Master Data Management Grows Up, Part II: The Cloud

Loraine Lawson

Informatica recently announced its new Cloud MDM, a master data management solution built on Force.com.

I asked Ravi Shankar, the company’s senior director of MDM product marketing, why Informatica would opt to build an MDM solution for only one platform.

He explained that often organizations have multiple divisions using Salesforce.com, which creates different views and information about the same set of customers. This solution is designed to address that problem, giving organizations a cloud-based solution for creating a “single view” of these customers.

Oh, and it can also do things like cleanse data, enrich data from third-party providers, and integrate data from on-premise applications, if you so choose.

But it does beg the question still: Why one platform and not multi-domain MDM for the cloud?

As one analyst (mea culpa — I can’t find the original reference) pointed out, MDM vendors aren’t keen on cannibalizing their on-premise MDM market by moving it to the cloud, particularly since it’s unclear whether enterprises will follow.

Informatica isn’t alone in tentatively testing the water with cloud-based MDM. It’s still an emerging field, according to Gartner, which considers the dominant cloud MDM vendors to include Cognizant, Data Scout — which was recently acquired by Informatica — IBM, Informatica, Oracle and Orchestra Networks are among those with MDM-in-the-cloud solutions.

But what does it mean to say cloud MDM? Here are four important issues CIOs and other IT leaders should know about this shift to cloud MDM:

1. Remember yesterday, when I said MDM was growing up so fast and seemed like a teenager, with its head in the clouds? Well, it’s important to remember that this cloud MDM is still immature — at least according to Gartner, Forrester and other experts who watch this space.


"Cloud is coming for MDM," Gartner MDM analyst John Radcliffe told TechTarget in April said. "But it's not there today."

As far as I can tell, not much has changed since then.

2. The term “cloud MDM” may not mean what you’d think it means. Actually, it seems to vary by vendor. For instance, some are application- or platform-specific. Informatica’s Cloud MDM is only for Force.com users; for the full multi-domain MDM solution, you’ll need to invest in on-premise.

Others, like Liaison Technology, are actually offering something best called MDM as a service. It’s a hosted solution, and it manages your MDM for you, rather than giving you a self-serve solution. There are also industry-specific cloud solutions for master data, like Cognizant, which used Informatica’s MDM to develop a cloud MDM solution specifically for pharmaceutical companies.

And some vendors even have used the term to refer to on-premise solutions that will integrate cloud data.

The one company that does claim to offer a multi-domain MDM solution that equals its on-premise tool: Orchestra Networks. Hub Solution Designs confirmed this after a briefing, but here’s the caveat: The company’s solution has been available for nearly a year, and yet, Gartner and Forrester still say cloud MDM is “immature.” I’ll be honest: I’m not sure what that’s about and I’ll let you make of that what you will.

3. The real question isn’t whether MDM in the cloud is possible; it’s whether it’s smart.

“Assuming you are comfortable with your master data living outside your firewall (which is a big assumption), the short answer to the first question is, 'Yes, MDM can be easily deployed on cloud infrastructure,’” wrote Jon Case, an MDM product manager at IBM, in a recent post on the questions he’s most frequently asked about cloud and MDM.

Radcliffe told TechTarget that’s the main concern organizations express: the security risk of storing master data in a public cloud. He predicts that the internal MDM will eventually be the central point for managing both cloud and on-premise data in hybrid IT environments.

But security concerns aren’t the only potential issue with cloud-based MDM, as Gartner’s Andrew White explained in full last year.

4. Cloud-based MDM seems to be working well for some best-in-class companies — at least, according to this recently released Aberdeen Group report, “Master Data Management and the Cloud.”

In a survey of 173 organizations, Aberdeen found that 16 percent of the organizations considered “best-in-class” have moved to cloud-based MDM — meaning, using a software platform or Web-based portal interface to connect both internal and external data — compared to four percent of other organizations.

“This type of MDM-as-a-service offering provides an alternative to more traditional, on-premise solutions,” the report notes. “While the overall adoption rate of these cloud solutions is still low, Aberdeen’s research shows that the Best-in-Class are leading the investment curve: They are four times as likely as all other companies to have implemented such a solution.”

A happy coincidence: That report is available for free download as of today — but I’m not sure how long that will last.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 26, 2012 12:39 PM Nancy Beckman Nancy Beckman  says:
"The real question isn’t whether MDM in the cloud is possible; it’s whether it’s smart" A good point. How much control will you have to give up over your data for cloud MDM? What new risks will it bring? Reply

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