Canonical: take my money

Dear Canonical,

You claim that there is little money in the desktop software business and more in services.  Well here is something I would pay money for:

Take the top selling business laptops from Dell, Acer, HP, Lenovo and offer customized distributions for them.

I would pay for that in an instant.  All too often people confuse open source with free of charge.  I’m perfectly capable of making that distinction.  In fact, I use my machines for my work and don’t want to spend days configuring all the devices on them.  As such, I would pay something like 50 USD for a customized (K)Ubuntu or perhaps 150-200 USD if it came with some sort of (e-mail) support contract for a year.

I don’t use Linux / Ubuntu because it costs less, I use it because I prefer it over Windows to do my job.  I would pay that kind of money because I would save time and money in the long run.

Until the major hardware vendors offer decent (worldwide) support for Linux on their machines (out of the box that is), I think this is an idea with potential and I hope at least someone picks it up.  Go ahead, let me spend money on it!

Until next time,

Commercial open source is possible

It was the exception to the rule: Matt Asays latest blog entry was interesting.  It asked the question: “Is commercial open source possible?“.  The interesting part actually comes from quotes from Lawrence Lessigs book Remix.

The whole discussion revolves around the awkwardness of asking for money in an open source setting.  A few of the original quotes to illustrate:

What if Wal-Mart asked all customers to ‘pitch in and help Wal-Mart by sweeping at least one aisle each time you shop?


Money in the sharing economy is not just inappropriate; it is poisonous.

My take on this is that for sure there are developers out there that would rather die than pay anything for open source software.  In enterprise software like Pentaho Data Integration you encounter a mixture of these developers-rolled-into-ETL-designers over regular ETL designers to business users. As such, the awkwardness of the situation depends on the type of user and the type of situation he or she is in.

On top of that, software being open source or not, shouldn’t matter to these users except for the fact that it lowers risks and costs.  No, personally I see commercial open source as an extremely viable and very possible alternative, especially now that risk and cost are that big on the agenda in a lot of companies.

If I look around in my community, I don’t see any complaints about the fact that you have to pay to receive training, services or enterprise support.  Some might complain that you have to pay too much, but that group of people will always exist no matter how cheap you sell support.  I even had one person ask me why $50 wouldn’t be enough for professional support!

How about squashing bugs that bite customers with priority?  Would that tick off our community?  Not showing any signs so far because that’s what we’ve been doing.   In fact, I think most community members want Pentaho to do well since it ensures long term viability of the software.  Here’s a question I can’t answer myself but perhaps a lot of people are seeing the company behind the software as being part of the community.  Or perhaps they should.

My take on this whole thing: a couple of nice quotes don’t make a nice idea.  In turbulent times, it’s important to keep you eyes on the future and away from the dusty past.  The days that an open source developer was a sandal wearing bearded stranger are long gone.  At the same time our customers are learning open source is business as usual.  Better? Cheaper? Sure!  But nevertheless still business as usual.

Until next time,

Kettle workshop at KHM

Good news Kettle fans!

Our community is bound to become a bit larger as a whole group of students (38) at the Katholieke Hogeschool Mechelen (Batchelor level) will receive a one day workshop with Pentaho Data Integration (Kettle).  This workshop will take place in early November, most likely the 4th.

It’s interesting to see that during that day we’ll be able to go through most of the work involved in reading and staging the data, data cleansing and a few slowly changing dimensions with a fact table.  On top of that we’ll explain how to use Pentaho Data Integration in that setting.  When time permits we’ll show how to set up a metadata model on top of that data to create reports on it.  On top of that the students will get an idea about what exactly open source is all about.

Obviously, the fact that PDI is very easy to install, has an easy learning curve, runs on any system and works on virtually any database (for free!) makes that possible. Compare this to other proprietary ETL tools and in the same time you might just get the software installed.

It’s my sincere hope that other schools will follow suit.  If anyone interested reads this, feel free to contact me for more information.

Until next time,

Dead wrong

Belgian consultancy company Element 61 has just posted an opinion piece under the disguise of a review on open source ETL.

What a load of utter nonsens.  Try reading this:

Instead of using SQL statements to transform data, an Open Source ETL tool gives the developer a standard set of functions, error handling rules and database connections. The integration of all these different components is done by the Open Source ETL tool provider. The straightforward transformations can be implemented very quickly, without the hassle of writing queries, connecting to data sources or writing your own error handling process. When there are complex transformations to make, Open Source ETL tools will often not offer out-of-the-box solutions.

Well Mr Jan Claes, we’re perfectly capable of handling quite complex transformation with high performance too.  If Kettle isn’t capable of handling your ETL needs, neither is Informatica, DataStage, OWB or BODI.  If you prefer Oracle Warehouse builder because it allows you to squeeze PL/SQL or SQL into your ETL tool, than that’s fine, just don’t use false arguments to dis open source ETL tools.  ETL tools should allow you to write LESS code and make it easier to maintain your transformations, not more.  Being open source has nothing to do with that fact.

Most reputed ETL-vendors provide an extensive amount of connections to all sorts of data sources. This is a problem with Open Source ETL tools: most of them are based on Java architecture and need JDBC to connect to a database. In the basic license, a few connections are available but when there is a need for extra connections, the customer has to pay an extra fee and/or for some platforms (like mainframe sources) nothing might be available.

You have to be kidding, right?  Kettle supports 34 database types + generic ODBC, OCI and JNDI connections out the box for free.  On top of that we connect to legacy systems like SAP/R3 and obviously your mainframe as well if needed (very few people ever do).  The painful truth is that we’re doing better, not worse.

Java & XML knowledge required for complex transformations.

This comment just made the article provably false since you never need any Java or XML knowledge to use Pentaho Data Integration.  (I’m sure the same goes for Talend by the way)

Lack of skills, knowledge & resources.

Pentaho has plenty of partners , even in Belgium. (Cronos for example)  We also have the lead developer of Pentaho Data Integration (me) working in Belgium as well as Davy Nys our Sales Representative.  Professional support, training (on site if needed) is offered as well.

In these turbulent financial times, open source ETL it exactly the answer to constantly shrinking budgets and that is why Pentaho is doing better than ever before despite the credit crunch.

Element 61 in the mean time needs to get hit with a clue stick.  It’s one thing to accept money from the big boys, it’s a completely different thing to spread demonstrable lies.

Until next time,