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6/22/2011
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Pentaho Answers Call For Self-Service BI

Three key upgrades to Pentaho BI 4 Enterprise Edition have business-user self-service in mind, including a new module lets casual users explore and create business intelligence reports without help from IT.

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Spreading access to casual users has been a goal in business intelligence for at least five years. The cause continues at Pentaho, which on Wednesday unveiled a new release designed to give casual users self-service access to new reports.

Pentaho BI 4 Enterprise Edition has three key upgrades with business-user self-service in mind. A new Interactive Reporting module lets users explore existing reports with simple sorting, filtering, grouping, and summary total (top-ten/ bottom-ten) controls.

The new module is a simpler alternative to the suite's production reporting module for advanced users, but it works with the same reporting format. Thus it can read existing reports and create new reports that can be enhanced in the advanced reporting module. The module replaces an earlier ad-hoc query and reporting module that apparently failed the ease-of-use test.

Interactive Reporting users create new reports by pointing at data sources and then interacting with the sorting, filtering, and summary controls. Reports or specific report output can be pulled into Pentaho Dashboards, where users will find common controls similar to the sorting and filtering options in the Interactive Reporting module.

Selecting sources can be challenging for business users, so a Data Discovery enhancement to Pentaho's Analyzer module introduces a wizard-driven environment that handles the complexities of metadata generation and dimensional selections behind the scenes.

"Before, users had to select the right data marts and schemas and set up the metadata, but now you can simply point at the data sources and identify what you're trying to analyze," Pentaho CEO Richard Daley said in an interview.

The third key upgrade to Pentaho BI 4 is about simplicity and consistency. After building the Interactive Reporting module with casual users in mind, Pentaho decided to revamp the user experience throughout the BI suite using the same design cues. Daley described the suite's updated user interface as having an iPad feel, with features added to make it easy to customize what's displayed.

Pentaho hasn't forgotten about the needs of power users in release 4. The upgrade includes new multi-chart data visualization capabilities, new ways to link visualizations to related data up and down a hierarchy, and increased dashboard interactivity by way of new dashboard-level filters.

The commercially licensed Pentaho BI 4 Enterprise Edition is available for download immediately and includes enterprise support with service-level agreements. Pentaho also offers the suite as an on-demand subscription service. Costs for on-premises software and subscriptions were not disclosed.

Pentaho's Community Edition is free open-source software, but it lacks many of the features included in Enterprise Edition, including the new Interactive Reporting module.

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