I've been scanning the headlines this week for news on Informatica 9, the company's new-and-improved data integration platform. At last count there were over 60 news items on the topic, so my goal here today is to hit the highlights quickly and succinctly.
First, this is a major platform shift for Informatica 9, according to everybody. Informatica's product marketing manager for Data Integration, Ash Parikh, whom I recently spoke to, said the company designed it with three goals in mind:
As I've mentioned before, many see data as SOA's last mile, a sort of unexplored and ignored wildland. Data services are one way to address that problem, and it's certainly something Informatica's talked about extensively-so much so, I was beginning to wonder if they'd invented the concept. (Embarrassing fact: I asked Parikh this. He fessed up that Informatica did not come up with the term.)
Among the new features of Informatica 9:
A new browser-based tool designed for business analysts to use for recreating data requirements. Informatica 9 then creates implementation details for IT from the analysts' requirements.
As Ventana Research' Senior VP Robert Kugel points out, this gives IT and business users a common tool for data integration. "By sharing a common metadata repository which contains all data and can manage it across the entire lifecycle of development, IT can pick up the loose ends that business users need help with," Kugel says. He stops short of saying it does solve the IT/business alignment problem, but says it should make everyone more efficient.
Role-based tools that allow business users to review data quality with the tool, which Ventana Research CEO Mark Smith says is a requirement for eliminating those rogue databases and spreadsheets IT loves to hate:
"Informatica has come out with the capability for analysts to define and review their data to ensure it is of the highest quality but also ensure they are getting what they need to get their job done. Without this, our research has found that they will continue to use their own silos of local databases or worse even use spreadsheets where they copy and paste their data to meet their own local efforts introducing potential data quality issues like varied definitions, wrong aggregations and calculation errors."
More support for SOA. Intelligent Enterprise had an excellent piece on how Informatica 9 ties in with SOA, noting that it ships with "catalog services" that can discover data services, on cloud or on premise, police-based service governance and a data abstraction layer that includes "out-of-the-box data delivery formats and protocol options." Intelligent Enterprise's editor-in-chief, Doug Henschen, who wrote the piece, couldn't help but notice-as did CTO Edge's Mike Vizard-that this looks an awful lot like "SOA middleware," but Forrester data integration analyst Rob Karel explained to Henschen that, to date, most middleware companies haven't addressed data-and that's a situation Informatica is trying to remedy.
So far, the responses seems overwhelmingly positive, though there are obligatory criticisms. Kugel raised questions about how much up-front work Informatica 9 will require for most organizations. But to be honest, most of the criticisms seemed to fall into the "Informatica needs to do more" camp, as opposed criticism of the actual offering. For instance, Rajan Chandras is very complementary of Informatica 9, with comments like, "So, is this new release good news for customers? No, it's great news for customers." But then he wraps up with this:
"Even with this stellar performance from Informatica, I expect more. Added data quality to data integration? Should have been done a long time ago. B2B data exchange? One (or even a few) verticals does not even dent the business requirement for data exchanges -- how far will Informatica keep trudging down this path into other verticals? Application lifecycle management? Need to know more about how Informatica will exploit the shared boundaries between ALM and ETL. CEP? Same thing. Cloud computing? See my previous post about cloud competitor SnapLogic. Informatica's steadfast progress is great news, really, but quite frankly I am looking for more leadership from Informatica."
The idea that Informatica is under pressure form smaller, more niche players was also a common refrain in pieces about Informatica 9. That said, it seems that in the data integration world, trouble flows uphill, not down, because Smith and others pointed out that Informatica 9 will put pressure on IBM and Oracle.