Informatica Intensifies Focus on Data Integration - InformationWeek

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Informatica Intensifies Focus on Data Integration

New technology roadmap and data quality lead focus for Informatica.

VentanaMonitor™

Summary
At its industry analyst summit in February, Informatica reviewed its recent financial performance, current product capabilities, intentions for supporting service-oriented architectures (SOAs) and its vision for the next generation of its products. The company reaffirmed its focus on data integration and common data integration tasks such as mainframe migration, application consolidation, data synchronization and data hubs, as well as traditional extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) for data warehouse capabilities. The company reviewed various current feature extensions including support for unstructured data, data quality improvement and data federation. It also discussed its Similarity Systems acquisition and its intention to develop future products to address inefficiencies during the investigation and design phases of integration projects. Ventana Research believes that Informatica will continue to lead in data integration.

Assessment
At its annual industry analyst summit, held in Boston in February, Informatica further addressed how it plans to service the data integration market, introduced its Similarity Systems acquisition, described how its products will add value to service-oriented architectures (SOAs) and reported what the next major release of its product suite will contain. Informatica continues to position itself as a provider of data integration technology, offering more than just traditional ETL software to the data warehousing crowd. Informatica also intends to serve organizations' needs to support data migration from legacy mainframes, data consolidation from multiple applications, data synchronization among multiple applications and master data hubs. Ventana Research concurs that many IT integration initiatives, whether for the purposes of cutting costs or increasing revenue, have common data integration needs and can be served by the same type of data integration software.

Data synchronization and master data hubs are examples of IT integration initiatives that can be implemented using either ETL-derived data integration technology or enterprise application integration (EAI) technology. As vendors in both integration camps continue to mature their products, extending the overlap of their capabilities, the question arises whether one camp will take business from the other. Ventana Research believes that the organizational desire to simplify technology portfolios, replicate best practices and reuse custom-developed components will generate competition between ETL and EAI technologies in cases where either of the technologies might be applied to a particular initiative. In this competition, the winner may well be the technology that is most easily reused and most easily adopted by less technically sophisticated users.

Enterprise software vendors, including Informatica, are racing to clarify the relevance of their software to SOAs. The data integration vendors have proposed the notion that data will be provided as "data services." Thus, Informatica now recasts its capabilities for transformation, movement, profiling and federation as data services that would participate in an SOA. These data services support the interaction of JMS, XQuery, SQL, RSS and other Web service protocols with similar services. Informatica envisions integrating these services individually or collectively into portals, business process management, EAI, application servers and the like.

Ventana Research views this form of SOA integration as a reasonable approach for now. It allows organizations to continue with current architectural approaches to data integration and reuse, but with simplification of the steps. However, SOA promises reuse at a business process and information level. Informatica's vision for this more mature approach to SOA is yet to be articulated.

The Similarity Systems acquisition, announced in late January, provides Informatica with data quality capabilities that fill in a gap in Informatica's data integration suite. Similarity takes a holistic approach to data quality rather than focusing just on customer or product data quality. Its data services include customer record cleansing, validation and relationship identification. The technology also includes a generalized rule-based cleansing engine. It's worthy of note that Similarity has emphasized its ability to generate data quality-related metrics for auditing, monitoring and compliance purposes. Informatica says the Similarity technology will be integrated into its offerings in the third quarter of 2006. Ventana Research believes that the acquisition of this technology not only fills a deficiency within the Informatica Suite but will provide modest differentiation with its data quality metric capabilities.

Informatica also provided more detail on the next major release of its product suite. In this release, Informatica will provide additional design tools for the analysis and design phases of data integration projects. These tools are intended for business users rather than IT users, in an attempt to help bridge the collaboration gap between IT and the lines of business. Ventana Research believes that fostering greater collaboration between IT and business to manage information will be a critical success factor going forward. Tools such as that proposed by Informatica will be crucial for successful collaboration between IT and business.

Market Impact
Informatica has improved its financial performance, focused its product suite, acquired key technology and defined a rational vision for expanded market penetration. Ventana Research believes that Informatica will continue to be a significant player in the data integration market. Informatica's bet is that its tight focus on data integration will trump the broader but potentially less clearly delineated product and marketing strategies of large competitors such as Business Objects, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. Should the data integration value propositions of these other vendors be eclipsed by broader marketing messages such as information management or business intelligence, Informatica's bet may well pay off. However, an alternative scenario is that data integration will be subsumed into larger product categories such as information management, business intelligence (BI), application integration or even SOA. The challenge for Informatica then will be to argue a need for stand-alone best-of-breed data integration within the context of these larger topics.

Recommendation
Ventana Research believes that data integration will be a major driver for IT initiatives for the foreseeable future. Comprehensive, enterprise-wide integration of information will become a common objective in any organization. Achieving this goal will require standardization not only on vendors but on technical approaches. This is not to say that one size fits all, but rather that organizations should minimize redundant investments in overlapping technology. Ventana Research recommends that organization choose which integration tools will be used more generically and which tools will be used only for special instances.

Ventana Research asserts that organizations should define how data integration will fit with their SOA architecture in both the near and far future. A critical success factor will be to avoid short-term tactical decisions that limit long-term scalability and flexibility.

About Ventana Research
Ventana Research is the leading Performance Management research and advisory services firm.  By providing expert insight and detailed guidance, Ventana Research helps clients operate their companies more efficiently and effectively. These business improvements are delivered through a top-down approach that connects people, process, information and technology. What makes Ventana Research different from other analyst firms is a focus on Performance Management for finance, operations and IT. This focus, plus research as a foundation and reach into a community of over two million corporate executives through extensive media partnerships, allows Ventana Research to deliver a high-value, low-risk method for achieving optimal business performance. To learn how Ventana Research Performance Management workshops, assessments and advisory services can impact your bottom line, visit www.ventanaresearch.com.

© 2006 Ventana Research

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