Saturday, February 03, 2007

Wrap up on the Pentaho Implementation Workshop

All in all, I had great expectations for the 3 day implementation workshop, and I wasn't disappointed!

The last session on Thursday, Dashboards and AJAX, was crammed full of great technical information. The most important info that I can give you all is that the current JSP based dashboards are going away, in exchange for dashboards built upon Pentaho AJAX components, currently under development. Of course, we all were very excited to hear about the new AJAX component architecture, and happy to hear that we can get to the code. The ETA for GA delivery is somewhere in the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year (with milestone builds available earlier most certainly), but always stomping on that hairy edge, I can't wait to dive into the code and contribute to implementation (in my spare time, ha ha! ).

James Dixon, Chief Geek for Pentaho, also went into a bit of the history of Pentaho Dashboards, which was really helpful in gaining perspective on why Dashboards require so much coding today. The philosophy and design goals for Dashboards (really for the platform, in general) is to remain delivery agnostic - meaning we want the platform output to be delivered via the client's choice of technology, not our own. So if you are a JSF shop, .NET shop, or Java applet guru, it won't matter to us, since we deliver the content from the platform in XML. You can take it from there, and transform that XML any way you wish. Well, that design goal is tough to stick to when you are implementing a Dashboard architecture, since Dashboards are heavy on UI, usually containing reports, charts, dials, gauges and numerous other widgets, in some portal type fashion specific to the user's point of view. So we went about component-izing all of the above mentioned widgets, and used a simple JSP (or not so simple JBoss Portal) to demonstrate what COULD be done. The response from our community has been to make Dashboards easier to build, and fortunately, AJAX has conme along (or been there, depending on how you look at AJAX) so that we can deliver that ease of implementation.

I haven't had a chance to say much about the group that attended the class with me. I was tickled to finally meet some folks that I have been chatting with via email, some for more than a year now! Nice, intelligent, talented and truly passionate about BI - I could spend alot more time with these folks, we share so many traits and interests (I know, I think very highly of me ;))! The attendees came from Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, France and the US, which speaks for the demand that our training generates, as well as the global presence that Pentaho has earned in a short 2.5 years. I can't believe sometimes that I am a part of something this big, and this bold! On a day to day basis, it feels like we are just a bunch of guys doing what we have done best for a long time - building BI. But when you gather your community, partners and teammates in a room like we did last week, it sure feels a whole lot bigger, a lot more significant. And so, I can someday explain to my daughter why my job makes me proud :)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Workshop, Day 3

I know, I know, what happened to Day 2? Well, between busy sessions, picking up the kids, and teaching my night class at Brevard Community College, blogging fell to the way side. For my three avid fans, I sincerely apologize, but by now you are used to it :)

So Day 2 of the workshop, in all honesty was a bit of a fire fighting exercise. Since we are working with the very latest code for the platform (and I mean VERY latest), we ran into a couple of problems during the Subscriptions session that prevented us from seeing the results of the subscribed bursting examples that we set up. But the content was good and subscriptions in the stable builds is very very powerful. We have the ability with the platform to relieve the administration and information overload that occurs with the typical scheduled reporting process. Subscriptions also prove to be flexible and easy to use, which makes it a nice tool for consumers of Pentaho reports, analysis, ETL and processes.

The Day 2 afternoon session was all about advanced deployments of the platform, as well as customizing deployments for each user's environment. Brian Hagan walked through the complex details of manually deploying web application through JBoss and Tomcat, focusing on the touch points that are required when you have your own app server installation already in place. Overall a good session that could be helpful to anyone that struggles with J2EE deployments today.

Day 3 started out with Bill Seyler, a stellar Pentaho engineer, presenting the life cycle management features within Pentaho. For anyone who is not familiar with the term and what it means in Pentaho, life cycle management is versioning solution content for the platform. Bill covered the architecture of how Pentaho interacts with version control systems, which seems to be a very clean and simple implementation. The beauty of life cycle management in Pentaho is that due its simple interface, any version control system can be used, as well as using multiple systems for one Pentaho deployment.

Next up was Anthony DeShazor, our engineering wrangler, talking about scalability and clustering. Much of this session covered the general topology and infrastructure issues that prevent almost any application from scaling. The point I took away is we can control what the Pentaho application does, but how you get at your data and how you deliver it out to consumers can bottleneck any good app. It was great to participate in tis discussion, since many in the room are experienced in the field and had much to contribute. Anthony then took us through the JBoss Clustering presentation that James Dixon presented at JBossWorld late last year. It was a simple architectural discussion covering JBoss Clustering, ending with some pretty impressive benchmarks that proved Pentaho's ability to scale. The most interesting news that came out at the end of this session is that Pentaho has started to build a BI benchmarking bundle, based on the Transaction Processing Performance Counsel processes, and plans to release it to the open source community for benchmark responses. Feel free to email James ( and it will get forwarded) if you are interested in participating in that effort!

Our last session after lunch is Dashboarding and AJAX, a session that all the trainees, including myself are looking forward to. I'll fill you in tonight on how that session goes and how this all wraps up.