Market-Researchers and Consultants with an Agenda

My lovely friend “Google Alerts” regularly brings lovely piece of
writing to my desk – often to my enjoyment and many times to my
astonishment on how little research goes into research these days.

Market-Researchers – Tell me whose song I sing

Lets start with Actuate trumpeting funny claims around that BIRT is the leader
in Opensource BI.
Lets see what the report says:

“Actuate BIRT leads the pack. This is a prime example where one needs to clearly understand what they are getting, as Actuate cannot really be directly compared with the other vendors in this Forrester Wave. As we mentioned earlier, other than a few basic reporting components from the Eclipse BIRT — the community edition of the product — Actuate BIRT is mostly a commercial offering. Also, Actuate BIRT is a “traditional” or “pure play” (reporting, analytics, and dashboards only) BI suite that does not offer advanced analytics, and it only offers limited data integration functionality.”

(Pg 8 of “The Forrester Wave™: Open Source Business
Intelligence (BI), Q3 2010”

and further down

“Eclipse BIRT and Jaspersoft Community editions lack enterprise BI suite functionality.
These community editions of open source projects cannot really stand on their own as
enterprise BI suite platforms or solutions.”

(Pg 10 of “The Forrester Wave™: Open Source Business
Intelligence (BI), Q3 2010”

Ouch! Let me paraphrase that: “BIRT (OpenSource) is crippled. You need the expensive commercial version if you want results.” A non-opensource product leads a opensource wave. Hmm.. I bet Crystal Reports also contains bits of opensource components (I would be surprised if not), so by that standard do they qualify as Opensource players too?

And I probably will never understand why they test the EE-edition of the PRD 3.6 but
the CE-edition of PRD 3.5. Especially as (except for the documentation and the amount
of database drivers shipped with it) the CE and EE editions are the same code. The enterprise value for our reporting offering comes with the BI-Server and its ability to easily share reports (and even here CE brings you far). From my point of view the Enterprise editions primary argument is the peace of mind that comes with a support contract for your mission critical business intelligence installation.

Enough of that fun, I do get easily bored by bullying such easy targets.

Clueless Consultants … you cant make it up

And the BIRT affiliates of course get their own game going by starting comparisons to
justify their goals. Well, I don’t mind getting told where the weaknesses of our offerings are. But keep it honest, or stay out of the game. Remember, bogus operations always backfire at some point.

Here is one of these comparisons:
Bogus comparison matrix

They claim there is no support for user defined aggregates. Hmm, we
can implement functions in Java and they can be used in reports.
And functions are stateful. So they can aggregate. Yes, guess we
can allow third parties to implement their own aggregations.

The expression API is well documented and it is rather easy to bring
in your own aggregation. They even mention Will Gorman’s book in the
text, so the documentation is there. Ya’ know, books must be read!

They claim that BIRT is the only one who supports custom export
formats? All our (and JasperReports) export modules are pluggable – as they
are in BIRT. Do they really expect any sane developer writes a bunch of
monolithic code blocks for that stuff? (Hmm, maybe they do. There
is a distinct tradition in writing code differently when doing a
once-off prototype versus doing a real product you have to maintain
over years and years to come. And we product developers care about
long term maintenance as we aren’t paid by the hour by our customers.

The table claims, there is no paginated HTML in Pentaho reporting.
Now that is a bit surprising as the BI-Server’s default rendering
mode for reports is .. paginated HTML. They either did not start
a report on the server or choose to ignore the fact.

No conditional formatting? Now, this one is tricky. How could they
nnotice the green-plus in the tables, how could they notice the
examples. But the real WTF is this snippet from “Birt-vs.Jasper”:

“Conditional formatting is much more difficult with iReport than
with either BIRT or Pentaho.”

So either it is not there, then how can it be easier, or it
is there, then the table is wrong.

All styles and most (95%) of all attributes on a element can be computed
via an expression. Again, this is greatly explained in Will Gorman’s
book, which must be read to transpire that knowledge from the pages
into brains.

And the “BIRT.vs.Pentaho” text claims

“Pentaho’s expression syntax is OpenFormula, which is based on Excel
formulas. While this is easy for developers to use and understand,
it is often too limiting for real-world reports. ”

Bah, use whatever language you want then! I would never force a
single language down someone’s throat. Want Java/BeanShell/JavaScript/Groovy?
It is built in and ready to go. Want Pyhthon/Tcl/Rexx or Groovy? Go get it
by adding the Apache-Bean-Scripting-Host jars for it to the lib directory!

We selected OpenFormula, as this language is as close to Excel as
it can be while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of true Excel formulas (like non-regular grammars and really weird behaviour due to legacy behaviour inherited from Excel 2.0 or so). And as Excel and OO-Calc are still the number one tool in the
offices around the world, it is a safe bet that these folks
actually know how to write Excel formulas. If certain consultants dont know Excel, do I care? Shall I care?

And the one thing that really puzzles me: Code hooks in the designer?
I mean, sure, there are scenarios where I want to bring in my own
elements, my own data-sources or whatever. And sure as hell, there is
a plugin for each of those. Again: Monolithic coding is sooooo 1980!

We call this “plugins” and that is how we delivered a Table-of-Contents
element to the community and that is how the charting is integrated.

Code-hooks for OEMs – we also offer that! The Swing-Preview has a
ReportMouseListener, a ReportHyperlinkListener and a ReportActionListener
you can employ to get notified of user-input. For HTML reports, add
your code into one of the many HTML-onmouse* event attributes and
you should be ready to go. These properties are not hidden by default,
they exist openly and are demonstrated in the demo reports.

Spreading false information may have worked as tactic in the closed source
world, where information were limited and no one had easy access to the
competitions products and source code. But these days it just looks so
sad. I honestly feel for those souls who get so eaten up by their
desperation that they have to resort to spreading outright wrong information.
Luckily the market these days is swift, so I might not have to see such suffering for long.

This entry was posted in Off-Topic, Rants on by .

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.

7 thoughts on “Market-Researchers and Consultants with an Agenda

  1. Thomas Morgner

    Let me put that into context. Here’s the text:

    “Orlando, FL, – July 20, 2010 – Pentaho Corporation, the open source business intelligence (BI) leader, today announced it surpassed the $2 billion mark during Q2 in terms of cumulative customer savings on business intelligence and data integration license and maintenance costs.”

    Given the outrageous license fees most of the closed-source vendors extract from their customers, this is a very believable claim. Some companies even charges per user (and the term “user” can be as wide as “anyone who sees the report”).

    A large organization easily pays several millions for that nonsense. As soon as they switch to a better offering (Pentaho, for instance :)) they are off the hook and only pay for the number of CPUs or servers.

    The traditional vendors had a long time where they farmed the riches of their customers. But the chilly winds of change are blowing and we see that impact as every quarter gets better and better.

    And a billion is not that much, actually: Save a thousand customers a million and you got your billion already. And honestly, a million in a BI-project budget is not that much. We just make sure that this million saved can be spent on creating quality data-warehouses and reports instead of spending it on license fees.

  2. Dan

    Well done Thomas – im glad you responded – That absolutely crock of shite comparison matrix annoyed me too!

    It proves one thing; No one can be a BI consultant. You’re a consultant in one technology or another, rarely both.

  3. Charkes

    In Brazil, Pentaho has gained too much strength.
    The country’s government is encouraging enough to use Open Source software and with this there also is leveraging Pentaho.
    So, I’m from Brazil and I’m studying English in Dublin.
    In Brazil I worked a lot with Pentaho and wondered if there is any activity with Pentaho that I could involve myself in Ireland.

    Tiago Bojikian da Costa Vital

  4. omar

    hi thomas ,
    i’ m sorry for my bad english ,

    in fact , i use want to use PRD to create my report and it contain an arabic text , but when i generate a report in PDF , i have the arabic text (right to left) in reverse ,
    when i post my problem in PENTAHO forum , they said that is a bug and it is also in TODO list ,
    so , I want to know if the bug is solved , if not , is it possible to use BIRT as desigenr and PENTAHO BI server as server of publication ( user console and administration console ) , i find it very compelete ,

    thanks and sorry for disturb ;

  5. Thomas Morgner

    @Charkes: As far as I know there are no groups or events related to BI here (which is a surprise with all the banks and investment firms that used to be here). Heck, I haven’t even noticed any sign of a Java Users Group here. Yes, its a bit rural over here.

    @Omar: No, implementing the Arabic script system is more complex than just throwing a quick bugfix together.

    You can use Birt reports – there should be a plugin and some examples. Be careful with the versions you use. The BI-Server probably ships with a older release of Birt, and thus you have to use a matching older Birt-Designer for creating the reports as well.

  6. Matt Casters

    Just to prove the point that open source Just Works(tm), Sylvain wrote a plugin for BIRT that talks to the Pentaho BI server and uses Pentaho Metadata:

    And to prove that the Pentaho plugin system works, fellow Belgian Bart Maertens wrote a BIRT plugin for the Pentaho BI Server:

    @BIRT: sorry if that in any way hurts your switch and bait strategy. 😉


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