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I recently attended the annual Informatica analyst summit to get the latest on that company’s strategy and plans. The data integration provider offers a portfolio of information management software that supports today’s big data and information optimization needs. Informatica is busy making changes in its presentation to the market and its marketing and sales efforts. New executives, including new CMO Marge Breya, are working to communicate what is possible with Informatica’s product portfolio, and it’s more than just data integration.
Big data and cloud computing have placed challenges on IT in its roles as both a facilitator and in providing governance and compliance with policies and regulations, including access and security. IT compliance costs are increasing, according to 53 percent of heavily regulated organizations, and even 17 percent of those subject to little or no regulation, according to our governance, risk and compliance research. CIOs should examine Informatica’s product portfolio to see how to increase efficiency in the access, governance and integration of data in IT systems for more effective business processes including those that are GRC related.
Governance over transactional, interaction and analytical systems is a complex task. Late last year I wrote about Informatica’s latest efforts in big data and cloud computing; the company is now shipping its PowerCenter Big Data Edition, which facilitates integration with Hadoop. I have written about how integration with big data is broken today as organizations struggle not just with Hadoop but also with other big data technologies. Informatica provides tools to parse data so it can be profiled and processed efficiently. For example, Informatica can perform natural language processing to extract entities from text within unstructured data that can help in a range of tasks including those related to IT need to perform reviews of data.
With its latest tools, Informatica has stepped beyond the Informatica Cloud Winter 2013 release, which started the software down the path of bringing master data management (MDM) and data governance into the cloud. The Cloud Spring 2013 release, expected in April, is about providing enterprise capabilities in the cloud. New Cloud Data Masking can help secure sensitive or confidential data; our data in the cloud research found that data security is the number one concern in 63 percent of organizations. A data loader for Salesforce makes a bulk read and write license available; I have written about how providing data plumbing is your business, as Salesforce has failed to meet customers’ needs in this area.
Informatica last month acquired Active Endpoints, whose Cloud Extend applies cloud-based workflow services to what would regularly just be state-based applications, such as Salesforce applications for SFA. Cloud Extend lets managers map out the steps that should be taken in an application and prompts users for action. This application, which is designed for line of business and analysts, can provide value for both business and centralized IT. Informatica is making it more efficient to set up and establish integration across the cloud, and its ability to subset data and support sandbox environments helps its customers reduce costs and time to get up and running.
Informatica has announced it is offering prepackaged integration with NetSuite and Workday applications that operate in the cloud in its Cloud Connector Marketplace Mall. This is a welcome step; Informatica needs to invest further to develop cloud connectors for the larger group of cloud computing applications in use today, as it has many more to address to reach critical mass or universal connectivity. The good news is that many software organizations that operate in the cloud, including MicroStrategy, Ultimate Software and Xactly, are embedding Informatica to improve their ability to be efficient with data and support customers’ needs. In its Spring release Informatica will also provide connectivity to Amazon Redshift, Oracle CRM On Demand and Microsoft Dynamics AX. The announced move to support Amazon Redshift is important as more organizations look to embrace cloud computing for their data storage and processing needs.
At the analyst summit Informatica presented its vision of the future of cloud as an IT-led activity, saying that the days that line of business owned and led cloud effort are past. In this the company could not be more wrong, as subscription and access to cloud applications and services by business continues to grow as their need for them increases when they get little to no support from IT. While IT might be getting engaged and starting to leverage this utility of computing, they are no way leading or controlling what business is doing. We continue to see this in sales, marketing, customer service, operations, human resources and even finance. In the end, business is held accountable for business processes and outcomes, and I do not see any research points that indicate this will change in the near future. What is needed is more of an adaptive environment where analysts and business can facilitate more interactions through data requests and tasks, not just stewardship and increasing the quality of the data that exists, which is only part of the bottleneck.
Informatica also provided more insight to how it uses Virtual Data Machine, where Informatica products can operate across platforms and environments yet be insulated from their differences. I would expect to hear more from the company on where this can play a role in cloud and hosted environments as much as it can in on-premises environments. Ultimately this technology should be able to support more integration points and partners as it has done with Teradata; Informatica recently announced further support for Teradata Unified Data Architecture, where it can streamline data integration from within the Informatica Virtual Data Machine to environments like Teradata.
Informatica also continues its strategic partnership with Heiler, which it is in the process of acquiring and expected by year end if approved by German regulatory review. Since my analysis of the announcement last fall the companies have been working to integrate MDM with product information management (PIM). Informatica has come to recognize that PIM is not MDM; they have different business and IT requirements, but together they can be a valuable combination. This simple position is not generally accepted by the majority of IT analysts, who have led many of the largest of software companies into the IT approach, which our PIM benchmark research has found is wrong, and which led me to write a perspective on how PIM is for business. Heiler, which we rated as Hot in our 2012 Value Index for Product Information Management, plus Informatica, which was Hot in our 2012 Value Index for Data Integration, combined might be the next PIM powerhouse.
Informatica continues to expand its portfolio to support a range of real-time operations needs. It recently released a new version of Informatica Ultra Messaging that my colleague Robert Kugel assessed. Beyond the near-real-time features is Informatica’s capability of handling complex event processing (CEP) and what we call operational intelligence in its products. Unfortunately, with such a busy product portfolio, Informatica’s CEP and operational intelligence capabilities are rarely marketed and not very well known. Our benchmark research finds that activity or event monitoring is a top priority in 62 percent of organizations, and that is exactly what Informatica PowerCenter offers.
I expect to see more big steps forward for Informatica, as it has many development initiatives that are still confidential that will continue its expansion as an information-centered software provider. As technology providers such as Informatica are further pressured to demonstrate business value, we will see a further shift to what we call information optimization, which is in the end what business needs on a more timely and consistent basis, as I have outlined in our research agenda.
Informatica finds its customers moving to being stewards of business data but need to move further to supporting analysts’ needs for data to perform analytics. Our latest research finds that 42 percent of organizations are still impeded by data-related tasks preventing them from handling analytic ones. This has led to the startling reality, found in our latest research into spreadsheets, that spreadsheets are used 74 percent of the time for business intelligence tasks, despite the fact that they are responsible for a high amount of errors from the manual copy, paste and calculation tasks. The need to remedy data-related problems should help Informatica bridge the data divide between business and IT. Informatica continues to be bullish on its growth opportunities, and it does not have to convince me, as our research for a decade has shown the need for rationalization to improve efficiency and profitability.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
Business is starting to realize that taking advantage of big data is not just technically feasible but affordable by organizations of all sizes. However, as outlined in our agenda on big data and information optimization, the technology must be engineered to the information needs of business. Hortonworks has been steadily advancing its big data technology called Hadoop and contributing its developments back to the Apache Software Foundation for a range of projects. The company performs enterprise-level testing to ensure Hadoop not just operates but scales across operating systems, cloud computing, virtual machines and appliances. Over the last year Hortonworks has released a number of certifications and benchmarks for an enterprise-ready version of Hadoop for which it provides support and services. These are important steps forward in meeting the needs of IT management, which is the audience evaluating big data technologies in 66 percent of organizations according to our big data research.
Hortonworks Data Platform, the enterprise offering that I analyzed last year, is a Hadoop technology stack that is being adopted because of its enterprise readiness. At beginning of this year, Hortonworks released its latest version, which advanced management and monitoring through the use of Apache Ambari and improved security and authentication. It supports multiple concurrent query connections to Hive, making it more scalable in support of business intelligence and applications. While many of the competitive approaches to Hadoop and Hive point to its performance challenges, Hortonworks points out the improvement they are contributing to advance it and these competitive benchmark are significantly flawed in their design. It also offers improved SQL access to Hadoop, and while it is not the only application that provides it, Hortonworks worked with Simba to provide a Hive ODBC connector to support SQL-92 access from business intelligence tools. Hortonworks also includes Talend Open Studio to help with Hadoop integration needs. To support testing and development for enterprises, the company released Hortonworks Sandbox at beginning of 2013.
Hortonworks is working with Microsoft to have Hadoop operate on Windows platforms. It’s now available for download in beta and is expected to be generally available in the second quarter. By working with Microsoft, Hortonworks helps IT organizations that use Windows Server as the platform for their big data initiatives. Microsoft HDInsight Server and Windows Azure HDInsight Service are built on Hortonworks Hadoop Data Platform and make Hadoop readily available on Microsoft Windows. This strategic alliance helps IT organizations bring the power of Hadoop to Microsoft platforms. It is important for Hortonworks to broaden its reach to the large and global audience that uses Windows, especially given that our research on big data finds that 89 percent of organizations today use RDBMSes like SQL Server, and they can now use Hadoop more closely on a Windows platform.
This new approach with HDInsight can then connect with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 for sourcing or accessing data into Hadoop. Microsoft Excel can easily direct access to Hadoop through SQL which opens up further support for a large number of organizations. Microsoft HDInsight provides integration with Microsoft Systems Center for management of deployments, and security is integrated with Windows Server Active Directory. Making Hadoop available from Hortonworks on Windows is a significant step forward for Microsoft and its big data efforts. The company is not usually part of the discussion in the big data market though its technologies are used in many deployments that easily could be described as big data in nature. Both Microsoft and Hortonworks are highlighting this alliance and technology availability at the Strata 2013 conference in Silicon Valley this week.
In addition, Hortonworks has announced new Hadoop initiatives to further advance its potential. It has a project underway to improve Hive performance through support of interactive queries and a new project with Tez to get a newer-generation runtime to improve performance of Hive and not depend on MapReduce. It is also working on Hadoop Gateway to provide a single point of secured authentication to Hadoop that will help in operations across clusters. Part of Hortonworks approach is that each of these new advancements are contributed to the open source community where other developers and organization can contribute and help or use it once finalized and ready for distribution. This is a much different approach than others in the market who source Hadoop from the community and make proprietary extensions to it or embed it in their software and sell the license to the customer.
Hortonworks operates in a very competitive Hadoop market, let alone the broader market for big data technologies. Within the Hadoop market it has many competitive forces but Hortonworks states their pure support for working through the open source community and having not just their large number of committers to Hadoop but the power of all the developers and organizations that work to advance this big data technology is their competitive advantage. The company previously partnered with Teradata to have its Hadoop technology integrated with the Teradata Aster Big Analytics Appliance, a device that we awarded the 2012 Technology Innovation Award for Big Data for its sophistication in blending Hadoop and AsterData into one appliance. I expect Hortonworks to continue investments into partnerships in areas from integration to analytics, as it has done to support data integration with partners like Talend and Informatica; as I have pointed out, big data is broken without having an array of support for integration technologies.
I like the work that Hortonworks is doing to supporting Hadoop deployments. Our research on big data finds that 43 percent of organizations prefer on-premises deployments and 24 percent prefer it in the cloud, which Hortonworks addresses with a partnership with Rackspace and now with Microsoft and Windows Azure. Hortonworks offers many opportunities to help IT organizations use Hadoop across platforms and environments, and supports existing technology interoperating with it, allowing organizations to use employees who are already trained and ready to be leveraged. Organizations that are interested in examining certified and supported Hadoop should evaluate Hortonworks. Businesses looking for Hadoop support on Microsoft Windows will find Hortonworks their only option, as it is the strategic choice by Microsoft for operating Hadoop on its platforms. Hortonworks support for contributing to Hadoop openly, its significant sized partner ecosystem to complement Hadoop and the flexibility of operating across Linux and Windows to on-premises and in cloud computing environment make it a strategic provider of big data technology.
CEO & Chief Research Officer