Will Master Data Management and ETL Overlap?

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I was chatting today with Andy Hayler. Hayler co-founded the data warehousing/master data management company Kalido, but recently launched the consultancy, The Information Difference, with Dr. David Waddington, a former chief IT Systems Architect. Hayler described the company as a "boutique version of Gartner or Forrester" devoted solely to researching master data management.


He contends integration vendors need to sit up and pay attention to what's going on with MDM, because MDM technology could eliminate the need for some of the point-to-point, hard-coded integration ETL solutions currently provide:

"...the integration vendors need to understand what's happening in the MDM world, because a piece of their world is changing and I think they need to ideally become part of that solution. If MDM does continue to grow and be widely implemented, and you're an integration vendor and you don't participate in that world, you're going to lose at least some of your potential application. This is why SAP, Oracle Microsoft and IBM have all bought MDM vendors. All four have realized if they don't have MDM at the heart at their own offerings, then some of their proprietary applications start to be hollowed out. I don't' think it's fully dawned on all the integration vendors."

I thought of his comments when I saw this IT-Director article on expressor software, a new ETL-based data integration solution profiled by Philip Howard, a data management research director with Bloor Research.


Howard points out that many functionalities for existing ETL products have been tacked on, but expressor was designed to incorporate these functionalities from the get-go. That's its first advantage. The second is that it uses semantics, which means the tool can figure out "customer no" "customer ID" and "customer_no" are all the same thing -- without you having to manually connect the dots. It ships with a slew of similar semantic equivalents, saving you a lot of time and trouble, he writes.


Howard seems to anticipate expressor to be disruptive to existing players, such as Informatica, Business Objects and IBM.


To me, that functionality sounds very similar to what MDM offers. Perhaps this could be another sign of cross-pollination between MDM and ETL?


MDM is still young, and Hayler said no one has a mature, complete solution. MDM will undergo further consolidation and mergers, both as a technology and a market. A recent article on SearchOracle.com took a look at some current big-name MDM offerings, and I think it reflects Hayler's assessment. It's a good read, particularly if you're involved in or about to start an MDM initiative.


But if you're only thinking about MDM, does this mean you should wait? Well, it depends on your needs, obviously. But even if you don't want to invest in the technology, a recent report from the Aberdeen Group suggests it's probably worth your company's time to look at the practice of master data management.


MDM the practice is already showing positive results in manufacturing firms, according to an Manufacturing Computer Solutions' article on the Aberdeen study. Aberdeen found manufacturers who pursued "one version of the truth" -- which is MDM's goal -- improved customer satisfaction scores, operated more efficiently and decreased the time it took to get data to the business.