Sifting Through Competitive Claims & Conjecture - InformationWeek

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3/10/2010
01:52 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Sifting Through Competitive Claims & Conjecture

I've certainly had to sort through a lot of dubious competitive claims in the last week. As a journalist, I have many years of experience hearing ill-informed assertions, half truths and occasional bald-faced lies. I usually know BS when I hear it. Sometimes I'm still taken off guard.

I don't want to accuse anybody of lying, but I've certainly had to sort through a lot of dubious competitive claims in the last week. As a journalist, I have many years of experience hearing ill-informed assertions, half truths and occasional bald-faced lies. I usually know BS when I hear it. Sometimes I'm still taken off guard.

The lesson I have relearned over the last week is that the more competitive the market, the more likely you are to hear misinformation. Integration and, particularly, cloud integration is one such field. Last week I interviewed Ilan Sahayek, the chief technology officer at open-source integration vendor Jitterbit, and he told me that Informatica and Cast Iron don't really address data migration to the cloud. He asserted the competitors' technology is more about ongoing synchronization work, and he specifically said that Informatica's "low-end" product doesn't support parallel processing. I took low-end to mean the Informatica Cloud Data Integration offering. When I asked Sahayek if he had knowledge of Informatica's latest releases, which were released in December, he equivocated.Needless to say, I asked Informatica for a reality check on the no-parallel-processing claim, and Ron Papas, General Manager, Informatica Cloud, came back with an emphatic denial. What's more, I had a subsequent converstation with IDC analyst Robert Mahowald, who covers SaaS and cloud, and he confirmed my suspicion that Informatica and Cast Iron both address migration thoroughly.

Speaking of Cast Iron, last week I interviewed Chandar Pattabhiram, that company's vice president of channel and product marketing, and he made a few of his own claims about Informatica. First he suggested that Informatica Cloud Data Integration -- he actually called it by the old name, Informatica On-Demand -- is really only aimed at cloud-to-cloud integration. I had a hair trigger by then due to the Jitterbit exchange, so I immediately pressed Pattabhiram for clarification.

"Informatica On-Demand can connect [SaaS] to a database on premise," Pattabhiram allowed, "but if you ask them to connect to JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, MQ Series or SAP, they don't have functionality to do that."

I was quite skeptical of this claim, and a quick visit to this page (and specifically the bullet points on back-office synchronization, customer master synchronization and CRM integration) confirmed that I should have my doubts. [Note: In a follow-up conversation after this post was published, Pattabhiram stood by his statement and said he was specifically talking about native connectivity to applications from Informatica On-Demand, versus database-level connectvity. I'm investigating and will clarify in a follow-up post.]

I asked Mahowald -- the analyst recommended by Cast Iron -- for his opinion. He said, "I don't think it's at all true that Informatica, NetIQ and others are taking a back seat [on on-premise-to-cloud] integration. They have much more of a governance-driven view of helping customers navigate this hybrid integration world."

I'll chalk both the Jitterbit and Cast Iron claims up to out-of-date or incomplete information. Honestly, I usually go by the maxim, "if in doubt, leave it out," which I did with Pattabhiram's claim in my coverage of Cast Iron's announcement. These sorts of he-said, she-said exchanges just distract from the story at hand.

This brings be to another recent exchange that came up in my interview with Sanju Bansal, COO at MicroStrategy. Bansal was actually quite complimentary of QlikView during the interview, but he took a couple of swipes at IBM Cognos, including this one:

"The amount of energy devoted to [BI architecture] efficiency has been somewhat low. You see that, for instance, in the Cognos architecture. It's a decent architecture, but they used Web services and XML calls inside their BI toolset. In our experience, XML is dreadfully slow in terms of the speed with which data is transferred and transformed. They built their entire architecture on XML because they thought it was an open, great way to do it. The problem is that it's slow."

This is certainly juicy stuff, but I edited it out of the Q&A interview knowing the right thing to do would be to get a response from IBM. That kind of back-and-forth doesn't belong in a Q&A, so here it is in this blog. Harriet Fryman, a business unit executive in IBM's Analytics and Performance Management organization, furnished this retort:

"The importance of an open SOA-based architecture is often under-rated by vendors with software that simply isn't built that way. We did, indeed, built our architecture from the ground-up as peer-to-peer self-aware services with XML-based communication. As most technology followers up-to-date with the latest advances know, XML parsers have greatly evolved over the past few years to retain the value of flexibility without the down side of performance. The fact that we built from the ground up enabled us to deliver services that are coarse-grained to eliminate the chatter often found in products that have wrapped old technology in Web services veneer. The value of our open architecture is... the linear scalability and flexibility it provides to massively scale highly complex, heterogeneous environments... the tremendous rate of innovation [it supports]... and the freedom [it provides] to mashup BI content..."

I haven't done lab tests comparing architecture speeds, but maybe an analyst will chime in with an independent opinion below? I took Bansal to be a very genuine and well-informed guy, but whenever somebody slams competition, I immediately think, that's the vendor that is really a problem or threat to that company. Knowing that MicroStrategy usually plays in large-scale deployments, I'm sure IBM Cognos is aggressively going after the same deals. And knowing that QlikTech does not often play in huge deployments, it's probably easy for MicroStrategy to give it praise.

The point I'd make to vendor executives is that it's better to focus on your strengths than your competitors' weaknesses -- particularly if you aren't entirely sure about the accuracy of your information. I constantly see sour-grapes commentaries offered up by competitors whenever major vendors break news. I sometimes ignore these comments and sometimes research and use them (particularly if I trust the source). But criticisms about competitors rarely, if ever, raise my opinion of the source and what they have to offer.I've certainly had to sort through a lot of dubious competitive claims in the last week. As a journalist, I have many years of experience hearing ill-informed assertions, half truths and occasional bald-faced lies. I usually know BS when I hear it. Sometimes I'm still taken off guard.

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