Informatica Stays with Its Strengths in Data Integration

At Informatica’s recent industry analyst summit, Chris Boorman, the company’s chief marketing officer, opened the event by describing Informatica as expanding beyond its core offering in data integration in a broader sense. He compared this growth to Amazon expanding from being an online bookseller to offering computing resources via Amazon Web Services. I see it almost the opposite way. Informatica has always been in the data integration business. It has excelled at making this area of IT more relevant and more applicable to broader audiences. My colleague described their latest efforts to focus on line of business users in a recent post. My purpose here is to review some of the highlights of the company’s latest product releases.

The focus of the soon to be released version of its flagship product, Informatica 9.1, is to consolidate a range of offerings into a single platform. This consolidation includes the master data management (MDM) products acquired from Siperian during 2010, which we commented on. We’ve seen similar efforts from other data integration vendors, for example, the consolidation of the IBM InfoSphere platform.

Informatica 9.1 includes a laundry list of information management capabilities, starting with data integration and continuing with quality, profiling, governance, MDM, federation and virtualization, life-cycle management, event processing and low-latency messaging. So Informatica can be a one-stop shop for a complete portfolio of data integration tools. It also has aggressively embraced cloud computing, providing access to cloud–based data sources and offering its products as services in the cloud. As more enterprise data resides in the cloud, a hybrid configuration likely will become more appealing. We’ll have more data on this subject soon as we are beginning benchmark research on Business Data and the Cloud benchmark research program.

It’s impossible to cover a product line as broad as Informatica’s in a single blog post. For example, this vendor not only provides core data integration, data quality and data profiling capabilities but also has a dedicated product for information life-cycle management that includes data archiving and test-data management. It offers data virtualization and federation capabilities via what it calls data services. And the list goes on. For the moment then, I’ll point out what caught my attention, setting aside Informatica’s impressive ability to execute and continue to expand its presence in the market.

Informatica has invested heavily in the technology acquired from Siperian. As a result, MDM is now a key part of Informatica’s platform – in fact MDM seems to be everywhere in it. While many vendors have limited or specialized their MDM offerings to a customer-related data domains, Informatica’s works well across multiple domains. At the analyst conference presenters shared MDM examples ranging from traditional customer data to aircraft engine specifications to seed catalogs. (However, despite the support for many domains, Informatica does not provide a prebuilt product information management (PIM) application such as those covered in our PIM Value Index for 2011 though they support product data integration. Informatica’s MDM approach provides both repository-based and registry-based hub architectures via a single product, which ensures consistency between the two. In version 9 you can also change data models and rules while the system is running to produce an environment with no downtime. The service-oriented architecture (SOA) of Informatica also comes through in a variety of ways. Informatica created data controls to embed data quality and MDM capabilities in other applications, demonstrating at the conference Informatica functionality embedded within Excel and for true self-service capabilities. Presenters also demonstrated packaging of Informatica activities as a Web service – that goes beyond the needs of most end users, but a skilled technical resource could embed Informatica in virtually any application.

On the other side of the equation, Informatica supports a variety of new data sources via its Data Services offering. These data services can be used for virtualization and federation similar to those of other vendors such as Composite Software or Denodo, but Informatica can also apply other features from its technology stack such as data quality to its data sources, in effect, creating “data quality in flight.” If your organization relies on virtualization and federation, you can use these features to ensure that the quality of that data matches the standards you have set for the rest of your data. Data services also provide another powerful capability. When you define a logical data source, it can include a variety of other steps (such as data quality and data governance) in the definition of the data source. So even if you don’t plan to use virtualized or federated data sources, you should still look into data services as a way to associate all the necessary information management processes with the data sources you make available to users in your organization.

In event processing, Informatica has a bit of split personality. It has both a complex event processing (CEP) engine acquired from Agent Logic and a low-latency messaging infrastructure acquired from 29 West. What the company refers to as CEP is in my opinion more similar to a rules engine as opposed to a product like Streambase – in fact the product is called RulePoint. It is designed for complex rule structures but not necessarily very low latency data such as stock quotes. That’s where the 29 West product comes in that we covered at time of acquisition. Informatica Ultra Messaging provides a messaging infrastructure that can deal with very low latency data – measured in microseconds – but does not provide the same robust rule capabilities. I expect we’ll see more convergence between these two products over time if Informatica intends to be competitive in the CEP space and what we call Operational Intelligence. However, for most organizations that don’t need to process ultra low latency data, RulePoint is probably sufficient.

Cloud computing continues to play a big role for Informatica. It bet early and bet big on the cloud, as mentioned in my previous blog post “Clouds are Raining Corporate Data”.

I arrived at the event wondering how Informatica could sustain its growth and remain so strongly competitive. I expected to hear of plans for acquisitions and expansion into other aspects of business intelligence or data warehousing. I left with the impression that Informatica not only has thrived in its core market but also has found ways to expand its product line and broaden its addressable market within the data integration segment.


Ventana Research

SAP Retrofits Business Intelligence and Information Management to meet IT and Business Needs

SAP has reached a critical milestone in launching version 4 of its business intelligence (BI) and enterprise information management (EIM) product suite from its SAP BusinessObjects portfolio. These offerings, currently in final beta testing, will be released as a collection of software products by midyear.

Not much of what was announced came as a complete surprise since SAP had outlined its overall software strategy in December at its global industry analyst summit. At that time, it provided guidance on what it planned to bring to market in 2011. Still, version 4 of SAP BusinessObjects is a critical release for the company because it has lagged behind many of its competitors in bringing to market a common platform and set of services that support analytics across its broad portfolio of software products. This release should be important as well to customers, who badly need BI products they can rely on; our benchmark research finds that only 9 percent of organizations are very satisfied with their existing BI efforts.

In this analysis, I will take a larger, market-oriented perspective on SAP’s announcements and how they stack up against what I outlined as the five business technology innovations that Ventana Research believes are transforming the industry and the way business is conducted. These five innovations – analytics, collaboration, cloud computing, mobility and social media – are the foundation for our research agendas this year and the basis for my analysis here. My colleague, David Menninger, will offer separate, more specific reviews of version 4’s BI and EIM (enterprise information management) portfolio of offerings.


SAP is betting its future on business analytics. In fact, the company has organized its product portfolio under a business analytics umbrella, one that covers a broad range of systems and tools, from BI and information management to enterprise performance management (EPM) and even governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) started many years ago. The technologies it acquired with its purchase of Business Objects has become a new cornerstone for the organization.

Starting last year, SAP has brought to market a series of analytics applications spanning many industries and lines of business (LOBs) . With the New York launch, SAP has started to provide a number of proof points, with customers talking about their early deployments and the value these applications have produced for them and their partners. Indeed, one healthcare customer, Johns Hopkins Hospital was highlighted. In addition to healthcare, SAP announced new business analytics applications for insurance and other industries and LOBs as well as the public sector. SAP will support these applications in 10 languages. While many of the early beta users are large organizations, SAP also intends to offer the same applications to medium-sized companies and LOBs using the SAP BusinessObjects EDGE BI technologies I will not delve too deeply here into technical details of version 4’s BI and EIM capabilities. I will, however, provide an overview of some important features because I believe they address critical customer needs. On the plus side, version 4 provides a common platform in which all the analytic tools operate against a single set of metadata and interact with data across multiple sources. SAP also has integrated its information management technologies, including data integration, data quality and data governance tools. These are tightly bound into SAP’s BI capabilities and provide high-quality data in a timely manner. In addition version 4 introduces complex event processing (CEP) with SAP BusinessObjects Event Insight. This brings real-time events and data together to provide what we have benchmarked and call Operational Intelligence. To boost performance, release 4 supports 64-bit computing and SAP’s in-memory High Performance Analytic Appliance, called HANA. SAP demonstrated the value of in-memory computing by running some BI operations on a quarter of a billion records both with HANA and without it; with it, the operation took seconds, without it minutes. Obviously we would all prefer to wait only seconds, so the real question for users is do they buy HANA for every deployment or only for the largest ones.

On the negative side, those of you looking for planning and forecasting in the EPM suite will be disappointed. It is not part of this version and will require some consulting to integrate your current analytics with your planning and performance management needs. This is a pressing issue: In our benchmark research 56 percent of organizations identified planning and forecasting as the number one ranked set of capabilities that they need to integrate with BI.

Overall, version 4 is a great step forward. Now SAP will have to wait and see if thousands of its existing customers will look to upgrade to the new version. SAP knows this transition will be critical to its success, and it confirmed to me that it is standing by, ready with consultants, partners and new tools to help its customers. The true measure of this success, however, will be where matters stand in a year or so.

Business analytics matters for SAP for the same reason our research firm has conducted the largest research ever done across business and IT, covering more than 2,800 organizations worldwide and across every industry: because analytics are essential for effective performance management. Our benchmark research on the portfolio of business analytics  has been coming out monthly, covering LOBs and (soon) vertical industry perspectives. It has found a significant movement to adopt new technologies that replace spreadsheets and other archaic legacy tools. To be successful, SAP will need to blend its BI and EIM portfolio with its EPM and GRC technologies to gain further customer acceptance of its new portfolio of industry specific analytic applications.


The importance business collaboration continues to increase, yet few organizations have implemented truly great person-to-person interaction tools for business activities and processes. Unfortunately, business collaboration has been caught up in the swirl of portals such as Microsoft SharePoint and separate instant messaging and web collaboration efforts. And, unfortunately, any discussion of how SAP’s collaboration tool, SAP Streamwork, was mostly absent from the launch and discussion of version four. SAP still positions Streamwork as part of its BI OnDemand and collaborative decision-making product offerings. I, for one, wish it would clarify how it fits into its overall BI strategy, but I am not sure the folks there know themselves. I can say that users feel business collaboration is not adequately addressed across the industry; in fact, 44 percent of organizations in our benchmark research on business intelligence and performance management say so. Another 26 percent ranked collaboration as very important, while 38 percent ranked it as important. I can only hope that SAP will get the message and further integrate collaboration technologies into its product offerings. It should also be aware that rivals IBM, Microsoft, Saba, and others are integrating multichannel, real-time collaborations using text, audio, and video and in social media forums. Our research finds that multichannel collaboration is important to LOB areas but still not on the radar of most IT-focused BI departments. This means that IT departments must develop a better understanding of the people and process dynamics in the business side of their organizations to see how collaboration can help users not just make decisions but also take actions and drive process improvement. 

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has already had quite a significant and positive impact on organizations that rent applications and services for their business processes and organizational needs. For most, though, the adoption of cloud-based BI has been slow because these offerings have largely been marketed to IT organizations that still prefer to buy, install, configure, customize and deploy applications in-house. This is not, however, the case for small- and medium-sized businesses and many LOBs that often have very little patience for long project cycles. Many of these groups would rather skip steps that in fact ought to be part of BI projects – data quality, for example, and metadata and measure development – to get these systems up and running faster. In the BI market, SAP has been experimenting with SAP Crystal Solutions and SAP BusinessObjects, both of which provide many key capabilities in a cloud environment. SAP, however, has not pushed the cloud-based approach as much as I think it should; it seems to prefer the traditional, on-premises approach, which requires organizations to purchase a license and to pay maintenance. Our benchmark research in BI has found that in the next 12 to 24 months, 28 percent of organizations would prefer to rent through software-as-a-service (SaaS) in the cloud; 25 percent would prefer hosted software that is managed offsite; and 33 percent prefer it the old-fashioned way, purchasing and installing it on-premises. It is the business side of organizations that are largely driving this shift, not IT. I would expect that SAP eventually will push harder to promote its cloud computing approach to BI, but for now the focus of its efforts will remain on IT.


Mobility is an essential enabler for the next generation of business computing in any organization. Simplifying where and when you access applications, information and services is part of the reason why the adoption of smartphones and tablets is outpacing traditional desktop and notebook computers. SAP already is making some of its BI offerings available on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. SAP Web Intelligence, for example, is available on a range of devices, from the Apple iPhone and iPad to the Android-based Samsung Galaxy and the upcoming RIM Playbook tablet. SAP has gone so far as to develop native support for these platforms to maximize their value and the user experience. This is a smart move on SAP’s part. Our research on mobile support for business intelligence found that more than half of the organizations we spoke to are currently planning to support or are examining these new business mobility platforms. Our research also confirms that SAP and others will be required to support Apple, Android and RIM-based technologies. Interestingly, there is a declining interest in Microsoft in this area, as I have already written and which SAP confirmed. Thanks to these developments and the technology it acquired with its purchase of Sybase last year, I expect that SAP will use its annual user conference, Sapphire, to demonstrate the art of what is possible with SAP and mobile technologies.

Social Media

Although social media – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and so on – have created new opportunities for consumers and businesses to connect in a simple manner, few on the business side seem to know how to use it to their best advantage. This is a serious issue because companies risk missing out on one of the most important advances in Internet technologies. Most organizations are simply not fully educating themselves on how to leverage this new and valuable source of data, let alone realizing how analytics can be applied to mine and to analyze the volumes of text consumers and their own workforces are generating.

SAP is moving forward on two fronts. First, it offers the SAP BusinessObjects Text Analysis product that it acquired many years back and, second, it has integrated its SAP BusinessObjects Event Insight with various social media. With this integration, updates on social media create events that can be processed, analyzed and correlated with other ones. This type of data is now important to more than a third of organizations. In our more recent benchmark research on marketing analytics, analytics that can quantify the value of social media was found to be important in 31 percent of organizations while the information itself was an important source in 35 percent of organizations. Our research also showed it to be slightly more important for multichannel contact centers.

In addition to blending business and social media data together, SAP is providing sentiment analysis to assess the impact and value of, for example, tweets on a specific hashtag or keyword activity. SAP’s free Internet demonstrations show how its systems process text from social media channels. This might be useful for the industry IT analyst firms that are still ignorant of social media. As part of its EIM portfolio, these capabilities can be brought together with the BI and analytic capabilities of version 4 of SAP BusinessObjects.

 The good news is that our benchmark research confirms that many of the new technologies SAP is bringing to market are just what users are asking for; it also shows that SAP has more opportunity to address other pressing concerns. Analyzing vendor announcements and new technology advances properly require a close eye on what the industry really needs as opposed to what vendors might say it needs. This is why our firm invests significantly in the science of research, as I have recently written about. Look to hear more from us shortly on SAP’s announcements as the products becomes generally availability across the world.


Mark Smith – CEO & EVP Research