Talend Plans Open-Source Master Data Management Product

Acquisition paves the way for a January 2010 product release promising MDM 'at a fraction of the cost.'
Seeing an obvious opportunity to move into an adjacent market, Talend, the open-source data integration vendor, announced today that it will release what it's billing as the first open-source master data management (MDM) product. The low-cost alternative will "democratize" MDM, according to Talend. But it remains to be seen if the vendor can reduce the complexity as well as lower the cost of what is a notoriously complicated challenge.

MDM products have mostly emerged from the ranks of customer data integration (CDI) and product information management (PIM) products that emerged earlier in the decade. Those products addressed inconsistencies, overlaps and redundancies across one data set. MDM systems promise one solution to conquer multiple data domains, and they are now offered by application vendors including SAP and Oracle, infrastructure providers such as IBM and TIBCO and by MDM specialists, including Initiate and Siperian. Deployment costs generally start in the six figure range and go up from there.

"MDM systems are extremely expensive and extremely complex," says Yves de Montcheuil, vice president of marketing at Talend. "Our product will not be reserved for very large enterprises that can afford to spend $2 million and two years to deploy a product... With a very aggressive price point, we will provide a product that is as good, if not better, than the equivalent proprietary technologies."

Expected to debut in January, Talend's new MDM product is based on Xtensis, a fledgling MDM product acquired this summer from Amalto Technologies, a business-to-business data exchange software company specialized in the oil and gas sector. The Xtensis product is not unknown, having been listed in 2008 and 2009 Gartner reports on MDM, but it has not been widely sold.

"Amalto had done a great job of building an MDM repository and processes for data stewardship and data modeling, but they were lacking in the data integration and data quality technologies," de Montcheuil says. "It's a great complementary fit with our products and we're going to integrate it with our integration and data quality platform over the next few months."

Xtensis had been sold to only a handful of customers, according to de Montcheuil, as "Amalto was focusing mainly on its B2B exchange business." Telend has audited Xtensis to weed out proprietary code in order to take it open source. The core technology will be downloadable free of charge. Following its approach with data integration and data quality technology, Talend will offer value-added features and service support under commercial subscription licenses.

Many MDM vendors attempt to simplify deployments by offering industry-specific packages or modules. Oracle, for example, has telco, banking, public sector and retail MDM offerings, and earlier this month it added an MDM module for institutions of higher education. Xtensis had no such offerings, so Talend says it will rely in part on the open-source community to expand on what it describes as a generic platform.

As for the challenge of making MDM simpler, de Montcheuil says the technology supports an incremental deployment approach, whereby individual data domains can be added to the MDM deployment one at a time. That's a familiar promise among commercial projects, and it does not what is often the most complex part of an MDM deployment: handling political and organizational challenges such as agreeing on data definitions and ensuring ongoing data governance and stewardship.