Palo ETL Server – Not for me …

Jedox have just released V1.0 of their Palo-centric ETL Server. I had been looking forward to this, not so much for its ETL ability (which is somewhat limited when compared to the likes of Pentaho PDI or Talend) but for the drill-through capability it would add to Palo. Alas, there’s a catch, you must purchase Palo Supervision Server (€8,000) to enable the Excel add-in to avail of this feature!

The thing that attracted me to Palo in the first place was its simplicity of approach and the primacy of Excel as the end-user view of the product, a modern day ESSBase. The fact that the Excel Add-in is closed source always worried me, as I felt that it would inhibit the thing that really sets open source apart (no not the cost) ,the formation of an active and innovative developer community. The sort of developers who have a need for, and an interest in, MOLAP tools tend to be more familiar with VBA, .NET, SQL, SAP Config etc. than with C/C++ or even Java development. The one area where such a community could add value, the Excel front-end, is closed to them. And I know there’s some non-Jedox involvement in the form of JPalo and the OO-Calc Add-in, but Excel is the key to Palo’s wide-spread adoption.

Also, the choice of .NET as the main client-side development platform was a mistake in my opinion, a VBA accessible object model would have been much more useful, it would also have removed the need for the current painful installation process.

This partial “open-source” model and the increasing complexity of the platform makes Palo, at least for me, a less attractive Micro-BI option. And remember, Excel already has a very powerful in-memory OLAP tool, the humble PivotTable, which is in most cases “good enough” for most analytical needs. So why use Palo rather than a PivotTable?

Palo’s advantages:

  • Can handle very large data sets (limited by the free memory available to the server).
  • Allows write-back and splash-down, both very useful for planning/budgeting applications.
  • Allows for ragged-hierarchies,
  • Server-side MOLAP rules e.g. [Budget],[2008] = [Actual],[2007]*0.035

Excel’s PivotTable advantages:

  • Pure Excel. with the object model available for VBA scripting.
  • Drill-through as standard.
  • Excel 2007 can now handle a 1,000,000 rows, for earlier versions use an Access/SQLite local database or an enterprise database to first “group” and summarise the data to be pivoted.
  • Can be used against SQL Server Analytical Services (SSAS) Cubes (and those of other providers such as Pentaho’s Mondrian).
  • Much easier to set-up and use.

Update: May 1st 13:30

Beta Version of Palo 2.5 (which you’ll need to use the Palo ETL Server’s drill-through functionality) has just been released ..

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2 responses to “Palo ETL Server – Not for me …

  1. Hello Tom,

    As a finance controller and consumer of dashboards who’s supervised both approaches getting some small DW applications built, I agree with your comparisons. I think another Palo advantage is that it’s easier to design custom Excel reports with the PALO.GETDATA functions than GETPIVOTDATA. Palo’s Worksheet Server exploits this advantage nicely. But it and the Supervision Server are expensive given the incremental functionality they provide.

    Roy

  2. Roy,

    Your point about GETDATA being more report/list friendly than GETPIVOTDATA should indeed be added to PALO’s list of advantages.

    My disappointment with ETL-Server has mellowed somewhat now that I’ve had a chance to look at it in greater detail ( http://blog.gobansaor.com/2008/05/26/palo-olap-and-sparse-dimensions/ ), and I’ve also managed to bypass Supervision Server for drill-through by means of a SOAP call directly from Excel. I still believe that drill-through should be a integral part of Palo and not an expensive add-on.

    Tom