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11/10/2009
08:59 AM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
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Informatica Scores Big with New Release, Yet...

Today Informatica released version 9 of its flagship data integration suite, which it calls as the "single most important release" in its history. Informatica 9 undoubtedly packs quite a punch, yet I'm not satisfied...

Today Informatica released version 9 of its flagship data integration suite, which it calls as the "single most important release" in its history. Informatica 9 undoubtedly packs quite a punch, yet I'm not satisfied.

First, let us give Informatica its due credit. To quote the company, Informatica 9 "uniquely delivers a comprehensive platform by combining products in six categories: enterprise data integration, data quality, B2B data exchange, application information lifecycle management, complex event processing and cloud computing data integration," and can be deployed "on-premise or in the internet cloud."I find it very interesting, because off the cuff, I'd rate Informatica's capabilities in exactly this order -- descending -- as shown in the graphic.

Informatica Capabilities Asssessmentrt

  • Enterprise data integration: Historically speaking, Informatica is enterprise data integration, and has arguably been the leader in this space for the longest time.
  • Data quality: Informatica 9 seems to take the software suite's maturity in data quality to a new level. Competitors: be afraid.
  • B2B data exchange: Informatica recently announced this... for Healthcare Payers. The Informatica platform wouldn't be quite as "comprehensive" in other verticals.
  • Application Lifecycle Management (ALM): Informatica acquired ALM leader Applimation earlier this year. In this short period of time, how much could they have integrated this product?
  • CEP: Informatica acquired CEP vendor Agent Logic very recently. Already well integrated into the overall Informatica suite? Hmm...
  • Cloud computing: Informatica says that it has "pioneered cloud computing for data integration"; even so, look out for challenges from the likes of Talend in the conventional data integration business and SnapLogic in leading-edge capabilities.

So, is this new release good news for customers? No, it's great news for customers. Informatica has long been the leader (and now the only independent vendor at that level) in data integration. Informatica 9 truly appears to be a big step forward for customers in terms of integrated capabilities in data movement and data quality. For data stewardship, Informatica 9 boasts an interactive browser-based interface for business analysts and data stewards. For metadata management, Informatica 9 allows "sharing of a common set of rules and metadata across the enterprise, but in the terms that each business and IT role understands through role-based perspectives."

As a company, Informatica seems to be doing quite well; it speaks of being "one of few software companies to achieve positive revenue and EPS growth in each quarter throughout the recession" -- a worthy accomplishment by any standards. Informatica's financial accomplishments are all the more laudable given how the market for data integration has changed over the past few years, creating a number of headaches for Informatica.

Consider:

  • Word is that Oracle is phasing out Informatica as the OEM in Oracle's data warehousing solution, to be replaced by Oracle Data Integrator (the erstwhile Sunopsis solution).
  • IBM is pushing Data Stage to its customers, at the expense of Informatica.
  • SAP has the BusinessObjects Data Integrator (originally Acta, acquired by Business Objects).
  • Microsoft has the increasingly sophisticated and rapidly maturing SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), more or less free.

With this onslaught at the enterprise level, and with competitors like Talend and SnapLogic looking to steal bases in the brave new world of open source and cloud computing -- not to mention the legion of other, smaller ETL vendors out there -- any professed competitive unconcern on the part of Informatica CEO Sohaib Abbasi would be at his own peril (correction -- those of his investors too; for the sake of record, I might be one.)

But this is not the reason for the hesitation in the opening paragraph of this blog.

Even with this stellar performance from Informatica, I expect more. Added data quality to data integration? Should have been done a long time ago. B2B data exchange? One (or even a few) verticals does not even dent the business requirement for data exchanges -- how far will Informatica keep trudging down this path into other verticals? Application lifecycle management? Need to know more about how Informatica will exploit the shared boundaries between ALM and ETL. CEP? Same thing. Cloud computing? See my previous post about cloud competitor SnapLogic.

Informatica's steadfast progress is great news, really, but quite frankly I am looking for more leadership from Informatica. "The Data Integration Company" is an impressive title... circa five years ago; today, it sounds lackluster; tomorrow, it will have the same cachet as "dinosaur." The businesses of today (and tomorrow) need much more than data integration -- even "value added" data integration. Quite simply, they need more, better, easier and faster data. They need to put an end to building gigantic stacks of spaghetti ETL code and be able to "plug in" to data sources. What is needed is a highly sophisticated, efficient and easy-to-manage data provisioning layer that fills up the ether right from the databases up to data consumers -- applications, data warehouses and the like. The term "Data integration" doesn't begin to cut it. Even Master Data Management (MDM) is, from one perspective, no more than a mechanism for data provisioning. What's stopping Informatica from acquiring an OEM partner like Siperian? From providing a mind-blowing new data integration architecture - almost a plug-in box - where ETL is no more than the inner wires of the box?

If there's one vendor today that I believe can realize this ambitious vision of an enterprisewide data provisioning layer, it's Informatica. But for that to even begin to happen, we need to see more vision and less "me too" moves from the company.

To subscribe to the weekly Intelligent Enterprise newsletters, click here.Today Informatica released version 9 of its flagship data integration suite, which it calls as the "single most important release" in its history. Informatica 9 undoubtedly packs quite a punch, yet I'm not satisfied...

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