July 26, 2006

Informatica’s general story

Informatica came by today. In general their story is: Data integration is very important; all vendors except Informatica and IBM/Ascential are low end; IBM/Ascential is confused; most BI vendors except Business Objects are likely to follow Hyperion’s lead in partnering with them.

Key product advantages they claim include:

Integrated active metadata directory. This is apparently based on Informatica’s own code, rather than a licensed product. It is used a lot at development time, not so much at run time, with the obvious application to Sarbanes-Oxley-style compliance being exploited only by relatively few customers. I must confess to chuckling that Sohaib Abbasi has wound up running a company that boasts of its active metadata directory. Such a directory lay at the heart of Sedona, an Oracle dev tool fiasco of legendary proportions,.

Note: Notwithstanding my crack about Sedona — by almost any standard, Sohaib is one of the good guys. (I was going to put “surprisingly” in that sentence, but actually the same is true of most other ~20-year Oracle veterans too.)

Performance. Informatica pooh-poohs anything XSLT-based as being inherently slow, due to its document-orientation or something. I.e., such products are row-at-a-time rather than set-at-a-time. However, it didn’t occur to me to probe for a convincing argument as to why set-at-a-time is inherently faster. Whoops. We have a follow-up item.

Data cleaning/quality versatility. Informatica acquired the Similarity product some months ago, which they assert is more modern than some competitors, and hence better suited to handle data beyond names/addresses. A key example would be product hierarchies/ taxonomies. I suggested they explore whether this could be leveraged for enterprises’ text technology architectures, specifically in the area of ontology management.

Data transformation complexity. Here too I was sloppy about figuring out what the exact claim was. Performance? Ease of development/administration of the transformations themselves? General goodness of the scheduling, etc. tools? Probably it’s some of each, especially the first two. In any case, “complex data transformation” commonly gets intoned when Informatica tries to position its products as being higher-end than, say, Business Objects’ EIM offering.

Lots of connectors. Informatica has been around for ages. Accordingly, it connects to almost anything.

SaaS/Outsourcing. This really does sound like cool stuff.

Informatica talks about wrapping/enabling data services, in a way that would warm a DBMS2 implementer’s heart. Where they don’t play, however, is on the process side — they position themselves away from EAI and ESBs, they don’t have a composite app dev tool, and so on.

Frankly, I think they still have a marketing problem. Data connectivity middleware is boring, and they don’t have a high-concept story to jazz it up.* I think they could, and have pointed them at some of the original DBMS2 materials for clues about how to articulate it. But they don’t have one yet. It also doesn’t help that Informatica, for many years, was one of the most visibly for-sale companies in the whole software industry, although they vigorously deny that that posture continues under Sohaib’s leadership.

*However, they do get beaucoup Brownie points for not inflicting on me the story “We offer an abstraction layer that liberates you from being locked into various different DBMS brands (and locks you into our software instead).” In various forms, that pitch has been annoying me for a quarter of a century. Indeed, they derided it as just selling a “nicer jail.”


2 Responses to “Informatica’s general story”

  1. DBMS2 — DataBase Management System Services»Blog Archive » Informatica’s SaaS/Outsourcing story on July 26th, 2006 3:14 am

    […] The coolest part of Informatica’s visit today was the new SaaS story. Naturally, they’re starting with Salesforce.com, but they hope to use the technology they’re developing for Salesforce with other SaaS vendors, with Business Process Outsourcers, and with anybody else who needs robust cross-enterprise data integration. I don’t actually think there’s a lot of hard technology there; nonetheless, somebody had to build it. And they apparently have, in two main parts. […]

  2. DBMS2 — DataBase Management System Services»Blog Archive » Business Objects on EIM, ETL, etc. on August 17th, 2006 6:59 pm

    […] I chatted with some Business Objects ETL/EIM (Enterprise Information Management) folks today, in a call that was a direct response to what I heard from and posted about Informatica. The core of the Business Objects story can be summarized (albeit brutally!) like this: […]

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