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One-on-One with Pentaho
Lance Walter, Vice President of Marketing

by Maroushka Kanywani, Editor, Dashboard InsightTuesday, December 9, 2008

Dashboard Insight's Maroushka Kanywani recently spoke with Lance Walter, VP of Marketing at Pentaho about open source business intelligence and its role in the BI/data warehousing space.


Maroushka Kanywani: Could you please give me a brief history of Pentaho, Lance?

Lance Walter: We were founded just a little over four years ago as the first commercial open source BI company, meaning that there were open source projects that existed where communities were collaborating to develop business intelligence software but there was not a commercial vendor focused on that market at the time.  

We have, over the last four years, gone through what I would call a fairly typical life cycle for a growing successful open source company - the first phase was to get the core team on board, define the strategy, architecture and business model and then facilitate and grow that open source community, getting people involved, building interest and adoption and in our third year we expanded from that to focus a lot on building a business around it, using the open source software and the adoption in different organizations  to drive a commercial business.

Since then we’ve added a number of clients – some small and medium-sized companies and certainly many large companies. There are a number of case studies available on our website.

Even with the current status of the economy and based on a survey we recently conducted with B-Eye-Network, about 80% of respondents indicated an interest in using BI more widely but 84% indicated that costs were an inhibitor to their broader usage of BI. So what you have here is the demand for BI, coupled with cost concerns as well as the uncertain economic backdrop where people are saying they may not have as much to spend on IT as expected but they still have business problems to solve.

Tying all this to where the company is, for Pentaho it’s all about making sure we are built to scale to address the existing market opportunities because it’s clear that business intelligence is hot and I think there are a number of trends and tailwinds from the economic backdrop and from market consolidation as well that will continue to, and drive more interest for open source BI from Pentaho.

MK: Who are the other heavyweights in the open source BI space?

LW: There are other open source projects and communities but without the commercial backing or critical mass that Pentaho does. Actuate is sometimes referenced in commercial open source and they’ve made it known that they’ve made some measured investments in open source for certain pieces of what they do – but their core strategy is not to deliver full BI through a commercial open source model.

MK: How does Pentaho distinguish itself from heavyweights in the BI space?

LW:  There is a fair level of similarity between Pentaho and some of the more traditional leaders in business intelligence in the sense that we provide a full suite of BI capabilities – dashboards, reporting, analytics, data integration, data mining and we provide professional services and support.

One key difference is our commercial open source business model and the benefit that that can deliver to customers in that we can significantly reduce the acquisition and ongoing ownership costs of business intelligence compared to Cognos or Hyperion. If you look at our customer examples the single most common recurring themes is reduced cost of ownership for BI.

The other advantage we have is that we’re able to design and architect Pentaho on a 2005 technology stack so we use much more modern up-to-date technologies and an architecture that was really designed for more current and up-to-date operational BI applications, more integration of BI in the broader enterprise IT framework and seamlessly integrated inside other applications.

In terms of how we distinguish ourselves amongst open source BI players, one of the differences is that Pentaho has the broadest offering – nobody else in open BI provides reporting, analysis, dashboards, data integration and data mining.

The other important difference is that in terms of how open source works, Pentaho is unique among open source BI suite providers in that we lead and sponsor all our key open source projects. The way the open source model works is that people are not so much paying for the license or the right to use the software but for value-added services and support and Pentaho is uniquely able to do this because these projects are under our direction – as opposed to someone who just incorporates open source components into their BI offering.

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