Every year at the end of winter, I spend a day and a half with the good folks from Informatica who provide the analyst community with an up-close-and-personal look at the company's strategy and current and future product portfolio. Here are some of the highlights from this year's event:
1. Accommodations. Thanks to the herculean effort of Peggy O'Neill and her team, we were once again treated to royal accommodations at the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, California and a thoughtful schedule of briefings on day one, followed by a half-day of all-important one-on-one meetings with top company executives on day two. Kudos again!
2. Strategy. Both CEO Sohaib Abbasi and Marge Breya, the company's newly minted chief marketing officer, emphasized that despite a down year financially, Informatica is aiming to move from a category leader (i.e. data integration market) to an industry leader (i.e. big data analytics market). And with that goal in mind, Sohaib hinted that Informatica will move from a best-of-breed player to an all-in-one player. This makes more sense than it did several years ago, since most large software vendors now offer a complete BI/analytics/big data stack and the overall trend in the computer industry is to provide complete solutions (i.e. integrated hardware, software, and applications.) So, might Informatica purchase a database vendor or BI vendor? Or plunge into business applications? There are certainly a lot of candidate companies that would complement Informatica's data integration portfolio. I wouldn't be surprised to see a blockbuster deal within two years.
3. Data Governance. I was particularly captivated by Rob Karel's strategy for data governance. An erstwhile Forrester analyst, Rob has created a wonderful online tool called the Data Governance Maturity Assessment which consists of 22 questions that help companies understand their readiness to implement a data governance program. (You can take the assessment at www.governyourdata.com). To help companies assess the best initiative with which to begin their data governance journey, he has created a Business Opportunity Assessment, also available at the same site. These are wonderful tools that can help companies not just talk about treating data as a corporate asset, but do something about it.
4. Data Integration Hub. This is an interesting solution that fits between messaging middleware and ETL software. Messaging software (i.e., enterprise service bus) uses a publish/subscribe mechanism to move events bidirectionally among applications in near real-time. In contrast, ETL tools move large files unidirectionally between a source and a target system in a batch operation. If the target isn't available, the ETL job can't finish. The Data Integration Hub, which combines Informatica's PowerCenter and B2B products, uses a publish/subscribe mechanism to move both events and files bidirectionally in either real-time or batch. Moreover, unlike messaging middleware, the Hub apply complex transformations to the data it moves, thanks to its PowerCenter engine. One compelling use for the Hub, which acts like an enterprise ODS, is to replicate data among multiple data warehouses, data marts, and applications.
5. Data Masking. I was also intrigued by Informatica's data masking and archiving technology. I've overlooked this class of products until now because it is geared to database administrators. But in talking with Adam Wilson, general manager of Informatica's Information Lifecycle Management business unit, I learned that these products can save companies a bundle of money as well as improve compliance and reduce the risk of data breaches. Adam's group performs one-day Business Value Assessments that help companies identify dormant data that they can delete from their systems to improve performance and reduce storage costs. His team also performs Risk Assessments that identify and profile sensitive data and duplicate data so companies can better protect their data assets. Adam says these assessments usually uncover sizable ROI opportunities.
6. Operational Analytics. Ash Parikh runs marketing for Informatica's emerging technologies group, including many tools designed to support operational analytics, such as complex event processing, ultra messaging, and data virtualization. It seems that after many years, products that support operational analytics are about to go mainstream, as many more companies seek to reap the benefits of bringing insights to operational decisions, which in some cases can be automated with these new technologies.
Informatica will soon reach a billion dollars in annual revenues. This is a far cry from the scrappy startup of 20 years ago that offered an engine-based approach to building data marts and data warehouses. But with some bold moves on the product side supplemented with a glossy marketing orchestrated by Marge Breya, Informatica is poised to join the ranks of elite software vendors.
Posted March 6, 2013 6:25 AM
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