IBM Partnership Standardizes Metadata

Silvon Software Inc. represents the latest AS/400 software developer to join the Business Intelligence Partnership Initiative IBM launched in February 1999. The Initiative seeks to bring a new level of compatibility to diverse metadata products by positioning DB2 as a common standard for exchanging information among the products and their central repository, IBM’s Visual Warehouse.

IBM devised the program to make business intelligence products more accessible to customers by requiring partners build applications that enable their products to exchange metadata information with one another with little or no integration efforts on the part of the customers, according to Tom Duffy, manager of data management channel development based in Costa Mesa, Calif. The initiative demonstrates IBM’s acknowledgement that its customers want to implement solutions as opposed to deploying a host of individual software products.

"With this open architecture, any compliant cleansing, transformation or data visualization tool can be easily added to and integrated into the overall business intelligence environment within Silvon's DataTracker software," says Mike Hennel, president and CEO of Silvon (Westmont, Ill.). "As a result, this provides a solution-oriented architecture that will drive modern successful businesses of all sizes and complexities."

IBM designed the Initiative to bring a total solution one step closer to reality by setting the stage for diverse metadata products to work together, thereby streamlining customers’ integration efforts. Traditionally, customers had to access each product individually and perform independent searches to extract the necessary information. Big Blue timed the introduction of its Business Intelligence Partnership Initiative with the latest release of Visual Warehouse, its centralized metadata repository and information catalog since it will work directly with the partnering solutions.

"One of values of putting together a common metadata environment is so customers can reduce their complexity by selecting tools from the partnerships that IBM embraces," Duffy says. "Therefore when customers buy these along with Visual Warehouse, they have a commitment that they will work together."

The Initiative illustrates a new level of partnership available to select IBM business partners. Traditionally, IBM business partners feature vendors that develop technology to make their products work with corresponding IBM software, as a complementary solution for IBM customers. However, the Business Intelligence Partnership Initiative requires deeper commitment, as the partners must make their products comply with the DB2 Metadata standard and requires the partners market their solutions in conjunction with IBM.

"We invite all our business solution intelligence partners to become part of the Initiative. Its an open invitation," says Eva Canova, channel marketing programs manager based in Santa Teresa, Calif.

However, strict requirements will limit partnerships to developers serious about integrating metadata solutions as the Initiative requires partners release supporting technology that complies with DB2 and integrates with Visual Warehouse. Therefore, joining the Initiative requires a substantial technical development and marketing investment on the part of both partners. Other criteria includes active membership as an IBM business partner, agreement to jointly market the products and the ability to demonstrate or "self-validate" the product’s integration capabilities.

"The real issue is commitment to co-marketing to drive these products as well as a commitment to develop," Duffy says. "From my perspective, we don’t have set number but we don’t expect a large number because of the commitment required. There’s going to be some mutual investment on both parts."

IBM selected the AS/400 as the initial platform to launch the initiative and is adding other IBM platforms throughout the year. In addition to Silvon, current partners include Brio Technology, Coglin Mill, Evolutionary Technologies International, Business Objects, Cognos, Ferguson Information Systems Inc. and Vality.

Prospective partners can find out more about their requirements and the program by accessing the dedicated Web site at Although the standardized metadata solutions are not available for purchase, they are being actively developed and in some cases are undergoing testing.

"Each of the partners are going through development work or completing development work but there are several examples where we are working with these partners in the environment," Duffy says.

IBM believes customers will rejoice at the prospect of making their business intelligence solutions more interoperable as they have with the enhanced capabilities present in the latest Visual Warehouse version.

"We had great customer response for Visual Warehouse. I think [the Initiative] will be very positive," Duffy says. "It really allows you to automate warehouse management infrastructure and reduces warehouse maintenance and management. It also shortens their development cycle because they don’t have to write this code themselves."