Pentaho's Weka buy rounds out BI offering

Open-source start-up Pentaho believes it has the final piece in place via the purchase of Weka to compete against the business intelligence establishment.

With its latest purchase under its belt, open-source software start-up Pentaho will be able to offer a complete business intelligence (BI) suite, according to Richard Daley, the company's chief executive officer.

Pentaho announced Tuesday the latest in a string of open-source project buys, with the acquisition of the Weka data mining and predictive analytics project developed by the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

The move follows the start-up's previous purchases of the Mondrian online analytical processing (OLAP) engine, the JFreeReport Java reporting library and the Kettle extract, transform and load (ETL) project. Customers have told Pentaho that they prefer to be able to access related open-source projects from a single company and not have to worry about a particular project's longevity or dealing with the specific license governing that project's intellectual property, Daley said.

Weka provides the final data mining piece for Pentaho to "round out" its BI suite, Daley said. The five core university and researchers in New Zealand who developed Weka will continue to contribute and work on the project. Although Pentaho didn't reveal how much it paid for Weka, Daley said the vendor's several acquisitions have made little dent in the US$13 million the company has raised so far in venture capital funding.

Developers can continue to use the stand-alone open-source version of Weka under the GNU general public license (GPL). At the same time, Pentaho plans to incorporate the Weka functionality into its BI software and create a commercial version of the product to be renamed Pentaho Data Mining.

As with its other open-source project buys, Pentaho is looking to make sure the technologies can "be used by the average human," Daley said, by adding wizards on top of their extensible markup language (XML) interfaces. The vendor is looking to work with partners to expand the Weka technology for use in specific industries including retail, finance and pharmaceuticals, he added.

Pentaho has sizeable ambitions, looking to be "the dominant open-source BI player," according to Daley. So far, the start-up doesn't provide customer numbers for its commercial software, but on the open-source side, Pentaho saw 85,000 downloads of its offerings in August.

"We've been staying true to our open-source roots and putting the bulk of our efforts into building products and community," Daley said. "Monetization is about fourth or fifth down the list in terms of our priorities."

That focus will change as Pentaho moves into next year and looks to compete more directly with proprietary vendors, notably Cognos and Business Objects and other open-source BI players like JasperSoft. The addition of Weka's data mining capabilities will enable Pentaho to measure up against other closed-source vendors such as SPSS and SAS Institute.

"We're built to be operational BI, so it's very easy to embed us into applications," Daley said. Users can run the full-blown Pentaho BI suite or opt to use a single BI component.

He looks forward to consolidation in the BI arena as rumors continue to circulate that IBM will acquire Cognos and Oracle will pick up Business Objects. "We'll end up being the only alternative to Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP," Daley said.

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