Informatica Offers ERP Data Extraction

As the market for packaged applications grows, the market for tools that extract data from these applications grows as well.

One of the most popular forms of packaged applications in the AS/400 market is the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, despite recent hits that many ERP vendors have taken during the first quarter of 1999.

Capitalizing on the popularity of ERP technology, Informatica Corp. (Palo Alto, Calif.) has released a number of products designed to speed and simplify the process of moving data from corporate operation systems -- like ERP -- into analytical applications.

Included among Informatica's line of products providing analytic application empowerment are PowerConnect for SAP R/3 and PowerConnect for PeopleSoft, both of which extend the company's PowerCenter enterprise data integration software. The goal behind the PowerConnect solutions is to provide a data warehousing platform that companies can use to transform data from all areas of their enterprise. PowerCenter is a hub software product designed to integrate data from a number of different operational sources, including ERP and legacy systems.

Informatica's products follow the "engine-based approach," providing an underlying engine with graphical tools that allow the user to go in and extract data, says David Downing, VP of marketing for Informatica.

Informatica has a number of AS/400 customers using the AS/400 for data warehousing, according to Downing. "We can extract information from the AS/400, treating it as a source," he says, adding that Informatica target customer base is more heterogeneous than AS/400-specific. "Informatica sells more into departments within large companies that over time want to scale a data warehouse or decision support system across many different divisions.

"Often these companies are interested in standardizing on some infrastructure technology or software into which they can plug and play a lot of different kinds of products, including the AS/400 platform," Downing says. "We’ve always supported a number of multiple sources and front-end query tools."

Informatica's PowerConnect and Business Component products are designed to hide much of the complexity behind the underlying systems, providing a more packaged, out of the box experience, according to Downing. "Basically [these products] make it easy to get at data locked up in SAP or PeopleSoft for use in data warehousing," he adds.

The key appeal to data extraction technology is its capacity to enable data warehousing managers to build their data structures without the need to familiarize themselves with the intricacies of their ERP package.

"Now that so many companies have ERP systems, they are a major source of business data," says Henry Morris, VP for data warehousing and information access with International Data Corp. (Framingham, Mass.). "If users want to analyze the information collected by these systems, they need to be able to get at that information. Understanding the structure of the application is hard, so the idea behind products such as Informatica's is to simplify the task of the data warehouse developer."

Pricing for Informatica's Business Components -- scheduled for general availability this fall -- begins at $25,000. The Business Component framework will be delivered as part of Informatica's PowerCenter base product.