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Getting a Return on Your Data with Cloud-Based Integration: A Q&A Spotlight with Darren Cunningham of Informatica

Originally published March 19, 2012

BeyeNETWORK Spotlights focus on news, events and products in the business intelligence ecosystem that are poised to have a significant impact on the industry as a whole; on the enterprises that rely on business intelligence, analytics, performance management, data warehousing and/or data governance products to understand and act on the vital information that can be gleaned from their data; or on the providers of these mission-critical products.

Presented as Q&A-style articles, these interviews conducted by the BeyeNETWORK present the behind-the-scene view that you won’t read in press releases.

This BeyeNETWORK spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Darren Cunningham, Vice President of Cloud Marketing at Informatica. Darren and Ron discuss cloud adoption and cloud-based integration.

Darren, the BeyeNETWORK audience is looking at the cloud and trying to understand exactly what they should do about it from both a business and IT perspective. How are organizations adopting cloud technology?

Darren Cunningham: Well, it's been a very interesting few years to watch the evolution of cloud adoption in organizations of all sizes. From an IT perspective, initially many organizations were “cloud skeptical.” There were a lot of people suggesting that the cloud wasn't right for their organization. At the same time, there was some early adoption – the pioneers. In many cases, it was “outside in” in the enterprise. Divisions and departments were enamored with software-as-a-service [SaaS] applications, and often they were implementing them without IT in the picture at all.
Then adoption moved from cloud skeptical to cloud curious from an IT perspective. A lot of these applications came in through the back door, and an “us vs. them” dynamic developed in many organizations. Politics heated up all around the cloud. Fast forward to 2012, and it’s amazing to see the tipping point we have reached. It has become cloud first. Now, in many – if not most – IT organizations, you have to justify why an application, platform, or infrastructure investment isn't cloud based. It’s been an interesting transition over the last few years, and I think it has accelerated faster than anyone would have guessed.

Well Darren, that's a real change in business dynamics to look at the cloud first and not depend on IT. For years, a major issue for enterprises has been siloed information, especially independent data marts. Now we're seeing companies facing what could be called a SaaS-mart problem. In other words, they have multiple cloud applications that don't talk to each other. How does Informatica help companies with multiple SaaS applications?

Darren Cunningham: That is a problem that Informatica has been focused on solving since our inception more than 15 years ago with our roots in the business intelligence arena. As you mentioned, to a certain extent, we've seen this movie before. These departmental data marts popped up as a result of analytic requirements, people pulled their own information into their Access databases and spreadsheets, and ran their own reports. We're seeing the same dynamic happening today as it relates to SaaS applications. Now, because IT is much more aware and involved, and in many cases aligned with the business, integration has become top of mind as an enabler of cloud success.

At Informatica, we built a very focused, easy-to-use, cloud-based integration service we call Informatica Cloud. We actually built and designed it to be something that a less technical audience might be able to use themselves. These are the same folks that were, as I said, enamored with and using the SaaS applications like Salesforce. The small and mid-sized businesses didn't always have the resources or complex requirements that typically required integration expertise from IT. Now in the enterprise, we're seeing this new hybrid IT organization, and they're taking advantage of our cloud-based integration service as well as aligning and working with their existing Informatica platform technology, which is typically running on premises. We can address the range and scope of requirements from simply getting data in or out of a cloud application to a much more complex set of needs that might involve analytics or pure application integration in real time.

I think hybrid organization is a very apt term for today's enterprises. Isn't it a bit of a stormy picture – no pun intended – to expect a company to manage everything behind their firewall and also manage the ever-growing number of SaaS applications, social media and big data?

Darren Cunningham: Well, we like to talk about the “old world” and the “new world.”  The old world was only on-premises, desktop and enterprise application transactional ERP systems. The new world is all about cloud-based applications. It's all about mobile devices, the data they bring with them, and more social engagement. At Informatica, we see these as three major secular trends that are hitting the market at the same time. At the end of the day, it's about being able to get a return on your data, and that's what we've focused on and will continue to focus on. We're focused on delivering big data  integration capabilities in our core platform and delivering cloud-based options for our customers to truly provide hybrid types of deployments. We're also very focused on master data management, which has been getting a lot of mainstream attention. How do I deliver that single view of my customers and my products? How do I bring this data all together so that it’s timely, relevant and trustworthy in the enterprise? The Informatica platform has expanded over the last five years to tackle the breadth of these kinds of requirements, and it's exciting because, as I said, at the end of the day it's about getting a return on your data. That’s what Informatica delivers.

So, master data management [MDM] is the glue behind all of your data?

Darren Cunningham: Master data management is a journey, and there are different stages of that journey. You might start with basic application integration requirement and start to wire up some of your cloud applications with your existing on-premises systems, and that's where Informatica Cloud can help. For example, we can come in and quickly connect Salesforce.com with SAP and provide application synchronization.

As a company starts integrating more applications, they inevitably hit data quality requirements. Informatica has very well-established data quality technologies. Then, if they’re moving toward a broader, more cross-organizational holistic strategy, that's where MDM comes in.

About two years ago, Informatica acquired a company called Siperian, and we've seen tremendous adoption of that technology because it was already integrated with our core platform. It’s a spectrum of use cases and needs, and we feel we can help organizations of all sizes as a result of this data integration platform breadth.

What are some of the key considerations that an enterprise must address when working with the cloud?

Darren Cunningham: First and foremost, you need to step back and define what is meant by “the cloud.” At our Informatica World Conference last year, people were coming up to me and saying, “I’ve been told I am the person in my organization who’s going to focus on cloud computing. Can you tell me exactly what that means?”

It’s amazing that there is so much interest in cloud computing, but still a lack of clarity on the definition. So the first thing is to step back and define what you mean by a “cloud strategy.”  Break it into the different areas of cloud computing, whether it’s SaaS applications or platform-as-a-service, and more often than not the enterprise IT group is thinking about infrastructure-as-a-service. Determine which assets can be run on public or private cloud infrastructures and how you can take advantage of those to reduce cost. My first recommendation is take a step back, break it down into these areas, and then look at where you are, what assets are already running in the cloud, and what your long-term strategy is for the cloud and for your business.

Our research shows a lot more private clouds. Are you seeing more adoption of private clouds or the public cloud?

Darren Cunningham: What I'm seeing is a blurring of the terms. For many IT organizations, private cloud is just an extension of how they've been virtualizing servers and a lot of what they’re already doing. There are some specific definitions of a private cloud as it relates to metering, self-service and multi-tenancy, but I'm seeing more of a mix of the two – again, a hybrid. To think that you're only going to be adopting a private cloud approach is misguided because if you're like most organizations, you're already running a lot of public cloud applications or moving in that direction. It’s going to be a mix of public and private cloud computing approaches, which is why you need to step back, think it through and build a blueprint for your short-, medium-, and long-term cloud strategy.

What is a typical profile of Informatica Cloud adopters and why are they turning to the cloud?

Darren Cunningham: It’s been an interesting transition for us. When we considered cloud application integration, we thought we would just build a connector. We have a set of connectors at Informatica called PowerExchange, and we built Power Exchange for Salesforce and PowerExchange for Web Services. We quickly realized that the cloud application buyers were quite different. It was not necessarily the people in enterprise IT who had been adopting these applications five years ago. We built Informatica Cloud to address more of those “outside-in” use cases in which departments and divisions needed self-service, ease of use, and rapid deployment. That was our focus for a few years with Informatica Cloud, and we saw tremendous adoption with the application owners, the people managing the SaaS application in the company, who often weren’t in centralized IT.

Now what we're seeing is that the enterprise IT organization is now starting to look at how they can take advantage of Informatica Cloud from an “inside-out” perspective. They already have Informatica with PowerCenter and a lot of the core Informatica Platform assets, and they deploy Informatica Cloud to their divisions and departments in order to keep it all nicely governed and managed from a centralized IT perspective.

For the last few releases of Informatica Cloud, we've focused on delivering enterprise functionality in terms of security, access controls, and governance features that the large IT shops are going to require for a cloud-based data integration service. We’ve seen tremendous adoption across industry and geography, and we are now running over 21 billion records a month through our cloud service. I would even call it the world's biggest integration competency center because the volumes we're running through this multi-tenant service are amazing and growing every day.

Another major trend now is mobile technology. Is that placing a bigger demand on today's enterprises and will the cloud play a role there?

Darren Cunningham: Absolutely. I just recently purchased an iPhone 4s, and I've been playing with the Siri application, which is very cool. But think about the data volumes that these devices are generating. One of the big trends and requirements of IT right now is how to manage this notion of “bring your own device” and what that's going to mean in terms of unstructured data coming into the enterprise. That’s why Informatica has been very focused on big data. We're excited about being able to tackle that problem for organizations. A lot of that data is coming in through social media sources or mobile devices.

We're also looking at mobile from an end-user perspective. A few months ago, we released an iPhone and Android application that allows users of Informatica Cloud to monitor jobs and be notified if there's any kind of a failure. Then they can very quickly rerun those jobs through their mobile app. Who would've thought data integration on a mobile device would be possible? That's where we're going, and the investment we made five years ago in a cloud-based business is starting to help us open new doors and extend the reach of Informatica in accounts of all sizes.

Thanks Darren for providing insight into cloud trends and how Informatica Cloud delivers big data capabilities and cloud-based options for your customers.

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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