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2/25/2005
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Informatica Shows Shifting Product Strategy

By combining data integration, analytic, and metadata management in one package, Informatica hopes to bypass competition with key BI partners.

Informatica hopes its newly repackaged software will help it navigate the shifting shoals of the business intelligence marketplace.

In the near-term, that strategy involves combining Informatica's PowerCenter data integration, SuperGlue metadata management and PowerAnalyzer dashboard software in the newly announced PowerCenter Advanced Edition. Companies can also buy Informatica's products for team-based development and grid deployment, at additional cost.

This is not just a bundling of Informatica's integration and anlytic products under a single umbrella. Informatica will no longer offer its PowerCenter, SuperGlue or PowerAnalyzer software individually.

"About four years ago we went into the standalone business intelligence market, against companies like Cognos, Hyperion and Business Objects. That antagonized our relationships with those vendors, which typically would pull us into a deal for building a data warehouse," said John Entemann, executive vice president, marketing alliances and corporate strategy, for the Redwood City, Calif., company.

"Now we are trying to differentiate ourselves against other data integration products, and not the BI vendors. Our sales people cannot sell our analytical and dashboarding products against them. It's no longer a separate price list."

In the new price list, PowerCenter Advanced Edition, comprising the three software products, costs $180,000 -- a 30 percent increase over the standalone price of the PowerCenter data integration software.

But while Informatica may be shying away from competing against BI vendors, the BI and database markets are moving in ways that pressure Informatica's hallmark extract, transform, load (ETL) integration technologies.

Vendors such as Business Objects, for example, now tout their own ETL products. And databases, including the Standard Edition of Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 will come with integration services that will "compete with Informatica's ETL stuff," Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server, told CRN last week.

"About a year and a half ago, all of the players tried to develop full stacks, from the front end down through to ETL tools and data quality tools such as hierarchical and metadata management," said David Foote, vice president of technology for Blackstone Technology Group, a San Francisco-based integrator focused on application integration and business intelligence.

"Competitors are also trying to create message-oriented solutions, so it's not just batch loads. As for Microsoft SQL Server: That's primarily strong in the SMB market, as well as the departmental level, right up to the Fortune 50. It's highly unlikely that an Oracle shop will use ETL technologies from SQL Server," Foote said.

Which explains the second part of Informatica's strategy and roadmap: It is shifting its focus across the enterprise, away from its traditional departmental deployment. "Historically we've been focused on building data warehouses, but now we're broadening out to data migrations, data consolidation and database synchronization," said Entemann. "Those are capabilities you need across the enterprise."

Informatica will beef up its enterprise-class functions in PowerCenter in two stages. The first, code-named Zeus, promises improved scalabilty, performance and reliability. It will also work across firewalls, include RSA encryption and provide data compression for sharing data. The next-generation of PowerCenter will also support unstructured documents as well as semi-structured formats, such as those used in Swift and Uccnet. It is slated for release this fall.

Due in the fall of 2006, the "Hercules" release will be fully services-oriented compliant, and allow federated queries for near realtime access to data, regardless of where it resides, the company said.

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this article.

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