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Informatica has just announced the acquisition of Similarity Systems, the Dublin (Ireland) based purveyor of data quality solutions. Now, I have been asking Informatica for years about why they weren’t going beyond data profiling and into full data quality solutions and had more or less given up beating my head against this particular brick wall, so I am pleased that the company has at last taken this step. The question, however, is whether this particular step (given the number of data quality vendors in the market) is the right one?
Similarity is a relatively young company in the data quality space, having only been set up in 2000. However, it has clearly benefited from late mover advantage as it has gained a significant foothold in the market since then, especially because the product suite, named ATHANOR (which despite sounding Gaelic is actually the Greek word for a furnace) is particularly targeted at business users, whereas many of the more long-lived companies in this area have been more focused on IT.
This focus, in the past, had both an upside (it was easy to use) and a downside (the product was less good at doing structural analysis—for example checking referential integrity) but the company moved to rectify this last year through the acquisition of Evoke, the company that started the data profiling market with its Axio product. In addition, of course, this gave Similarity a bridgehead into the United States. It remains a small player in that market but its support for Unicode and its strong reputation in Europe, as well its new ownership, should mean that doesn’t remain the case for long.
So much for the Similarity side of the story. Informatica’s is more complex. The company introduced profiling into PowerCenter 7 and at the same time announced a partnership with FirstLogic, with relatively close integration between the two product sets. This was augmented by a similar partnership with Trillium, announced last summer. In both these cases the idea was that if you only needed profiling for ETL (data integration) purposes then PowerCenter could probably do what you wanted. If you wanted anything more sophisticated or broad ranging then you could use one of the partner products instead (or, of course, anything else—Informatica was, and will remain, technically agnostic about data quality).
Of course, FirstLogic and Trillium will both be upset by this announcement but, in the case of FirstLogic it tried to sell itself to Group 1 last year, which would have the same effect, so it can’t complain too much. Trillium tends to focus on IT-heavy implementation so it probably doesn’t see this as too much competition (if so, I think it is wrong).
What of the future? First, ATHANOR will continue to be marketed as a stand-alone product, as will PowerCenter, but obviously the company will want to exploit their synergies. Informatica plans to have superficial integration between the product sets available in time for version 8.1 of its Zeus release, which is scheduled for April. Deeper integration will clearly take longer as the company will no doubt want it to employ the same metadata and services that underpin PowerCenter itself. The biggest question is with regard to the data profiling facilities that are currently in PowerCenter. These are optional anyway and I cannot see the company continuing with two options that overlap one another, so further development of the existing features is likely to stop though continuing maintenance for existing users should not be a problem as the facilities are really special-purpose transformations anyway.
Finally, where does this position Informatica? Well, vis a vis IBM, its arch rival, it means that PowerCenter now has all the headline products of DataStage and then some. It is also better integrated and has superior grid capabilities, amongst other things. To give you a sneak preview of our Bullseye Report on the ETL/data movement space, which features more than 40 vendors and is due for publication shortly, we had already positioned Informatica as the leading vendor in this space: the acquisition of Similarity can only strengthen that placing in the broader data integration market.