Sometimes less is more. That's what SAS was counting on a year and a half ago when it combined the talents and technologies of its SAS data integration team and separate DataFlux business unit into a single entity. The resulting new product, announced yesterday, is the Data Flux Data Management Platform, a unified suite combining data integration, data quality and master data management (MDM) technologies.
"SAS's expertise was in ETL (extract, transform and load) and data warehouse integration, and DataFlux was strong on data quality and services-oriented integration," says Tony Fisher, CEO of DataFlux. "Now we can offer a single platform that manages everything from up-front data discovery to MDM and business process integration."
The new platform comprises a Data Management Studio for developing data rules and profiles; a Data Management Server for implementing data integration and MDM rules and workflows in both batch (data warehousing) and real-time (application) environments; a Federation Server for integrating data across multiple repositories; and a Connect module for integrating enterprise applications, such as SAP and Siebel.
A key theme behind the platform is facilitating business and IT collaboration with consistent and user-friendly interfaces suitable for non-technical users. "That boils down to a lot of data visualization capabilities, easy reporting and dashboarding interfaces and the ability to navigate, search and augment the metadata environment with business-oriented terms," says Fisher.
DataFlux was acquired by SAS in 2000. The unified platform's data quality and MDM technologies may well be of interest whether customers are focused on data warehousing or broader forms of data integration. But DataFlux says it won't force SAS customers to buy into technologies they don't need.
"We have maintained a separate SAS stack with the SAS Data Integration Studio, but Data Flux is managing and developing that product and it shares the same metadata, data exploration and data profiling infrastructure as the Data Management Platform," says Fisher. The commonality will enable SAS customers to seamlessly move into MDM, federation and application data integration on the DataFlux platform, he says.
DataFlux is not the first data integration vendor to move toward a single platform combining data integration, data quality and MDM. IBM has assembled all these pieces in its InfoSphere lineup, though it more closely resembles a family of products rather than a unified platform. Informatica has a single platform in Informatica 9, but it only recently added the MDM piece by way of its February acquisition of Siperian, so that portion of the platform has yet to be integrated. Oracle, too, has all the components, and in January it acquired (previously OEMed) Silver Creek Systems to bolster its data quality technology.
Examining DataFlux technologies on their own merits, the company's data quality strengths are well recognized, but analysts rate the company as a secondary player in MDM, shy of leaders IBM and Oracle in both breadth of offerings and numbers of customers.
Given Oracle's Silver Creek purchase and IBM's January acquisition of Initiate Systems, among the largest best-of-breed MDM vendors, it seems the strong vendors are getting stronger and pressure will intensify on others, like SAP Business Objects, Microsoft and Information Builders, to either step up the investment or risk losing out on the broadest swath of the data integration market.