Informatica Stays with Its Strengths in Data Integration
February 27, 2011

At Informatica’s recent industry analyst summit, Chris Boorman, the company’s chief marketing officer, opened the event by describing Informatica as expanding beyond its core offering in data integration in a broader sense. He compared this growth to Amazon expanding from being an online bookseller to offering computing resources via Amazon Web Services. I see it almost the opposite way. Informatica has always been in the data integration business. It has excelled at making this area of IT more relevant and more applicable to broader audiences. My colleague described their latest efforts to focus on line of business users in a recent post. My purpose here is to review some of the highlights of the company’s latest product releases.

The focus of the soon to be released version of its flagship product, Informatica 9.1, is to consolidate a range of offerings into a single platform. This consolidation includes the master data management (MDM) products acquired from Siperian during 2010, which we commented on. We’ve seen similar efforts from other data integration vendors, for example, the consolidation of the IBM InfoSphere platform.

Informatica 9.1 includes a laundry list of information management capabilities, starting with data integration and continuing with quality, profiling, governance, MDM, federation and virtualization, life-cycle management, event processing and low-latency messaging. So Informatica can be a one-stop shop for a complete portfolio of data integration tools. It also has aggressively embraced cloud computing, providing access to cloud–based data sources and offering its products as services in the cloud. As more enterprise data resides in the cloud, a hybrid configuration likely will become more appealing. We’ll have more data on this subject soon as we are beginning benchmark research on Business Data and the Cloud benchmark research program.

It’s impossible to cover a product line as broad as Informatica’s in a single blog post. For example, this vendor not only provides core data integration, data quality and data profiling capabilities but also has a dedicated product for information life-cycle management that includes data archiving and test-data management. It offers data virtualization and federation capabilities via what it calls data services. And the list goes on. For the moment then, I’ll point out what caught my attention, setting aside Informatica’s impressive ability to execute and continue to expand its presence in the market.

Informatica has invested heavily in the technology acquired from Siperian. As a result, MDM is now a key part of Informatica’s platform – in fact MDM seems to be everywhere in it. While many vendors have limited or specialized their MDM offerings to a customer-related data domains, Informatica’s works well across multiple domains. At the analyst conference presenters shared MDM examples ranging from traditional customer data to aircraft engine specifications to seed catalogs. (However, despite the support for many domains, Informatica does not provide a prebuilt product information management (PIM) application such as those covered in our PIM Value Index for 2011 though they support product data integration. Informatica’s MDM approach provides both repository-based and registry-based hub architectures via a single product, which ensures consistency between the two. In version 9 you can also change data models and rules while the system is running to produce an environment with no downtime. The service-oriented architecture (SOA) of Informatica also comes through in a variety of ways. Informatica created data controls to embed data quality and MDM capabilities in other applications, demonstrating at the conference Informatica functionality embedded within Excel and salesforce.com for true self-service capabilities. Presenters also demonstrated packaging of Informatica activities as a Web service – that goes beyond the needs of most end users, but a skilled technical resource could embed Informatica in virtually any application.

On the other side of the equation, Informatica supports a variety of new data sources via its Data Services offering. These data services can be used for virtualization and federation similar to those of other vendors such as Composite Software or Denodo, but Informatica can also apply other features from its technology stack such as data quality to its data sources, in effect, creating “data quality in flight.” If your organization relies on virtualization and federation, you can use these features to ensure that the quality of that data matches the standards you have set for the rest of your data. Data services also provide another powerful capability. When you define a logical data source, it can include a variety of other steps (such as data quality and data governance) in the definition of the data source. So even if you don’t plan to use virtualized or federated data sources, you should still look into data services as a way to associate all the necessary information management processes with the data sources you make available to users in your organization.

In event processing, Informatica has a bit of split personality. It has both a complex event processing (CEP) engine acquired from Agent Logic and a low-latency messaging infrastructure acquired from 29 West. What the company refers to as CEP is in my opinion more similar to a rules engine as opposed to a product like Streambase – in fact the product is called RulePoint. It is designed for complex rule structures but not necessarily very low latency data such as stock quotes. That’s where the 29 West product comes in that we covered at time of acquisition. Informatica Ultra Messaging provides a messaging infrastructure that can deal with very low latency data – measured in microseconds – but does not provide the same robust rule capabilities. I expect we’ll see more convergence between these two products over time if Informatica intends to be competitive in the CEP space and what we call Operational Intelligence. However, for most organizations that don’t need to process ultra low latency data, RulePoint is probably sufficient.

Cloud computing continues to play a big role for Informatica. It bet early and bet big on the cloud, as mentioned in my previous blog post “Clouds are Raining Corporate Data”.

I arrived at the event wondering how Informatica could sustain its growth and remain so strongly competitive. I expected to hear of plans for acquisitions and expansion into other aspects of business intelligence or data warehousing. I left with the impression that Informatica not only has thrived in its core market but also has found ways to expand its product line and broaden its addressable market within the data integration segment.

Regards,

Ventana Research


 

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