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Also posted on: The IM Blog
Last week I attended an Informatica analyst event. There was a lot to digest but here are some highlights.
To begin with, the company talked about its acquisition of Siperian. I have already commented on this but one point that emerged at the conference was the way that Informatica describes Siperian as infrastructure MDM as opposed to application MDM. This is a hitherto unrecognised distinction (with respect to terminology) in the MDM market.
Informatica distinguishes the former from the latter by saying that infrastructure MDM is domain and data model independent. By inference it castigates other providers that cannot support multi-domain MDM (from a single product) on the one hand or who base their solutions on a fixed (if customisable) as opposed to a flexible data model on the other. While I agree that supporting multi-domain MDM has significant advantages, I don’t think the fact that a vendor has a single domain product necessarily represents a proactive choice that this is a better approachjust that, for one reason or another, they haven’t implemented a multi-domain solution. I think everybody agrees, as a matter of principle, that multi-domain MDM is better.
I also think the point about data models is arguable: some companies may (and indeed do) prefer to work off a pre-built data model rather than something that is more flexible.
None of this detracts, of course, from the fact that Informatica is now going to provide very serious MDM competition for the likes of IBM, Oracle and SAP, all of which would fall into the application category.
Another important innovation, at least for Informatica, was the announcement of the Informatica Marketplace. This is designed to encourage the development and exchange of connectors, processes and so on across the Informatica community. Ultimately (not yet) the intention is that it will act in the sort of capacity that open source communities do for sourcing new developments and testing. Of course, this won’t apply to the core products but it will take away some of the agility advantages that open source vendors have, so I think this is pretty good move.
A third area of interest was cloud computing. Informatica sees three aspects to cloud computingSaaS, PaaS and IaaS; that is software, platform and infrastructure as a service. We all know what SaaS is, but PaaS means providing Informatica technology (in this case) to developers, systems integrators and so on from within the cloud, and IaaS means providing technology for the IT department (that is running operations on a day-to-day basis). I like this split. In fact, I think I would drop cloud altogether, because I think that’s confusing: with one bunch of people thinking that SaaS is a part of the cloud and another thinking that IaaS hosted by, say, Amazon is what is meant by cloud. Not to mention the whole confusion over private versus public cloud. You can find more details at www.informaticacloud.com.
On the SaaS side I have to say I was impressed. There is a really easy, business level, wizard-driven interface for constructing data integration tasks. I am not surprised that the company has some 500 companies signed up for this service. The only thing I was surprised about that was that the same, or a similar, interface was not in Informatica 9. I am told that this will be the case in 9.1
And here’s a quickie: there was a user panel session. One of the users has 10 major applications running across 10 databases: perhaps not ideal but understandable. And it has 30,000 Access databases! Now theres a market for the spreadsheet management vendors that also provide Access database management (which all of the big four vendors do). Of course, from an Informatica perspective, you can integrate these into the mainstream environment using data federation and data services (see next) and, once you do that, you not only provide wider access to these resources but you probably also start reducing their proliferation.
One further major topic of discussion were the data services introduced in Informatica 9 to support SOA. The interesting thing here is that it provides increased granularity to the traditional three-tier model. That is, the model that separates presentation from applications and applications from databases. Arguably, the introduction of SOA saw this transition to a four-tier model in which web services sit between the database and applications. However, the use of data services essentially represent a layer in which data is manipulated (through data integration) outside the database, thereby extending the model to five tiers. Applications are now simply variable collections of processes, while web services, which provide those processes, have a bare minimum of understanding of data (just enough to fulfil their tasks) with the emphasis shifting into the data services layer. Of course, the concept of the data-driven enterprise, a concept I wholy endorse, is broader than this, but it puts increased focus on data manipulation, which is Informatica’s fort