November 16, 2007

Does Ab Initio need to be taken seriously?

Users and vendors occasionally mention Ab Initio to me. But when I inquired about details at their booth at the Teradata conference, I was told to go away by a “gentleman” who seemed quite amused with himself for doing so. And when I checked Ab Initio’s website right now, I found it to be rather content-free.

Is Ab Initio all flash — and Flash — and no substance? Do they rely on selling to a few enterprises they can bamboozle, free from interference by prying analysts? Obviously, I don’t know for sure, but that’s how my guesses are leaning right now.


6 Responses to “Does Ab Initio need to be taken seriously?”

  1. Alex on November 16th, 2007 7:36 am

    I’ve seen two big Ab Initio sites up close but we are going back a few years now. There was nothing quite like it in terms of ability to load lots of data quickly. All huge sites in terms of data volume- financial services co’s. I’d probably still reckon that, because of the way their architecture works (or at least the way I understood it to work), that they can do things that might worry even the current version of Informatica (and maybe DataStage too though their parallel stuff has been around a while).

    Undeniably though they are odd (and more than a little secretive) in terms of the way they go about doing business. Go back a few years and their website was basically a single page with a phone number on it- their current one is positively overloaded with information in comparison. Heard a few interesting things about the way the company works too.

    All that being said, I’m not really an ETL guy so perhaps best take my perspective with a pinch of salt.

  2. Curt Monash on November 16th, 2007 9:02 am

    Thanks, Alex.

    My general approach to small companies that don’t want attention is to leave them in peace. With that attitude, they’re unlikely to become big ones anyway, or (absent being acquired) find the resources to develop their technology dramatically further.

    Sometimes that’s a waste of some clever technology. Thunderstone is probably one example, and Ab Initio is probably another. But so be it.


  3. Partial overview of Ab Initio Software | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on June 9th, 2009 4:35 am

    […] Initio is an absurdly secretive company, as per a couple of prior posts and the comment threads on same. But yesterday at TDWI I actually found civil people staffing an Ab […]

  4. Atish Banerjeee on September 30th, 2009 6:38 pm

    I am an ETL architect, in my experience with different ETL tools – this is the best one on following aspect.
    1. Scalability
    2. Performce and parallelism
    3. Quick learning curve
    4. Less development time
    5. Sound architecture to scale up easilly as reqd
    6. Prompt and fantastic technical support
    7. Easy to maintain and enhance and upgrade

    But the price tag is very high, their GDE (graphical development Environment – designer client) comes with ip/machine specific license.
    And yes, I don’t understand their marketting strategy, why they keep themselve in cover rather more advertising about what they got.
    People say Ab Intio select their client but my knowledge say it might sound good but real world business doesn’t work this way.
    I am scared this fantastic technology might be lost sooner if they don’t act in different way.

  5. Barry on April 7th, 2010 3:17 am

    I have worked with Ab Initio for going on 6 years now. Most of that time I worked for a company which used Ab Initio to run its core business. Now I work as an Ab Initio contractor.

    Although much of the emphasis is on database unloading and loading, Ab Initio really shines when given data to manipulate outside of a database. I have seen processes go from days to hours. Data unloading and loading is still very fast. Even sorting data (the traditional bane of non-RDBMS data processing) is amazingly fast (faster than Syncsort if done in parallel). The GDE is the best piece of interactive software I have ever used. Given several files, I can draw a graph to manipulate them almost as quickly as I could write a query to join several tables in SQL. Customer support is absolutely top-notch.

    It is expensive. I honestly don’t know how much it costs (I think it depends on who is buying). I do know that GDEs are licensed per PC. Ab Initio also uses all resources available to it, so it doesn’t play nice with several competing jobs (though one can write a graph to be less resource-intensive).

    Ab Initio is very secretive, as all posters have pointed out. It almost seems like that having a GDE license is your admission to the “secret society” and discussion with the un-initiated is strongly discouraged. Even discussion between practitioners is somewhat discouraged. There are obviously no third party books, courses, or component libraries. One effect of this is that there is an artificial scarcity of practitioners, and no way to tell the good from the indifferent. Another is that a company who buys Ab Initio and hires contractors (this seems to be the usual way it’s done) has no way of telling if the contractors are using Ab Initio to its best ability, or simply implementing a classic non-ETL database process (with its multi-way join complex queries, multiple temp tables, ETC) in an Ab Initio wrapper with perhaps a trivial reformat to make it look like they are using the product. In fact, these people may decide that this is the best way to use the product, and nobody will tell them otherwise.

    Oh – I did go to training at Ab Initio company headquarters in 2001. Our lunch was cooked to order by an on-site chef. I guess one of the big traditions of Thinking Machines lives on.

  6. Holo on November 2nd, 2015 4:35 pm

    I was a DBA/Data Architecture on a VLDB in 1998. I was one of a few people who worked on DB2 LUW 5.1 when it was announced in 1997 by IBM. I am in Canada and retired now. But some how I came to this blog and found it interesting.
    We were looking for a ETL tool and then we heard about Ab Initio. We called the company but company was not interesting in talking to us – for right reasons. Eventually they agreed to meet us on one Saturday. Some executives were flying back to USA from UK and they decided they will go via Canada and meet us.
    They were afraid of growing too fast. They were concerned about not being able to serve their customers. They did not to fail because of their success.
    Well if you find company to be secretive, now you know why. But I am surprised that in year 2009, they still do not want to expand.
    Their ETL tool is one of best I have worked with. Mind you I am not ETL architecture.

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