Crosstabs got pushed from 5.0 – but my work goes on

211px-Punishment_sisyphOn Friday, Pentaho development and product management made the decision to remove crosstabs out of the next release. Therefore, the Pentaho Suite 5.0 will not claim support for crosstabs. The decision came upon us after looking at the scope of the remaining work across the whole stack.

So let me give some context to this decision and how it impacts the ongoing and future development work of the reporting stack.

What does it mean for the Pentaho Suite 5.0 release?

The BI-Suite will ship with Pentaho Reporting 4.0. I will continue to finalize the reporting engine’s support for crosstabs, and that will ship with the release. The engine will fully support crosstab reports.

However, the user interface for creating crosstabs will be basically limited to what we have in the current development version, plus fixes to make it work stable. Given the fact that we can’t reasonably expect anyone but consultants and programmers to use a feature that has no proper UI, we will refrain from publicly claiming that the reporting system supports crosstabs (yet).

That means, you create crosstabs via a dialog and you can select and format elements in the graphical editor. Everything beyond that won’t have proper UI support, and thus reconfiguring an existing crosstab requires hard work in the structure tree.

The Pentaho Reporting engine has still some interesting new features to offer to make a upgrade worthwhile. Stylesheet support now allows you to create shared style definitions that can be hosted centrally. A new class of datasources driven by Kettle templates adds support for Big-Data/No-SQL datasources. These templates are parametrized, and deployed as plugins and thus allow you to write reusable datasources that are user-friendly to use. And last but not least: We opened up the layout system, giving you new options on how to format reports.

What were the reasons for the push?

The decision was a classical result of reducing the risk of the upcoming release. The next release contains a massive rewrite of the internals of the Pentaho BI-Server, updating the architecture to the standards of the 21st century. Adding the JCR repository and REST services required paying for a large amounts of work, which will pay off in the future with faster release cycles and easier to maintain code.

We have roughly 6 weeks left until the code needs to be finished and handed over to the release process. Many of the committed features have only few bits missing or need debugging to be checked off as finished.

Over the last month or two, the crosstab UI work was somewhat sidelined by bug-fixing work for the service packs and by work on other features. With too many tasks for not enough hands, at some point something has to give in.

Faced with a large workload that would finally leave little time for QA and documentation, it was only sensible to cut our loses short for this release. To create a release that contains as many goodies as possible, it is more sensible to finish what is nearly done than to work on the larger risk items.

It is difficult to push cases where the missing feature would be a regression or leave a visible gap. At the end, the crosstab cases were clearly separate from the other features, and with clear lines for the cut the safest to push.


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About Thomas

After working as all-hands guy and lead developer on Pentaho Reporting for over an decade, I have learned a thing or two about report generation, layouting and general BI practices. I have witnessed the remarkable growth of Pentaho Reporting from a small niche product to a enterprise class Business Intelligence product. This blog documents my own perspective on Pentaho Reporting's development process and our our steps towards upcoming releases.

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