Personally, I like counting down to Christmas with those advent calendars that count down each day with a piece of chocolate, ensuring I get a little special something every evening after dinner (or breakfast, as the case may be) as the big day draws nearer. But this year, open source business analytics provider Pentaho is offering an alternative approach with its 12 Days of Big Data Visualizations campaign. It might not be as tasty as the traditional countdown method, but it does promise to capture attention across channel through the simple but smart Big Data visualization tools it unveils.

Admittedly, Pentaho's campaign, which runs from Dec. 14 through Jan. 7, will only be about half-complete when Christmas Day rolls around. But checking in each morning to see which free visualization plugin the company has "unwrapped" that day is nonetheless a good way to preview some of the business analytics features the company is likely to focus on in the new year.

So far, Pentaho has released the following plugins:
  • Sunburst, which displays data as a series of rings to demonstrate hierarchies.
  • Zoom, a tool for analyzing different ranges across data sets.
  • Trellis, an aggregation of scatter plots designed to help visualize patterns within Big Data.
  • Treemap, which is similar to Sunburst but displays hierarchies as rectangles instead of rings.
Users of Pentaho's business analytics platform can download the plugins for free as the company unveils them. According to an email from Pentaho, each of the plugins is based on third-party charting tools and introduces new functionality for the Pentaho platform that was not previously available.

A look through the plugins suggests these are preview versions that remain in development and the company intends to do more with them. Notes for the Trellis visualization tool, for example, indicate that it "Displays on IE, but interactivity does not work yet," and that it also "Does not support drill down or filtering."

The technology on which these tools are built is pretty simple, but Pentaho's eagerness to spread them to customers underlines the importance of solutions for interpreting Big Data. So far, most discussion in the channel has focused on the mechanics of storing data--building the most efficient data infrastructures, the best practices for keeping data secure and the most cost-effective value-added solutions for Big Data platforms--with less talk about how to make that information readable. That's the issue Pentaho seeks to address with these plugins, which provide simple yet effective ways of visualizing large the amounts of data that organizations are increasingly confronting.