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IBM Takes on Information Integration

Initial vision combines adjacent products as starting point.
VentanaMonitor™

IBM revealed its vision and near-term roadmap for the WebSphere Information Integrator product suite at a mid-June 2005 analyst briefing. Based on Information Integrator, the Ascential data integration product suite and IBM’s OmniFind search product, this suite aims to address corporate needs for integration of virtually any data and information found within the enterprise. The suite is the first to tackle comprehensive enterprise-wide information integration. Our opinion is that IBM’s suite is a work in progress. Enhancements planned for future releases include integration between the various products. Ventana Research believes that the success of the suite will depend on IBM’s ability to identify and address specific business problems related to information integration.

Assessment
At its briefing in Boston on June 13, 2005, IBM executives presented the company’s vision and near-term road map for delivering its Information Integration product suite. IBM’s plan involves combining existing IBM products with the software obtained through the Ascential acquisition. The suite consists of:

  • IBM’s Information Integrator product suite
  • IBM’s OmniFind search product
  • The Ascential data integration product suite

All of these products have been re-branded with the WebSphere brand (WebSphere Information Integrator, WebSphere DataStage, etc.) and are managed within a single IBM business unit that has its own development, sales and marketing resources. Ventana Research believes that this approach ultimately will make it simpler for organizations seeking a comprehensive information management solution to work with IBM. Furthermore, this integration of functions and activities within IBM will lead to better coordination of product integration and faster time to market for new releases.

The vision behind the suite is to provide a comprehensive, enterprise-capable platform for integrating information. Whether the data or information is unstructured or structured and drawn from data warehouses or messaging queues, the suite is intended to integrate all information and then make it easily available to enterprise information users. The suite is a response to a growing set of needs within enterprises for comprehensive views of customers, products and other operational elements, to meet Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance requirements, to deliver information ever faster, to meet IT’s need to do more with less, and to improve management effectiveness. Furthermore, this suite (and others with similar capabilities from Informatica and Oracle) is intended to make it possible to resolve data inconsistencies and quality issues across the enterprise, optimize database synchronization, improve IT response to business information needs and assist with compliance requirements for information integrity. Ventana Research believes that this multi-pronged approach to information integration will advance the efficiency and effectiveness of IT organizations as they work to provide comprehensive, transparent, anywhere, anytime access to data.

Within the IBM package, the integration management suite from the acquired Ascential organization, code-named Hawk and scheduled for release at the end of summer 2005, will include a comprehensive metadata layer to provide integration of the Ascential Software components. The metadata layer will be based on the Eclipse Modeling Framework and in subsequent releases will be extended to support IBM's Information Integrator. Additional platform services such as security also will be integrated in the Hawk release. It also includes an integrated product that combines the functionality of QualityStage and DataStage. Data quality enhancement and testing functions will now be available as transformation objects embeddable into integration processes. Ventana Research views the integration of metadata within the Information Integrator environment as a critical element that will move the suite beyond data integration towards information integration.

In parallel with Hawk, IBM also intends to release a new version of Information Integrator, the company's DB2-based query federation product. Key extensions available in the new version, code-named Serrano, include intelligent tools to track relationships among data held in an organization’s distributed repositories. Serrano also includes an update to IBM’s unstructured data search technology, OmniFind, which makes its search capabilities actionable. An example is the ability to find, edit and replace documents on the fly using search. Each of these updates streamlines how IT and line-of-business interact with data, reduces keystrokes and application transitions, and ultimately improves productivity. Ventana Research believes organizations should value and consider productivity enhancements such as these as they refine their information integration and management strategies.

The market for information integration is an extension of the existing market for data integration. Whether the distinction is material will depend on the level of satisfaction customers have with current data integration technology and the incremental benefits that information integration technology provides. As with data warehouses that are built without solving specific business problems that then fail to provide value, implementing a comprehensive information integration infrastructure will likely not provide benefits unless it targets specific business problems.

Market Impact
IBM’s focused efforts to provide a comprehensive and integrated suite of information integration technology tools reflects a bold and forward-thinking strategy. With top tier competitors such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP and segment competitors such as Informatica and iWay, IBM needs to proceed boldly. The consolidation of integration product initiatives within one IBM product group mirrors the ongoing interest of and initiatives within IT organizations to concentrate resources into competency centers that can accelerate information access. If IBM can convince the market that a suite of products is the minimum ante for market success (as did Microsoft with Office), than IBM will be a leading competitor going forward.

Recommendation
Organizations should plan strategically but execute tactically when implementing their information integration initiatives. They should evaluate alignment between IBM’s strategic vision and their organization’s long term needs. But at the same time, organizations should license IBM WebSphere Information Integrator software components only to meet specific near-term needs within their enterprises. With rapid changes in the area of information management technology and enhanced versions of Information Integrator products due out in late summer of 2005, Ventana Research recommends that organizations continue to evaluate the alignment between that product suite and their specific information integration needs.

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© 2005 Ventana Research