pentaho provides professional support in a variety of ways that customers can choose based on their needs. The choice is yours and completely optional.

What are the Support plans that Pentaho provides?

These are detailed on the Professional Services section of our web site.

I'm interested in working full time on the team - are you hiring?

Yes. We are in a growth mode and hiring frequently in development, support, and quality assurance.

We have a strong preference for hiring from within the project development community. A good route into development at Pentaho is being a contributor to the project.

I have other questions - can you help?

Absolutely. You can post on our forums, or contact us directly via

How can I request new features?

Just post a message on the appropriate forum with a description of the feature you would like implemented. Each component has a feature discussion like "Reporting Features", "BI Framework Features" etc.