The CEO of Informatica explains how the company's identity resolution software is being used by a "major European government" to combat terrorism in an interview published Friday by the Mercury News.
Sohaib Abbasi specifically references Umar Farouk Abdul, who is accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas.
"How could someone like that slip through the cracks?" Abbasi asks. "Data is often fragmented between so many different databases, and it's often recorded in so many different languages."
He follows up the apparently rhetorical question by explaining how Informatica's technology is helping a European country address the problem of querying structured and unstructured data:
"Using the technology that Informatica provides, we're able to identify the same individual when information may be recorded in different regional databases. It may be recorded in one database in English, another in Chinese and another in Arabic. We're even able to deal with inaccuracies in spelling, by looking at other information."
Earlier this month, I wrote about a Federal News Radio report quoting an anonymous "former Senior intelligence official" who said data integration problems were why authorities didn't "connect the dots" on Abdul as a suspected terrorist, despite several red flags. IT consultants and bloggers Jill Dyche and David Linthicum also believed better data governance and integration could help the government prevent such missteps.
But there are those who scoff at the idea that the federal intelligence community isn't well-equipped, technologically speaking, to handle the data integration challenges - "I'm sure today's intelligence agents have state-of-the-art analysis tools, since after all, if they don't have them, then who does?" wrote ZapThink's Jason Bloomberg. They tend to see the problem as a more complicated combination of ineffective policies, processes and governance, more than integration. Or-in the case of InformationWeek's John Foley-a combination of all of the above.
Regardless, everyone writing about it seems to at least agree on this: Connecting the dots is just as much a problem for enterprises, though the consequences may be less lethal.
Actually, the terrorist/data integration issue is a small portion of this excellent Q&A with Abbasi. He's an interesting fellow, it turns out, who started working at Oracle when it was a 30-person startup. He also discusses what's driving data integration now-(cloud computing, duh!) - how Informatica's sales division responded to the recession, and Informatica's competition.