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Showdown of BI Tools : Pentaho vs Others

Last updated on Oct 25,2020 22.2K Views

The race for the perfect open source Business Intelligence tool has narrowed down to three contenders: Pentaho, Jaspersoft & Birt. Each tool offering its own unique advantage has customers undecided as to which one to go for. The blog gives a brief insight as to what each tool offers based on organizational requirement. But first let us understand Business Data and its nexus with Business Intelligence which has spawned these BI tools.

Business Data & Intelligence

Business Data today has grown exponentially in terms of volume, velocity and variety. From analyzing the items purchased by a customer in a retail store to tracking the performing any type of historic analysis, Business Data has become even more relevant.

The primary objective of any organization today is to garner insights based on the large volumes of Business data, which gives rise to Business Intelligence. The concept of Business Intelligence applies to all levels of an organization across different departments which provide accurate, relevant and cohesive business information for effective tactical and strategic decisions.

Business Intelligence today

According to Avanade Consulting (a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft) “91% of companies use Business-intelligence tools to manage and analyze data with around 85% of them facing obstacles in managing and analyzing that data.” Also Higher-level executives reported finding the right technology for their organization which topped in the list of business-intelligence challenges.

The current scenario in the market has given rise to a range of BI tools that have entered. Each BI tool has its own advantage and ability to cater specific requirement of an organization.

BI Tools today

BI tools were more of a novelty item a decade back when Big Data was yet to rise. Post recession organizations focused on two elements namely cost cutting and taking sound business decisions. Some of the Large BI Vendors like IBM, SAP, SAS and Oracle offer BI tools which may not be economical compared to Open source BI tools like Pentaho, Jaspersoft, Birt to name a few.

The key question every organization must ask is:

Which BI tool is right for me?

Will it cater to my current Requirement?

What advantage do I see in an Open-source BI?

Some of the popular open source BI tools are Pentaho BI, Jaspersoft and Birt which offer unique advantages on their own.

 Pentaho vs Jaspersoft vs Birt

Pentaho & Jaspersoft come into the picture since they both provide the unique advantage of being cost effective but the differences in terms of features vary. Although Jaspersoft’ ireport for designing reports is comparatively better than Pentaho Report Designer, the dashboard capabilities of Pentaho in terms of Functionality is better. This is since Dashboard functionality is present only in the Enterprise edition of Jaspersoft whereas in Pentaho its accessible in the basic edition. Pentaho’s intermediate layer “Xactions” also provides more flexibility in terms of plugin designing and integration with applications.

When it comes to Extracl, Transfer and Load (ETL) tools, the Pentaho Data Integrator is comparatively better since Jaspersoft’s Talend falls short of some functions.  When it comes to OLAP analysis, Pentaho Mondrian engine has a stronger case compared to Jaspersoft. Pentaho users also have huge set of choices in terms of plugin marketplace that is similar to the app store of iOS and Android. To sum it up Jaspersoft focus is more on reporting and analysis and Pentaho’s focus is on data integration, ETL and workflow automation.

BIRT has also emerged as an important tool for business intelligence for those who are well versed in Java. BIRT is an Eclipse-based open source reporting system for web applications, especially those based on Java and Java EE where it consists of a report designer based on Eclipse and a runtime component that be added to the app server.In terms of basic functionality BIRT is at par with Pentaho and Jaspersoft perhaps a slight advantage s it it is based on Eclipse. Apart from that as a typical BI tool it is expected to cover common Chart Types. Although BIRT covers most of the charts, it falls short of Chart types like Ring, Waterfall, Step Area, Step, Difference, Thermometer and Survey scale wherein Pentaho fills the gaps.

Among organizations adopting Pentaho, one of the advantages felt is its low integration time and infrastructural cost compared to SAP BIA, SAS BIA which are one of the big players in Business Intelligence. Along with that the huge community support available 24/7 with active support forums allows Pentaho users to discuss the challenges and have their questions cleared while using the tool. Its unlimited visualization and data sources can handle any kind of data, coupled with a good tool set which has wide applicability beyond just the base product.


Unlike previous two tools, Pentaho is a complete BI suite covering various operations from reporting to data mining. The key component of Pentaho is the Pentaho Reporting which is a rich feature set and enterprise friendly. Its BI Server which is a J2EE application also provides an infrastructure to run and view reports through a web-based user interface. All of the following open source BI and reporting tools provide a rich feature set ready for enterprises. It is based on the end user to thoroughly compare and select either of these tools. All three of these open source business intelligence and reporting tools provide a rich feature set ready for enterprise use. It will be up to the end user to do a thorough comparison and select either of these tools. Major differences can be found in report presentations, with a focus on web or print, or in the availability of a report server. Pentaho distinguishes itself by being more than just a reporting tool, with a full suite of components (data mining and integration).

Got a question for us? Mention them in the comments section and we will get back to you. 

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Showdown of BI Tools : Pentaho vs Others