REVIEWER: Peter Schmidt, director of business intelligence for Centro.

BACKGROUND: Launched in 2001, Centro enhances the success of advertising agencies by helping them develop and execute comprehensive local digital campaign solutions. Using its proprietary technology, Centro streamlines the complex process of buying and selling of online advertising among hundreds of national and regional agencies and thousands of online publishers. With more than 8,500 digital media companies indexed in Transis, its automated media buying and execution software, agencies can place their campaigns in the most contextually relevant and respected sites in front of highly engaged consumers.

PLATFORMS: Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition is deployed on Dell servers running CentOS, Apache, the Tomcat application server and the PostgreSQL database.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Centro had a substantial amount of historical data stored in various company databases that was not easily accessible. This made it difficult for employees to share, exchange, modify and enhance information across partners, vendors and clients. As business grew, Centro realized that its Excel-based system was not a scalable long-term solution. Centro sought a more complete business intelligence solution to drive better insight into operations and help steer strategic decision-making. We needed to deliver a BI solution that would show immediate benefit by increasing efficiencies, containing costs and helping drive revenue. By using Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition, we were able to do so in a fiscally responsible manner, and in today's economic climate that is of utmost importance. Not only have we built a solid foundation for future expansion, but we also have assistance from the actual development experts at Pentaho and its large community of users and contributors. Recognizing the high overhead costs of traditional, proprietary BI and data integration tools, and in line with our commitment to the free and open source software community, Centro turned to open source in search of alternative BI solutions. After evaluating offerings from different commercial open source BI vendors, we selected Pentaho for its complete end-to-end BI capabilities, functional equivalency with proprietary BI software and the value-added software and services in Pentaho Enterprise Edition. In June of 2008, we began using Pentaho Data Integration Enterprise Edition to integrate information from its custom media planning system to build a comprehensive data warehouse. The powerful, easy-to-use design environment of Pentaho Data Integration Enterprise Edition automated the extraction, transformation and loading processes to create the data warehouse and currently updates information on a daily basis. With a solid information infrastructure in place, we expanded to use the capabilities of the Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition in September to add query and reporting functionalities, interactive analysis and dashboard features.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Centro saw immediate value with Pentaho’s BI Suite Enterprise Edition. With the right tools and support from Pentaho, we were able to develop and populate our data warehouse in rapid fashion. Pentaho Data Integration manages the end-to-end ETL process utilizing the product’s advanced data warehousing support such as dimension insert and update capabilities, transforming incremental loads into fact tables and rebuilding fact tables daily. Centro is using Pentaho Reporting and Pentaho Analysis to deliver over 50 on-demand, user-prompted reports and interactive analysis views across every level of the organization - every department has access to data, from the executive team to sales managers, and from finance to marketing and technology. Pentaho gives us greater visibility into customer, cost and revenue trends with the ability to conduct deeper analysis on historical data across all facets of our media service offerings. Additionally, Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition has improved operational performance. By creating more efficiency in the organization, the BI solution has added greater value to Centro's clients and has reduced internal costs. The increased visibility created opportunities unheard of prior to the BI deployment. After only a few short months in production, we have already seen strong company-wide performance gains, increased operational efficiency and reduced costs. Centro has had a 12 percent adoption rate in the first two months since launch of Pentaho BI Suite and anticipates the entire company to be proficient in the near future. Shawn Riegsecker, Centro’s CEO, is a strong advocate of the software and is thrilled with the new level of visibility into operations.

STRENGTHS: Centro evaluated many open source solutions as well as commercial competitors. Pentaho’s comprehensive solution, its open source platform and its tech support service offering helped seal the deal.

WEAKNESSES: While Pentaho does cover BI end to end, it is evident that some components are more developed than others. Specifically, the ad hoc reporting component is lacking features in the area of performance and usability. There is also room to improve on the interface for the creation and customization of dashboards as well as in the area of pervasive and reusable metadata.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Centro needed a BI solution that would yield immediate benefits to the company and provide a significant increase into operational and performance visibility. Centro evaluated many open source alternatives. We selected Pentaho’s end-to-end solution because Pentaho was a nice match for the company’s environment and it had a significantly reduced cost of ownership, rapid implementation and a comprehensive offering (from reporting to OLAP to data integration).

DELIVERABLES: Centro is using Pentaho Reporting and Pentaho Analysis to deliver more than 50 on-demand, user-prompted reports and interactive analysis views across every level of the organization – every department has access to data.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Pentaho’s support is exceedingly helpful, and without their assistance it would have taken longer to implement the BI solution. During the process, Centro logged more than 59 support cases, most of which were immediately resolved. Some resulted in JIRA enhancement requests, specifically 26 JIRAS, three of which were immediately resolved while another six are part of the next release. Centro sees Pentaho as a great partner. Throughout the process, they were reliable, helpful and accessible. Everyone at Pentaho, from their sales staff to their development leaders, provided us with assistance when needed. Their service-with-a-smile attitude makes a big difference.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is average. There have been a few cases where some of the information is out of date or lacking; however, recent improvements such as launching a knowledge base for subscription customers and continued updates to their community documentation wiki are helping in this area.

Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition

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