Pentaho vs Tableau: Which Business Intelligence Software is the Winner?


Few will disagree with the claim that business intelligence software is changing the way companies are structured and operated. Certainly, analytics tools are having a profound effect on the way internal decisions are made. The ability to review consolidated information from a broad range of applications allows for faster, wiser, more informed responses. Two of the best systems analytics tools today are Pentaho and Tableau.

Compare Pentaho and Tableau Pricing against Your Needs

Often, the analogy of a forest is used to demonstrate the value of analytics and tools such as Pentaho and Tableau. When you’re on the ground, in the thick of things, you can only view information in pieces. It takes a broader perspective, or an elevated position, to stop seeing individual trees and view the forest in its entirety. This is what BI software does. It provides that fuller picture.

The question is: which business intelligence platform is right for your operation? There’s no shortage of products out there, so it’s important to pick carefully. While QlikView may be the choice of some businesses, Pentaho and Tableau are still the two leading providers of BI systems. They both offer a diverse range of features and lots of perks, benefits and practical functions.

This article pits the vendors against one another in a Pentaho vs Tableau showdown. Keep reading to find out which BI solution comes out on top.


Tableau likes to keep its mission statement simple. It wants to help businesses see and understand their analytics data in the easiest way possible. With a simple drag-and-drop interface and a user-friendly desktop design, it’s one of the most enjoyable BI systems on the market. It provides businesses with desktop reporting functions, a server for collaborative work and a cloud-based version of the core tools.

Pentaho, on the other hand, focuses on speed. It’s committed to helping businesses save time and money via analytics processing and smooth data integrations. It offers predictive modeling functions as well as more basic data reporting tools. There are self-service reports, custom dashboards, visual analytics and a mobile platform for full, seamless service.

Main Features

With Tableau BI tools, you can connect to hundreds of data sources, both live and in-memory. The system doesn’t require any programming. RedShift, SQL servers, DropBox, Google Sheets and more are all supported. Users can switch from live data connections to stored databases at the click of a button. There are also automated settings for hands-off extraction.

The Device Designer is a handy feature, as it lets businesses create their own custom dashboards for desktops, tablets, and smartphones. These displays are easy to embed into existing applications like Jive or SalesForce. The drag-and-drop interface is a wonderful addition. It makes it easy to highlight trends and incorporate new data feeds.

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When posing the question of Pentaho vs Tableau, it can be tough to split the two in terms of core features. Both offer a high level of functionality, with a broad selection of tools and features. Pentaho is grounded in powerful visualizations that help businesses engage with data. Lasso filtering, attribute highlighting and zoom buttons make it easy to isolate key trends, details, and patterns.

The Pentaho business intelligence platform also has a geo-mapping function, scatter charts, heat grids and a whole lot of other specialist additions. The dashboards are fully customizable, with web-based drag and drop controls and a large array of filtering options. Reports are intuitively designed and compatible with Hadoop, NoSQL, relational databases, analytical databases and more.

Customer Support

There are four tiers of support available at Tableau online. They are complementary, technical, elite and the OEM program. The complimentary tier is free and includes unlimited access to the online community and database. Technical support is automatically extended to anybody using the BI platform for a year or longer. The Elite and OEM tiers assign users a technical supervisor so that problems are solved immediately.

While Pentaho has fewer help features, its online community is said to be one of the best around. So it’s worth checking out if you’re new to the platform or have any questions, for instance about its ETL tool, Kettle. There are some specialist consulting services available for users who want to learn how to create custom engagements fast. There’s also a visualizations team on hand to solve issues related to UI designs and displays.

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Notable Downsides

At $35/user/month for the Tableau platform, it could be argued that cost is a weakness, at least for smaller businesses. The Tableau server has a 10 user minimum, so it won’t be suitable for the smallest of companies. The complexity of the BI suite is regularly referenced as well, with some users being put off by the need to pick up certain skills.

As for Pentaho, some users talk about minor bugs and glitches. Despite the system being impressively fast, for the most part, these hiccups slow things down. Also, the metadata layer is a bit clunky. It can be tricky to master if you haven’t got previous experience. Finally, the product lacks perpetual licensing, so a fee must be paid once per year if you want to use it.

The Best and Worst of Tableau and Pentaho

So let’s run back through the pros and cons of Tableau. On the plus side, the business intelligence system is easy to customize and fits a whole variety of businesses. It offers specialist functions, but it doesn’t overspecialize and alienate any particular industries or company types. The biggest weaknesses are that it carries relatively high fees and might not be a good fit for smaller enterprises.

Pentaho is one of few tools to offer direct reporting functions for NoSQL. It also provides excellent analytical processing and an impressive level of data integration. The volume of possible data sources is pretty substantial, too. One aspect that might be off-putting is the fact that this BI solution isn’t a singular purchase. Users must pay a fee each year to continue using the product.

The Final Word

Tableau is a very sophisticated and advanced system, with the potential to greatly enhance internal visibility. However, this doesn’t really mean anything if you’re a small business with a tight budget.

In some ways, Pentaho outperforms Tableau, but the latter is certainly a solid choice. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into with the yearly payments. The Tableau business intelligence system represents a continual investment, rather than a one-off purchase. It does offer plenty of scalability and scope for the future, however. There’s no definitive answer when it comes to Pentaho vs Tableau because all businesses have slightly different needs. Just make sure you know all of yours.

Compare Pentaho and Tableau Against Your Needs

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  • hitesh - September 2, 2019 reply


    Pentaho BI developers India

    Jason Keller - September 3, 2019 reply

    Hi Hitesh,

    We’re glad you liked the article! Let us know if you have any questions.

    Jason Keller

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