MDM innovation is alive and well and living in France

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Give the flurry of acquisitions in the master data management (MDM) market in the last year or so, you may be forgiven for thinking that the market was beginning to mature. However, while the industry giants shore up their own offerings by purchasing the technology of others, there are still young, innovative companies entering the space. When you think of high-tech innovation, eyes naturally drift to California, but in the case of MDM you would be better off looking to Paris (and not Paris, Texas either). As well as the more established Orchestra Networks, there is a new Paris-based company called Amalto, founded in late 2005.

Amalto’s MDM technology (Xtentis MDM) makes heavy use of standards, using Eclipse, Ajax, JBoss and so on. Unusually it uses for its underlying repository eXist Open, an open XML database, and is soon to port to the Berkeley DB embeddable XML database from Oracle. Using an XML database instead of relational has a number of advantages with master data, as such databases are typically highly flexible, which is important with the complex structures that master data often involves. Since master data (other than “customer” in a few industries such as Telco), is generally small in volume, XML databases’ limitations in dealing with high volume data does not really matter. Xtentis MDM has fully developed data movement and synchronisation functionality, as well as a repository, an XQuery interface and support for complex business rules. It has little in the way of data quality algorithms or workflow, and these represent partnering opportunities for the company. However the business modelling tool has a clean user interface and seems quite intuitive.

For a young company Amalto has already notched up an impressive set of customers: Rio Tinto Minerals, Total, SNCF and BNP Paribas are names anyone would be happy to have as customers. The company has now opened an office in Silicon Valley, and plans to migrate its HQ there. In this way it is following the path taken by Business Objects, which moved from Paris to open up in the USA when they had just six employees.

Apart from usual small company concerns, there is one issue that Amalto needs to address. As well as Xtentis MDM, it also has a product b2box, which is an appliance (for B2B integration) that is resold by Ariba. Since this latter tool is aimed at mid-sized companies, the target market is entirely different. Though there is some code base overlap (e.g. connectors written for b2box can be use by Xtentis MDM) it might be sensible to make a more clear distinction between the two product sets in order to avoid any positioning confusion.

This caveat aside, and assuming that Amalto can develop meaningful systems integration partnerships in the US, there is no reason why it should not thrive and build on its early customer success.