Informatica 8.5

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Informatica has just released version 8.5
of its software. Note that I am being deliberately vague here and not referring
specifically to, say, PowerCenter because all the different parts of
Informatica’s product suite now have aligned versions so this also applies to
PowerExchange (through which all connectivity is now branded), Informatica Data
Quality (previously Similarity/Evoke) and the Complex Data Option (previously

For a point release there is a lot in 8.5
(more than 200 user requests have been implemented) so I can only highlight
some of the main points here.

Let me start with data quality. The first
thing to note is that this can now leverage the Informatica parallel engine,
with automated partitioning, so you should get much better performance and
scalability when performing data quality tasks (and there have also been
scalability enhancements to PowerCenter itself). Secondly on the data quality
front, there is now a specialised solution offered for SAP point of entry. The
idea here is that you take data quality back to the point of data entry rather
than treat it reactively at a later date. At present this has only been
certified for names and addresses but the software is extensible to other
master data types. It is also likely that Informatica will extend this to
support Oracle environments in the future.

Two other major enhancements on the data
quality front include an improved data quality dashboard for web based reporting
and a new capability called the Data Quality Assistant. This is intended to enable
an exception handling process and allow bad records to be reconciled from
within the data quality environment whereas previously they had to be handled
outside the system (for example, in a spreadsheet). Note that the interface for
this has been built using AJAX
and is completely browser based.

Moving on to data governance more broadly
there are a number of notable new features. The first is that if you use
real-time change data capture then the software now supports guaranteed message
delivery features. Secondly, there is a new feature called masking. The problem
that this has been designed to resolve is that you are not allowed to use real
customer data for testing or for working with outsourcers, for example, because
this would contravene data protection laws. What masking does is to provide
multiple methods whereby the real data can be obscured or fake names can be
used, or whatever, while preserving referential integrity and maintaining
realistic looking data. Security capabilities in general have been enhanced in
this release.

Also on the data governance side,
Informatica has introduced extended data lineage capabilities in this release.
Again, these are viewed via an AJAX
based browser and there are built-in search capabilities with support for
annotations and links and the ability to bring in information from other
environments (such as a glossary). While on the subject of glossaries,
Informatica has started to introduce capabilities specifically for business analysts
in this release (more can be expected in future releases) through the Informatica
Metadata Manager, which provides cross-functional impact analysis back to
source systems such as SAP. Moreover, the data can be automatically profiled at
the same time so that this profiling (which is specific to business analysts
and therefore not as detailed as it would be for data quality purposes) can be
displayed alongside the impact analysis. As with the data lineage capabilities
there are annotation and search capabilities provided to enable collaboration.

Finally, there is a new package that has
been introduced by Informatica in this release, specifically for data
migration. Primarily this consists of the existing Informatica product suite
plus its Velocity migration methodology but it does also include a specially
designed interface to support business users in managing reference data such as
valid values and cross references.

So, a brief look at some of the highlights
of this release: for a point release this is impressive and I am particularly
pleased to see the various new interfaces that have been provided, which extend
the ease of use of the software, as well as the extended data governance