Pentaho Acquires Visualization Developer from Its Open Source Ranks

by   |   April 29, 2013 5:18 pm   |   0 Comments

Pedro Alves has been an active member of the Pentaho community, adding wisdom and code to the open source business intelligence software since he founded his company Webdetails five years ago.

Webdetails develops custom visualizations and dashboards for clients exclusively based on the Pentaho platform, and Alves is known in the Pentaho developer community as an active contributor and an outspoken member. So strong were the contributions of Alves and his team’s Ctools visualization plugin has been a foundational piece of the Pentaho visualization offering—and now the relationship has gone from business partner to coworker.

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On April 22, Pentaho announced it acquired Webdetails, which is based in Cascais, Portugal, and named Alves its senior vice president of community.

Doug Johnson, Pentaho’s chief operating officer, said the purchase brings Webdetails usability and visualization expertise directly under the Pentaho umbrella, developing specializeddeveloping specialized dashboards and visualizations for customers, Johnson said.

Pentaho’s software already uses code developed by Alves’ team for its out-of-the-box visualization capabilities. The acquisition will allow Pentaho to use Webdetails as a specialized service for its enterprise customers.

Alves will renew company’s focus on its community of developers; the community helped make Webdetails successful, and he expects to push his approach even further at Pentaho.

“We don’t do this because we’re a bunch of good guys and we like to help others,” Alves said. “Using the community is a way for us to put our name out there, get software tested, used, developed by others, getting feedback, and then getting an ecosystem where our name is known and gets around.

“We can make good use of all these concepts in a much wider organization [at Pentaho],” he said. “I believe that we’ve been promoted from the developmental league to the NBA, but I believe the same principles of pick and roll basketball do apply, even with the big guys.”

Pentaho’s move to bring Alves and the other 20 members of the Webdetails team into the fold has been well received by other members of Pentaho’s open source community.

Nitin Sahu, the co-founder of Helical IT Solutions, an Indian firm that builds custom data warehouse and business intelligence deployments, said the Pentaho community has “always been self-driven and didn’t have much involvement from Pentaho representatives,” but that was bound to change with the addition of Pedro and the Webdetails team.

Bart Maertens, owner of, a Pentaho software consulting firm in Belgium, said Alves’ focus on community management is “something that Pentaho really needed.” Although the software is still open source, there hasn’t been any active community management in years, Maertens said. Pentaho the company needs an engaged community, and vice versa, he said.

Jake Cornelius, Pentaho’s senior vice president of products, said about 80 percent of Pentaho’s software is open source, so the best description of the company was “open core.” Almost all of the company’s big data efforts are open source; only a few front-end tools in Pentaho’s open edition are held back from the full community.

Deciding what to release as open source and what to keep as proprietary (to sell in Pentaho’s enterprise edition) is a “very difficult” tightrope the company’s decision-makers are forced to walk, Cornelius said.

“The community adds tremendous value,” Cornelius said. “It’s far cheaper for us to implement with open source than it is closed source. With open source, we get tremendous value in terms of testing that contribution, deployment, and adoption, which can turn into lead generation streams later.

“At the same time, there definitely in an element in our sales cycles where having additional value-add helps us convert more business over the enterprise or commercial side,” Cornelius said.

Alves agreed the debate about what software elements should stay open source and what should be proprietary isn’t easy: “It’s a warzone,” he said. “You have no idea.”

Email Staff Writer Ian B. Murphy at Follow him on Twitter.

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