Free ETLs and Other Pricing Options: Why Vendors Do It

Loraine Lawson
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Nothing catches my eye like the word "free." I'd love to sound high-minded and talk about "liberty," but the truth is, I'm cheap and always looking for a deal. You learn these tricks when you're a liberal arts major.


So, yes, expressor software caught my eye recently when it sent me a press release announcing a new partnership with Teradata that involves not one, but two free solutions.


Teradata Express is a free developer version of Teradata Database, and it runs on Windows, Linux and Amazon EC2. Granted, that's not so surprising - developer versions are often free, assumably because if your coders use it, you'll be so impressed by what they do with it, you'll be willing to upgrade to the grown-up, for-pay version.


To complement that solution, expressor is coupling its Community Edition ETL tool, which is for use on Windows desktops, for - you guessed it - free.


On top of that, expressor is releasing CSVexpress.com, a free tool for business users, analysts and ETL developers to quickly and simply load CSV files into databases quickly and without coding, expressor says.


It's not that free ETL tools are so uncommon. Talend and Pentaho also offer free versions for you to try, although the trend is to push for this to be a free trial period rather than a free product. But here's the difference: Talend, Pentaho and other ETL providers are open source companies - and expressor is not.


expressor started incorporating aspects of the open source movement in its marketing last year.


"We're pursuing a commercial path like Informatica and Ascential Software, now IBM, but we're using some of the sales and marketing techniques open source vendors have used: download ability, forums, telesales - high volume, but low touch in terms of dealing with customers," said expressor CEO Bob Potter.


Now, expressor is shifting to a "try-it-before-you-buy-it" approach, although they will continue to offer a free edition, but will primarily focus on trials of the desktop editions, explained expressor VP Michael Waclawiczek in an email.


To keep prices down, Waclawiczek says vendors "like us" - meaning less established solutions - are using different marketing techniques, including seeding the market by offering low-cost or free tools, offering evaluation periods, keeping costs down, pushing the boundaries of traditional ETL, moving into the midmarket, expanding into the cloud and appealing to business analysts and other less technical users.


It probably doesn't hurt to do things like partner with a heavyweight like Teradata, either. Even though Teradata Express is free and comes with a simple data-load capability, it's often insufficient because there also needs to be a transformation of the data - and that integration can be expensive. Teradata customers say they have problems justifying the cost of using the in-house ETL solutions because those tools are "too complex and expensive," explains Waclawiczek.


While expressor is testing the edges of open source and proprietary marketing, Informatica is testing out the first cloud data integration service with monthly usage-based subscription pricing for its Informatica Cloud Express. The new offering is for integrating CRM data with the cloud. It starts at $99 a month, allows CRM admin and users to create, schedule and manage bi-directional data integration tasks between Salesforce CRM and Force.com, as well as on-premise data sources.


If you're interested, you can download the free Teradata developer edition and the Community Edition of expressor online and peruse the free support tools, including training videos, resources and sample applications.

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