Data 'Switzerland' Stretches Out - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management
Commentary
5/21/2007
08:28 AM
David Stodder
David Stodder
Commentary
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Data 'Switzerland' Stretches Out

Informatica's goal is to be the hub that brings together structured and unstructured data and lets it flow easily across enterprise boundaries… Its stature as the biggest "Switzerland" in the data integration tool market makes it a welcome systems integrator partner. With IBM owning the former Ascential Software products… Informatica's nonaligned status has strong appeal.

Orlando can seduce you. Informatica World, held the week of April 30 - May 3 at Marriott's huge World Center Resort, had to compete with unwavering sunshine, swimming pools, cocoa-butter smells and the patter of vacationing families as they flip-flopped their way down the long corridors with pool toys dangling from childrens' hands. The flight from San Francisco via Denver to Orlando can deposit you at the front desk feeling haggard and grumpy, but it's hard to maintain that sort of edge after a few hours on the grounds of one of these resort hotels amid such carefree folk.

True, nearly all my time was spent in the ballrooms and salons of the convention center. Food and drinks were plentiful, although I had my hand slapped for mistakenly lifting a muffin from a continental breakfast spread that it turned out belonged to a Lenovo sales meeting. Once I found the Informatica coffee and munchies, I settled in for keynotes and track sessions that painted seductive visions of their own. The subject was enterprise data integration; Informatica's goal is to be the hub that brings together structured and unstructured data and lets it flow easily across enterprise boundaries.Informatica's lure gets the attention of major systems integrators (SIs). Accenture, EDS, Infosys, Tata Consulting Services and Wipro were among the top sponsors and led a number of presentations. Informatica's stature as the biggest "Switzerland" still standing in the data integration tool market makes it a welcome SI partner. Integrators need integration tools; with IBM owning the former Ascential Software products, database vendors marketing their own tools and more specialized integration products being swept up into the portfolios of various software providers, Informatica's nonaligned status has strong appeal.

Will Informatica stay independent? The company held a financial analysts' meeting during the event, and those I encountered circulating around the show floor were on the prowl for hot rumors. Several were observed rubbing their chins and quietly speculating about how much Informatica might go for in light of recent mergers and acquisitions, including Oracle's $3.3 billion deal for Hyperion (and just recently, a $495 million offer for Agile Software); Business Objects' $300 million offer to buy Cartesis; and SAP's move to buy privately held OutlookSoft.

Led by Chairman and CEO Sohaib Abbasi, Informatica described how the 8.5 release of its flagship PowerCenter and Explorer 5.0 will enable the company to expand the technology horizon of its data integration platform to encompass rules-based data quality, cleansing, profiling and the "complex data exchange" of unstructured information to, for example, manage HIPAA requirements. Using an SAP ABAP code validation error as an example, Abassi showed how 8.5's wizards make it easy to reuse the "logic" of a data quality routine as a Web service that can prevent multiple instances of bad code from proliferating throughout an ERP system. Informatica also talked up its "on demand" solution for this sort of thing.

New York Police Department (NYPD) Inspector Ruben Beltran gave a keynote that offered a remarkable testimony of the power of integrating data. Rather than leave for the private sector or accept promotions that would match his tenure, Beltran stayed at the captain's rank to oversee the development of its "Real Time Crime Center" to integrate disparate data. He now serves as Executive Officer of the Office of Information Technology. "Unlike the cops on CSI or Law & Order, we rarely solved crimes within an hour," Beltran said. The establishment of the Crime Center allowed detectives to speed up their investigations significantly.

Faced with massive numbers of 911 calls, 311 (city service) calls, arrests, complaints and cases referred to detectives, NYPD personnel had to sort through 90 internal data silos, use a bevy of passwords and overcome other time-consuming limitations to information access. By establishing more standardized reporting and implementing the Real-Time Crime Center running on Informatica software, the NYPD was able to solve crimes and apprehend criminals more quickly, even those who had fled out of state. Informatica named the NYPD as co-winner of its Data Warehousing Innovation Award.

With a bellyful of brownies but no criminal record for the pilfered muffin, I left Florida for a brief return to California. It was brief because I flew back to Orlando to attend the Cognos User Conference (May 14-17). I won't tell you how many more brownies I consumed upon my return to Orlando, but I will report in a later blog about goings on at the Cognos event.

Founder and Editor Emeritus of Intelligent Enterprise, David Stodder is now VP and Research Director - Information Management and IT Performance Management at Ventana Research. Write him at [email protected].Informatica's goal is to be the hub that brings together structured and unstructured data and lets it flow easily across enterprise boundaries… Its stature as the biggest "Switzerland" in the data integration tool market makes it a welcome systems integrator partner. With IBM owning the former Ascential Software products… Informatica's nonaligned status has strong appeal.

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