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Also posted on: The IM Blog
Outside of ongoing research efforts (on data lake management, data governance and total cost of ownership for data management solutions) I have had a couple of interesting briefings from Informatica lately. Firstly, on the CLAIRE engine and secondly on the company’s partnerships endeavours. I’ll discuss the latter first.
To begin with, let me state that I am no expert on running partner programmes. I recognise their value but it’s not my area of expertise. Nevertheless, I am impressed by what the company is doing. Historically, the company has been almost entirely driven by direct sales. Yes, there have been partnerships with third-party technology vendors with complementary products and, yes, the company has worked with systems integrators, but it has not previously had a comprehensive partner programme that encouraged a win-win environment with resellers, distributors and other partner types. The fact that it has now put such a programme in place is very encouraging. I should also say that it is very ambitious. Currently, around five percent of company revenues are driven through the channel but the target is forty per cent. Given that the company’s larger goal is to grow from a one billion dollar company to a five billion dollar company, this means generating two billion dollars a year through partner channels. That seems an awful lot to me. Still, if you aim for the stars you may at least reach the moon.
The CLAIRE engine – something technical and more up my proverbial street – is, in effect, a machine learning platform for the Informatica suite of products. In other words, rather than implementing machine learning individually in relevant products, you have a single engine that can work with any of them. Given the number of places in which machine learning can be usefully applied within data management, I think this makes a lot of sense. Example use cases would be record matching within a data quality environment, recommendations for users of data preparation, identification of sensitive or private information (you get a lot of false positives: for example, any random nine digit number has a seventy per cent chance of matching the SSN format), and so on. It also supports the training of algorithms to support machine learning requirements that are specific to particular industry verticals. And the artificial intelligence capabilities in CLAIRE can be used to identify anomalies in user behaviour, as another example.
In order to support all these capabilities, CLAIRE also has some smarts under the hood. For example, it has to be able to understand the structure of the data it is processing. This means not only understanding whether the data being processed is a log file, a JSON document, an Excel spreadsheet or a B2B message, but also being able to automatically discover, parse and transform data from that file. The engine also supports natural language processing and the company plans to introduce entity recognition capabilities in the future, along with a number of other capabilities.
While CLAIRE is not a product per se – it is an enabling platform for the Informatica environment – if it was a product it is one I would recommend. It supports and powers some, but not all, of Informatica’s products, including Cloud B2B Gateway, Cloud IoT Connector, Enterprise Information Catalog and Secure@Source, to name just a few.
Finally, on a different note, I have had a couple of vendors (one was a senior figure at HortonWorks, I forget who the other was) recently make adverse comments to me about Informatica: essentially suggesting that the company is dead in the water, that its new owners are only after whatever money they can squeeze out of it, and that its technology is out-of-date and not in line with today’s trends (open source, cloud and so forth). I don’t buy this. It’s not what I see and hear. My impression is that Informatica is successfully transitioning itself in technology terms. Where I think it still has a challenge is in shifting from marketing to IT folks, towards marketing in a more business-oriented way. However, I also know that the company is working on this and it will be assisted to do so through its new partner programme. I don’t know whether the company will successfully hit five billion but I certainly expect it not to just survive but thrive.