Those shopping for data integration solutions will find that they come in three flavors that sometimes seem similar, but keep these distinctions in mind.
Stand-alone Tools: Niche data-integration tools from vendors such as MetaMatrix, Group 1 Software, Pervasive and Tableau enable you to provide "spot" solutions for specific problems such as pulling together data from diverse sources into a portal (MetaMatrix) mixing and matching technologies to create your own "data integration stack" (Pervasive or Group 1 together with Tableau). Enterprise and solution architects will relish the opportunity to exercise their creativity to create heterogeneous, best-of-breed solutions at reasonable cost.
Focused Solutions: Solution vendors such as Business Objects, Cognos, Informatica, Initiate Systems and SAS offer high-class capabilities in data integration as well, but usually with a specific purpose, such as business intelligence or customer data integration. If they have the integrated solution that you need, look no further - but if you pick just one component from the solution, the proposition will look less attractiveOne-Stop Shops: Large enterprises stand to benefit from emerging one-stop shops like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle (and to a lesser extent, Informatica and SAS). These large vendors have multiple capabilities that, these vendors will tell you, are "seamlessly integrated." This will be largely true, but it would be wise to dig deeper into this promise. The key is that these integrated capabilities should be flexible as well as seamless. How well are the components integrated at the metadata level, i.e. contribute, share and leverage metadata? To what extent is the integrated solution standards-driven and/or loosely-coupled? Are these mega-solutions compliant with your enterprise architecture, or do they set off in a new direction? Ironically, even as you stand to gain from integrated vendor solutions, you may risk loss of choice, potential vendor lock-in and the sheer unaffordability of large solutions.
The data integration marketplace will not continue to churn (until, that is, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle divvy and buy up all the other remaining vendors), but there is plenty of innovation out there. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, and customers will continue to have plenty of options at various levels of sophistication and magnitude. These are good days for data integration vendors and customers indeed. The future of data integration, to use an aphorism, isn't what it used to be. It's better.Those shopping for data integration solutions will find that they come in three flavors: Stand-alone tools from niche players like MetaMatrix, Group 1, Pervasive and Tableau… Focused Solutions from vendors like Business Objects, Cognos, Informatica, Initiate and SAS… and One-Stop Shops such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. Here's what each flavor has to offer.