Monday, November 1, 2010

olap4j 1.0 - The long road to LTS

Last summer, we at olap4j announced that we would release olap4j 1.0 on October 31st 2010. Now is November 1st and olap4j is still not out of the door. Here's why.

Our reference implementation, the Mondrian project, suffered from delays in the release dates and had to be pushed back. All this kept us very busy and scrambling to make the best of it for a while. But fear not! This very week, the Mondrian team is running QA tests on a 3.2.1-GA build and as soon as it gets the green light, we will be able to put the finishing touches to olap4j 1.0. Why are these projects tied so closely? one might ask. Legitimate question.

You see, every API is a better API if there is at least one reference implementation existing in the wild. For many reasons actually. It allows us to architect, develop and test in a real environment, with real constraints and real data. Several APIs have failed in the past because in the end they were overly complicated for the end user. Some were so overly complicated that in the end, they failed to deliver what an API is supposed to be; a simple interface to a given system. Having a reference implementation mitigates the risk by allowing us to release by little increments and release often, but most importantly, release testable code that works. Another huge advantage is that for every part of the API, there is at least one fully functioning implementation out there, freely available as open sourced software, which implementers can refer to. This is a huge advantage in terms of both project sustainability and project adoption.

So stay tuned, because olap4j 1.0, despite some delays, is right around the corner!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

olap4j tutorial

Behold! I finally had some time to put the finishing touches to my tutorial for olap4j. It took a year but here it is. Sorry for the delay. I know, I know. I promised it a year ago, but a lot of stuff has been going on since then. Two new jobs, two moving to a different city (and once more next month...). So without further delay, enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From the olap4j team

I posted this message today on the olap4j mailing list. In the interest of reaching a broader audience, I will copy it here as well.


Dear olap4j community members,

As we previously discussed on this mailing list, we are planning to make the final push towards a 1.0 specification. In order to perform those much needed changes and still maintain compatibility as much as possible, the olap4j team proposes the following transition plan.

  • 4th week of July - Release of olap4j 0.9.8
    A first initial release, coded 0.9.8, will be performed during the days to come. This release is mostly a wrap-up of the unofficial releases we have put in the Maven repository. Notable changes include compatibility with SAP BW, contextual drill-through for the Query Model, along with various other compatibility fixes.

  • Month of August
    During the month of August, the olap4j community will have a chance to comment the proposed changes to the 1.0 final draft. We will provide an updated functional specification document as well as a complete list of the changes that will be required. Should you judge that some items are still missing, or that some should be modified or removed altogether, you are encouraged to let us know. The mailing list is the best place to hold those discussions, or you can also use our forums.

  • September 1st - Release of 0.9.9
    September 1st is the date that marks the end of our discussions. After that, all the changes that we agreed upon will be implemented in the API, as well as the Mondrian and XML/A implementations of the driver. The 0.9.9 release will include those changes, but will still maintain retro-compatibility. Some API calls will be marked for deprecation, new ones will be present as well. The 0.9.9 release will be the last available before 1.0. Everything that is marked for deprecation will be removed as of 1.0, so users will have a chance to convert their code base progressively.

  • October 31st - Release of 1.0
    We are planning to release olap4j 1.0 on October 31st. All methods that have been marked as deprecated, whether by the 0.9.9 release or any other previous 0.X release will be removed.

A proposed updated functional specification document, as well as a detailed list of API changes will be sent in the following days, right after the 0.9.8 release. We strongly encourage the users of olap4j to express any concerns or ideas that might arise.

Sincerely yours

Luc Boudreau, for the olap4j development team

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pentaho’s Road To Profitability - Take 2

Tom Barber, a collaborator of mine, one of the most active community member of the Pentaho project, posted a very interesting blog entry this week. He is looking back at the path of Pentaho Corporation, a commercial open source business intelligence company, and their latest strategies for growth. He notes that in the past months, Pentaho has put a lot of effort in marketing initiatives and hired many big wigs in their marketing staff. In his opinion, this is somewhat against the ideals of commercial OSS development.

The commercial open source business model is still very young and has not encountered many great challenges up to now. Nor has it sailed in very troubled waters. Yet some signs are already warning people to be very careful with the years to come. Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) was surviving thanks to donations. Compiere recently made the news for all the bad reasons. Red Hat is doing pretty well though. In a nutshell, anything is still possible; good or bad.

Tom’s wish was that Pentaho would rather focus on paying skilled engineers rather than sales people. Now, as much as somewhat agree with the general idea, one must keep in mind that there is no correlation between the number of talented people getting paid to be on a project and it’s success. Some notoriously successful projects depend almost entirely on it’s community base. Mozilla Corporation to name only one. Others employ thousands of employees, yet achieve mediocre results. One could also argue that an effective marketing campaign will in fact boost people’s awareness, thus getting more talented people to join the community base. There is no tested and fail proof recipe so far. As I said earlier, everything goes.

I worked for the past months for a commercial open source company, and the same questions and uncertainties were part of every day discussions. How can a software company making no revenues on licensing be profitable? SQL Power Group, my employer, sponsors the only open source data modeling tool that works cross-platforms and offers, for free, the majority of the functionality included in widely known proprietary tools like ErWin. There are on a weekly basis between five hundred and a thousand downloads of SQL Power Architect. This is a lot for an OSS project in such a narrow niche. Yet a very small proportion of those are actually paying for support/consultancy, or making donations.

There are a lot of factors in play. First off, people willingly using OSS have overall better technical skills than others. To be fair, not every OSS is of acceptable quality, but you get to try as many as you want. Proprietary software is not better in any way, but you won’t get to try many of them, short of having very good contacts and/or deep pockets. This is one reason why reaching the tipping point of adoption is very hard for an OSS company. The percentage of OSS users ready to pay instead of figuring things by themselves is low. Way low. Waaayyy loooww. If you paid for software, you want support (and vice versa). You feel obliged to use the software because you already invested much in it. (Yes, money is time, time is money.) If you didn’t pay for the software and you hit a snag, you are far more likely to stop using it altogether. By abandoning it, you feel like you are exercising damage control, since you save time (thus money). You didn’t pay so why invest time? I’m fully aware that once you do the math, you realize that it’s the exact opposite. People usually don’t.

What does all that have to do with Tom? Well first thing first. Starting next week, I’ll be an employee of Pentaho Corporation. Yup. Am I a big wig? Nope. Am I a marketing guy? Well, I’m good looking, but not good enough with oxymoron. Am I a marketer? I’m having trouble making this blog post interesting, so nope, not a marketer either. I’m just some skilled dude who got his hands dirty for years and now decided that he would devote some serious time to make things better.

Look at it this way. In Tom’s vision of Pentaho, my ass is on the line. I deeply respect his insights on the market and software development in general. Yet here I am, proud as a peacock on a Sunday brunch, about to be part of this fantastic project. Am I worried? Hell no. I’m very enthusiastic about Pentaho having enough budget for marketing initiatives. This is exactly what OSS companies need; market awareness. People need to know you exist and that you are just as good as all those Fortune 100 companies. Even better than these. It has nothing to do with being a sell out. Marketing is not bad for your grassroots values, unless you make it so. Then again, you have only yourself to blame.

OSS companies need to reach the critical mass of contributors and adoption needed to survive. There is simply no other way. OSS users are picky, grumpy, bitchy and unforgiving. I know that for a fact. You want to thrive in that market share? You need two things. Proper marketing and skilled engineers. I’ll be doing my part in the later, and I’m very confident that the good people at Pentaho have picked skilled people to cover the former.

We are competing against giants, so let’s give them a ride for their money.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Monkey Business

Last week we worked on a guerilla-marketing video for Wabit. I'll let you be the judge of that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

mdx4j - MDX query language parser

Last week I launched a spin off of the olap4j parser. Mdx4j wraps olap4j's MDX parser and makes it available to code, without the need of an olap connection.


Although olap4j contains a SPI parser, we don't want to promote any particular MDX syntax. I therefore packaged it as a separate project so that everyone can have a piece of the pie!
final String query =

final MdxParser parser =

final ParseTreeNode tree =