It's spring, and for the next two months in my town, everyone will be obsessed with two things: Flowers and The Kentucky Derby. Everybody loves a good race, and let me tell you, it's two of the best minutes in racing.
But, if horses aren't your thing, there's always the race going on in the master data management space. It's not quite as fast or colorful, but as more specialized, niche players are acquired, the stakes could get just as high.
The most recent consolidation in MDM: TIBCO acquired Netrics, a small, private data matching vendor with some rather interesting and unique technology.
But what's perhaps more interesting is that this acquisition highlights once again the stud holding off in the back of the pack: Oracle. Forrester analyst Rob Karel, who covers MDM, says he continues to be surprised by Oracle's lack of movement in the MDM space:
"... what surprised me the most with this frenzy of MDM M&A activity is that Oracle has remained less active than I would have anticipated. Oracle made a great move in early 2010 with its acquisition of product data quality leader, Silver Creek Systems, pretty much scooping up the only credible product DQ solution on the market to complement its Oracle Product Hub PIM product, among other anticipated uses. But it has remained relatively quiet on the customer data front .... Netrics seemed the most likely target for Oracle to replace Identity Systems with its small footprint and relatively low acquisition cost..."
There are still options, Karel writes, including S3 Matching Technologies, Syslore or identity resolution/matching vendor Infoglide Software. But if Oracle plans to just use its own matching engine from the Oracle Customer Hub in Oracle Universal Content Management-"that would be a step backwards in my opinion," he writes.
You have to admit, Oracle's inactivity in MDM is a bit odd, given how well-rehearsed the vendor is at acquisitions. Maybe it's still busy with that Sun deal.
But what does TIBCO acquiring Netrics mean beyond the market analysis? Well, Karel writes that TIBCO is known for its application integration and business process capabilities. Its first foray into MDM came in 2005, when it acquired Velosel.
MDM solutions come from one of two technology heritages-product information management (PIM) and Customer Data Integration (CDI). Velosel provided the PIM piece; the Netrics acquisition, with its data matching engine, fills out TIBCO's offerings with the CDI piece.
Netric's technology uses a very specific approach that's excellent at dealing with dirty data, according to Andy Hayler, CEO of The Information Difference. Hayler says Netrics also owns a product that applies machine learning to data quality, essentially training the engine to replicate the behavior of the domain expert as the expert makes matches. Usually, this takes only a few days, he writes.
"I was impressed by its ability to find potential matches even in heavily distorted data," Hayler says. "I have also spoken to some of Netrics' OEM customers, who have found the product not only works well, but was easy to embed in their applications, unlike some other products they had considered."
Netrics had around 200 customers, and is strong in government and health care, according to Hayler. At this point, he adds, it seems TIBCO will allow Netrics to continue its OEM relationships, at least in the short to medium term.