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Information management is important to every line of business that seeks to improve its business processes and decision-making. In response to pressure from those departments, CIOs and IT organizations must examine whether they have focused enough on the I for information and not just the T for technology, and if they have not, commit to taking this responsibility more seriously than in the past. Informatica is one vendor that realizes the potential of its information beyond just data integration, and this is reflected in its expanded product portfolio and position in the market over the last several years. Our firm has taken note of companies gaining value from using Informatica; we awarded our 2013 CIO Leadership Award to George Brenckle of UMass Memorial Health Care for his work to maximize the value of information assets through managing data innovatively. Informatica itself has enhanced its position by introducing its new brand and a new CMO and demonstrating commitment to change from its executive leadership team at the company’s recent 2013 user conference. The focus of the brand now is on helping business and IT find the full value of their information.
The Informatica name is well-known in the corridors of IT, associated with addressing the need to make data accessible and integrated anywhere. The vendor has been advancing steadily for some time. We rated it Hot in our 2012 Value Index for Data Integration, and I recently assessed its efforts at our 2013 analyst summit. Established in data integration, Informatica is now focusing on the efficient management of information assets. This is not easy for most organizations, which have data spread across applications and systems; for two-thirds of organizations, according to our research as shown in the chart, this is a barrier to managing information.
The first step for the newly positioned company was to incorporate its technology into a virtual data machine (VDM) called Vibe that will make it easier to operate on any platform at any time. This approach unifies Informatica’s transformation library, optimizer, executor and connectors, which will help Informatica deploy any type of data and integration techniques on just about any platform a customer uses. Virtualizing the operations of its technology to isolate them from the platform on which it runs is a design Informatica has used before, but now the techniques and the execution of virtualization are fully realized. Opting to build integrations and deploy to any platform without the need to know the particulars of a system or technology is a wise decision for Informatica. When using Vibe it becomes simpler for organizations to run Informatica’s tools on-premises or in the cloud as they have to change nothing to run in either environment.
In addition the company has introduced a slimmer version of PowerCenter called PowerCenter Express, an entry-level product targeted for customers with smaller projects and providing a path to manage more sophisticated ones with the enterprise version. The PowerCenter Express Personal and Professional versions are available today for individual or departmental use, respectively. The Personal edition limits the number of rows used per day, which will prevent it from serious individual use in midsize and larger organizations, but it could be useful in small or lower-end midsize businesses. Informatica will need to invest to make sure prospects know it can help with smaller projects or companies with limited resources; the company is generally perceived as selling enterprise-class technology, and has limited its selection for data integration projects below the enterprise level. PowerCenter Express can support more than SQL-based sources and integrate with social media and other data integration technologies like those from Kapow Software that I have separately assessed. The Express edition will be available in July; Informatica has stated they are offering the single-user Personal Edition free of charge, and the Professional Edition for five users will be priced at $8,000 per user per year.
Informatica also announced availability of its Data Integration Hub, which I think can be as important as virtualization of the technology for many enterprises. Many want to centralize integration tasks to and from applications in a publish and subscribe method; that may be easier for managing the current and changing needs of applications and projects for some that see a centralized point-to-point movement as cumbersome. This approach, once referred to as enterprise application integration (EAI), was validated a decade ago and can remove latency in not just data transfer but in IT’s processes to get access to what is needed. Since its beginning Informatica and its products have been involved in an industry debate on the best way to pipe data across the enterprise and the company had been a staunch supporter of its approach over the hub-based approach. Now Informatica gives the customer the choice instead of championing one architectural approach over another. This is a step toward maturity in realizing that it has to adapt further to be a leader of information technology for CIOs moving forward. Data Integration Hub has been in early release and is expected to be generally available in the third quarter of 2013.
In the realm of master data management for IT organizations, Informatica has released MDM 9.6 to help organizations that want to use this critical mastering technique in both on-premises and on-demand cloud environments and where it must be accessed within applications. The new release has advanced data masking to support more sophisticated security and compliance, easier administration and a simpler application interface for business users and analysts. The focus on data security is significant, especially in cloud computing: In our research 63 percent of organizations said that is their largest concern about moving to the cloud, as the chart shows, and in our governance, risk and compliance research 38 percent of organizations said cloud computing is risky enough that they do not use it or limit it significantly. Informatica thus has an opportunity to help them with managing and securing data assets. Coupled with connectivity to the new Informatica Data Integration Hub, master data can be deployed more simply and consistently and operated across cloud computing environments where the interchange of data across many applications is not as easy as it may sound. In a related area Informatica enhances data governance with its MDM Data Director, which monitors the stewardship of data and facilitates action upon it; as well the company made it accessible from Apple smartphones and tablet interfaces earlier this year.
Continuing a longstanding effort, Informatica has assembled industry-specific solutions such as for healthcare and insurance. Advances in the Cloud MDM release help consolidate multiple instances of salesforce.com into one in which management of accounts is simpler; this should appeal to organizations looking to enforce consistency of data across marketing, sales and customer service. For those looking to enrich their information with external data, Informatica helps bring the data types together in a common account and customer record. A realistic approach to MDM that interoperates in both the cloud and on-premises is essential for organizations as the technology architectures of information and applications diversify and are not always confined to the data center of IT.
Informatica also pays attention to the importance of business-centric product information management through its nearly completed acquisition of Heiler Software, which I assessed when it was announced. After satisfying the legal requirements of acquiring a German software company, Informatica has accelerated its efforts to use the recent Heiler Enterprise PIM 7 release across the enterprise and to suppliers. This release improves data integration for self-service access to product information and methods to apply data quality and mapping to data across the enterprise. It also helps provides better data mastering from searches and classifications and improves how it manages digital assets related to the product information. It is critical for product information management to support multiple channels, from print and commerce to procurement and data exchange. Integrated with Informatica Data Quality, PIM 7 can provide efficient processing and support of natural-language processing, which can help organizations improve data quality; 45 percent of organizations said that is a reason for changing PIM, according to our research. Heiler has had global success with its products, and we recently awarded the 2013 Ventana Research Leadership Award in Information Management to Sportscheck, which uses Heiler for PIM across its retail channels. We also rated Heiler a Hot vendor in the 2012 Ventana Research Product Information Management Value Index. The battle for gaining value through PIM is something I pontificated about: Some observers see this as an MDM and IT agenda, but it is not. Informatica is gaining important capabilities through its acquisition of Heiler Software.
Informatica has been slower to improve its support for big data technologies. It has been advancing in integration of Hadoop, but in other systems including appliances and in-memory computing Informatica will need to step up its efforts to be a market leader. At the Informatica World conference the company demonstrated simple methods for integration and profiling and reintegration of data across Hadoop clusters, which is part of the larger big data integration challenges that I have written about. At the conference it also announced expansion of support for MongoDB through 10gen; that will help in integration of NoSQL databases to support documents and other information that is typically not placed into rows and columns. This partnership is important for Informatica’s efforts to be an information platform provider that brings together all types of content to support business. Also in the big data realm, Informatica has worked to apply its data matching technology to support the variety and volume of data, including international data sets like those from India and China. It has done a nice job to abstract the complexities of the underlying big data technology through its common user interface, which will help organizations streamline their data needs without requiring more staffing; our research found insufficient staffing to be an obstacle to effective information management for two-thirds of organizations, as the chart illustrates.
As Informatica turns the corner from some marketing and sales challenges in 2012, it has come into 2013 with a strong focus on new products to address gaps in its product portfolio, namely virtualization, a data hub, the cloud, big data and efficiency of product information management. Each of these is a substantial achievement, but pushing all of this news to the public at once can impede getting recognition for them individually. It is a marketing challenge to pace and streamline the release of technology announcements in order to maximize credit for its contributions to helping business and IT. Informatica is not the first to virtualize its technology or to support information management in the cloud or to integrate with product information management, but it is a sizable technology company and has to understand timing and readiness of the market, and when customers are ready to make investments.
We describe Informatica’s approach as information optimization, which goes beyond just the management of information to extract full value from these investments. I articulated an example of this with big data, and information optimization is a formal research priority in our agenda for 2013. We see a new generation of information applications for businesses and then consumers and suppliers that will be realized over the coming years and can be facilitated with Information. They have made a strong move to reposition itself as capable of unleashing the information potential of organizations. Now it must demonstrate its ability to accelerate growth and become a top software provider for technology that maximizes the value of information assets.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
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