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Informatica has recently launched an unstructured option for its PowerCenter product. What it actually means by unstructured is both unstructured data (Word documents, pdf, HTML and so forth) and semi-structured content such as SWIFT messages (in banking), HIPAA (in healthcare), EDI and so on.
What Informatica has done to support these options is to embed technology, which it has OEM’d from ItemField, into PowerCenter. Now, the important thing to remember is that this option has been integrated at the metadata level into Informatica’s repository. This means that exactly the same impact analysis, data lineage and other features that are available for analysing the use of transformations in conventional environments are also available for these types of data. In addition, the data profiling built into PowerCenter is similarly available for use in conjunction with these new types of data (and, incidentally, there are also facilities to define your own datatypes). Further, the software uses exactly the same user interface as the rest of PowerCenter and therefore it requires no additional training to use.
I suspect that this is a taste of what is to come from other vendors in the ETL (extract, transform and load) space, but it is also interesting to note how it compares to Ascential’s (IBM’s) approach. In this case, DataStage TX is the offering, which was originally Mercator. While certainly more mature than the PowerCenter unstructured option, it is also more limited, being focused specifically on semi-structured data. It is also not integrated to the same extent that the PowerCenter option is, and there is no common underlying repository that spans all of the capabilities in the IBM product suite. While individual features may play a role when it comes to individual product selection decisions, as a matter of principle I prefer the approach adopted by Informatica.
And while we are on the subject of Informatica: I am constantly asked about the company’s future and whether it is a takeover target. There seems to be an impression that the company is not doing well. Anybody that thinks this should check the company’s financials: in its last quarter it reported record revenues and profits with both total revenues and license revenues growing by more than 20%. That doesn’t, of course, mean that it is not a takeover target but it does mean that whoever wanted to buy the company would have to pay a significant multiple. Moreover, there is no-one very obvious that seems likely to want to move into this market.
As far as I can see, Informatica is healthy and well from a financial perspective, and is introducing innovative new features to its product set as is instanced by this latest release and the forthcoming PowerCenter 8, which is scheduled for release around the end of this year.