SSIS vs Pentaho

Confused in choosing between SSIS and Pentaho? Of course, both of these two software products have been arising debates here and there regarding which one is the best tool for data integration, data mining, as well as extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) operations. Both SSIS and Pentaho have been widely used in various enterprise-grade applications. SSIS and Pentaho are competing against each other for market share, and it seems that each of them has a huge base of loyal users.

In the following article, we are going to see the comparisons between SSIS and Pentaho in order to see if one of them is really better than the other. However, depending on your requirements and preferences, you may find either SSIS or Pentaho to be more suitable. Now, continue reading below!

SSIS Overview

SSIS actually stands for SQL Server Integration Services. It is actually a component of the Microsoft SQL Server database software. It is developed by Microsoft, and it has a proprietary commercial software license. It was first released in Microsoft SQL Server 2005 as a replacement for Data Transformation Services (DTS). However, unlike DTS, SSIS is only available in the Standard, Business Intelligence, and Enterprise editions of the software. As a platform for data integration and workflow applications, SSIS can be used to perform a broad range of data migration tasks. It also includes a data warehousing tool for ETL operations, which can also be used to automate database maintenance and updates to multidimensional cube data.

SSIS Advantages

SSIS has been designed by Microsoft to compete in the segment of data migration, transformation, and ETL. Hence, it has been empowered with various powerful features that make complex operations much easier. It provides two ways to construct packages which are by writing programmatically and by using the coding-free GUI. Having a GUI for constructing packages is very convenient for people who have little to no programming background.

SSIS is a powerful solution that can handle data from heterogeneous data sources, including custom and scripted adapters, in the same package. In addition, SSIS can also load data in parallel to multiple varied destinations. Hence, SSIS can handle large amounts of data very quickly. Meanwhile, there is also built-in transformation functionality. The built-in tool allows you to conduct complex transformations, multi-step operations, as well as structured exception handling.

And, of course, as a part of Microsoft SQL Server, SSIS is tightly integrated with the Microsoft Visual Studio and the Microsoft SQL Server. SSIS utilizes the SQL Server Destination instead of the OLE DB; that is why it generally loads data into SQL faster. Hence, it can remove the bottleneck effect that often occurs when you are trying to insert data into your databases.

SSIS Disadvantages

However, SSIS has several disadvantages. Obviously, it only works on Windows. It only allows you to see package execution reports on the Management Studio; it does not publish to other reporting services. In addition, SSIS’s memory usage is quite high. This becomes a trouble on a system with limited resources when there are multiple packages that need to run in parallel – it will eat a huge chunk of memory.

Despite working tightly with SQL, SSIS somehow conflicts with it. This is especially apparent in CPU allocation. When you have several packages that need to run in parallel, you need to make sure that the CPU allocation for SQL and SSIS is set properly. Otherwise, SQL will have the upper hand, and SSIS will run excruciatingly slowly.

Finally, due to being a part of a proprietary commercial software suite, SSIS is not available in a free version. You will have to purchase Microsoft SQL Server, and don’t forget to choose the Standard, Business Intelligence, or Enterprise edition. SSIS is not available in the free Microsoft SQL Server Express edition.

Pentaho Overview

Pentaho is actually the name of the software company. It is a business intelligence (BI) software company that produces open-source products for data integration, reporting, ETL, data mining, and OLAP services. Pentaho was founded in 2004, but was acquired by Hitachi Data Systems in 2015.

Pentaho uses Java as the software platform. Thus, the software can be used on several operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Pentaho offers many server and client software applications, and there is a rich community-driven plug-in collection available.

Pentaho has an open core business model. It provides two different editions: the community edition (CE) and the enterprise edition (EE). While the community edition is free, the enterprise edition needs to be purchased through a subscription. The paid edition offers customer support, additional services, and product enhancements.

Pentaho Advantages

When comparing to SSIS, it is usually the Pentaho Data Integration (PDI) application that is compared. Pentaho’s PDI, which is also known as its codename Kettle, comes with a core data integration engine with GUI applications that allow the user to perform data integration and transformation tasks. It can be deployed on single node computers as well as on a cluster or cloud. Don’t forget that, unlike SSIS, it can be installed not only Windows computers but also on other operating systems.

Pentaho’s PDI has been favored because it is relatively easier to use. The integration tools don’t need any coding skill, and the interface is very user-friendly. The report presentation is rich in features, clean, and professional. It even has more Analysis and BI tools than SSIS. It tends to be more flexible, able to work with a wider range of applications and even with big data sources.

And there is the undeniable advantage of the community edition. Pentaho’s PDI is available in a free version, which can be a very good starting point if you are on a tight budget.

Pentaho Disadvantages

Just like SSIS, Pentaho can also be a resource hog when dealing with large data sets. The schema workbench is not very easy to work with, and the suite upgrades can be cumbersome sometimes. Plus, it does not provide full 24×7 support to standard users. Then there is the impracticality of having to change multiple files at the same time in the data integration server.

- A part of Microsoft SQL Server- Can be used standalone or as a part of a larger Pentaho suite
- Not available in a free version- Available in free and paid versions
- Quite user-friendly, but not as great as Pentaho- Very user-friendly and easy to use
- Only works on Windows- Works on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X
- The rich, powerful features are suitable for complex operations- Tends to be more flexible, has more Analysis and BI tools


All in all, SSIS can be an excellent choice if you’ve been working with Microsoft SQL Server. SSIS has rich, powerful features, including the capabilities to handle data from heterogeneous data sources and to load data in parallel to multiple destinations. On the other hand, Pentaho’s PDI can be the way to go if you need it to work on non-Windows computers or if you are looking for a budget alternative. In addition, Pentaho’s PDI tends to be more flexible, able to work with big data sources.

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