IBM had two major announcements this week, but it's a bit tricky to tell exactly what's new, since the release is two parts product updates and one part rename.
Personally, I hate it when vendors do this, because it feels a bit like a shell game: Is there really anything new under the shell of the new name?
Let's take a peek, starting with the easy part first. There's a new version of IBM InfoSphere Information Server, IBM's information integration platform.
- You can standardize and resolve multicultural name data. IBM calls this IBM Global Name Recognition, which is a surprisingly straight-forward name, as vendor naming conventions go. If you're curious about how this works, you can read more about it here.
- More mainframe and grid support.
- The ability to publish reusable services for data access and data processing functions, which will help with SOA implementations.
- Hullo -- what's this? The news release says InfoSphere Information Server automates integration tasks. Alas, no details in the press -- fortunately, Enterprise Systems ran an excellent article with more details about integration near the end of the piece.
- It's easier to use, thanks to new automation features that simplify and speed large-scale integration projects across the globe.
- Information Server now supports eight languages, which is particularly significant when you consider developers will be able to read the tools, documentations and help files in their native language. Can you say, "Namaste, offshore outsourcing?"
This product is "a workflow-oriented product data hub," which means it manages data related to products. This is as opposed to MDM solutions that focus on customer data -- which is actually what most MDM tools do.
And, no, it's not just a name change. There are some new, cool features, many of which are going to thrill you if you're a multi-national enterprise. The rest of you may want to skim ahead.
Here's what's new:
Basically, InfoSphere is the brand name for IBM's information integration platform. So, really, it makes sense to rename the PIM offering -- the tool formerly known as WebSphere --- and connect it with IBM's other information integration tools.
- It helps you maintain a single view of product information throughout the organization. Notice that verb: Maintain. It's hard enough to obtain a single view of anything in a global enterprise, but maintaining a single view is the really tricky part. This, in a nutshell, is why companies are adopting MDM -- so the name change is appropriate.
- It can manage millions of products -- even product data that differs by geographic location.
- There's a new user interface that helps knowledge workers figure out what they need to do. Michael Curry, director of product strategy and management for InfoSphere, gave Software Development Times a nice description of how this works.
- IBM promises the new release will be easier to deploy and use, thanks to changes to the user interface.
- IBM also promises it's faster to roll out, thanks to changes in the underlying technology. If you're curious, those under-the-hood changes include use of the JAVA application protocol interface and easier integration with enterprise solutions based on -- yep, you guessed it -- SOA.
- It's also integrated with InfoSphere Information Server, which can cleanse your data, another critical part of a good MDM solution.
If you'd like to know more, Enterprise Systems offered the best coverage on the updates and the InfoSphere branding.
And if you're curious about how IBM's InfoSphere data integration software might be used together in the real world, IBM also issued a press release describing how Shared Health used the tools to launch a new patient data exchange platform called Clinical Xchange.