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Pentaho today rolled out a feature that sweetens its already-popular (more than a half million downloads to date) open source Pentaho BI Suite: Pentaho Spreadsheet Services, which lets business users access OLAP data using Microsoft Excel PivotTables. "There are plenty of people out there who still aren't familiar with BI, it's an ethereal term to them," notes Lance Walter, Pentaho's vice president of marketing. "But tons of people use Excel for data analysis and some level of reporting. Instead of asking them to learn to use a different tool or Java interface, we're letting them keep the tool they love." The new feature costs $90 per named user.
So who's using Pentaho BI (which is based on the Mondrian open source OLAP project and provides reporting, analytics, dashboards, and data integration) so far? Walter says that when he came to the company nine months ago, he expected to see organizations making a religious shift to open source -- switching to Linux, MySQL and so forth throughout the enterprise. In reality, such commitment is rare, and most companies buying Pentaho already have three or four traditional BI systems in place (e.g. Crystal Reports, Hyperion, Cognos, Business Objects), and they're trying the open source alternative for a new project. For instance, some are using it to provide new reporting tools to their HR department, or to build an extranet application that lets customers look at their online ordering and purchase histories. Such extranet applications make sense -- not only are open source BI's standards and architecture friendly to web applications, the CPU-based licensing model is more amenable than a named-user model to an extranet where thousands of people who are not employees interact with the tools.