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OpenOffice deal pushes open-source to business

Pentaho signs up OpenOffice & Sun Microsystems

Open-source business intelligence (BI) software vendor Pentaho is hoping a new tie-up unveiled today with the OpenOffice.org community and Sun Microsystems will bring its BI offerings to the attention of many more new users.

OpenOffice.org (see our OpenOffice review here) is an open-source suite of desktop applications positioned as a rival to Microsoft's Office suite. It has its origins in the StarOffice suite acquired by Sun in 1999, with the vendor founding the OpenOffice.org project in 2000. Sun is the primary contributor of code to the OpenOffice.org project.

OpenOffice.org estimates it has more than 40 million users around the world. The open-source desktop suite is included in several of the leading Linux distributions including Red Hat's eponymous offering, Novell's Suse Linux and Canonical's Ubuntu.

Pentaho's reporting engine, Pentaho Reporting, will be integrated with the next release of OpenOffice.org, version 2.3, which is due out in the second half of this year, according to Lance Walter, vice president of marketing at Pentaho. Sun and Pentaho had been in discussions for around a year about integrating BI functionality into OpenOffice.org, he said.

It's the first time Pentaho's reporting engine has been included in a desktop productivity suite, Walter said. The tie-up with OpenOffice.org isn't exclusive on either side. "It will certainly accelerate the number of places where Pentaho will be used," he added.

The combination of Pentaho Reporting with a new Report Designer developed by Sun will enable OpenOffice.org users to create reports containing content from the OpenOffice.org Base database as well as from a variety of proprietary and open-source relational databases and other sources.

Pentaho is hoping that some OpenOffice.org users will want to upgrade to more of its BI technologies and its paid enterprise support.

Pentaho acquired the technology featured in its reporting engine in December 2005 when it purchased the JFreeReport Java reporting library open-source project and has since added features including a drag-and-drop report designer and integration with its BI platform. The company rounded out its BI suite last year with the acquisition of the Weka data mining and predictive analytics project in September.

Pentaho competes against fellow open-source BI players like JasperSoft and proprietary vendors like Cognos and Business Objects.

Mark Smith, CEO and executive vice president of research at Ventana Research, expects to see more BI functionality being offered in both open-source and proprietary desktop applications suites. "Embedding BI makes sense especially since Microsoft is layering it in and it becomes a required component," he said. Microsoft has already integrated BI capabilities in the latest release of its suite, Office 2007.

"Overall, the open-source community needs to start working more in solution-centric mode to compare better against Microsoft, Oracle, SAP stacks," Smith said. "More needs to be done and Sun should do more if they expect to gain more adoption in large to medium-size business."

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