Informatica Shakes Up Business Analytics

Company to make available standalone versions of its business analytic tools.

Informatica Corp. last week announced that it will release standalone versions of its PowerAnalyzer business intelligence tool and its data warehousing product, Warehouse.

PowerAnalyzer is a re-branded version of Informatica's Analytic Delivery Platform, while Warehouse is the infrastructure behind its analytic applications.

"These announcements were driven by an immense amount of customer and market input to move our analytic products in a modular direction," according to Sanjay Poonen, Informatica's vice-president of worldwide marketing.

The bottom line, he says, is pricing: Standalone versions of Informatica's tools will enable customers to purchase only the software products that they need. Elsewhere on the pricing front, Informatica's standalone tools ship with a new per-processor licensing scheme, as distinct from the per-user licensing strategies that the company has traditionally employed.

"We were hearing from CIOs that the price model for [business intelligence] tools that were on the order of $2,000 or $3,000 for [a single] user was exorbitant and that the price model was wrong," he notes.

PowerAnalyzer exploits an Internet architecture that comprises a Web browser client and boasts integration with a J2EE application server on the back-end. Informatica bundles Weblogic from BEA Systems Inc. and WebSphere from IBM Corp. Poonen says customers can choose to deploy either application server. "We come with default J2EE hooks, so customers can use either WebLogic or WebSphere."

Informatica positions Warehouse as a product that "really is intended to help CIOs build data warehouses faster," Poonen contends. To that end, Warehouse can logically be divided into a set of four subject area data marts, which collectively contain 14 individual modules. He says Warehouse's modules provide support for a number of different analytic functions, allowing "you to implement [it] faster, cheaper, [and] with less risk."

Poonen describes a situation in which an organization wants to perform simple analytics on a CRM data mart but wants to exploit additional Warehouse features to perform marketing and service analyses as well. "These modules are pre-fab, but they're extensible. [The modules] are all connected, so as soon as you start to do marketing analysis, the sales and marketing data marts are connected, so you can analyze all the way from a lead down to where the sale closed or where you're servicing the customer."

Because of its support for canned analytics, Poonen claims that Warehouse will make it possible for customers to rapidly deploy—and start extracting value from—their data warehouses. "We now have an opportunity to say [to customers], let's sell you more of our infrastructure to let you build the underneath part of an analytic solution much faster, [on the order of] six to nine weeks, instead of 24 months."

Informatica is apparently taking aim at business intelligence stalwarts such as Business Objects and Cognos. The rub, of course, is that the company has partnered with both companies in the past. For his part, Poonen stresses that PowerAnalyzer or Warehouse can complement the tools of either vendor. "We see a very strong opportunity to sell into Business Objects and Cognos shops," he says.

In a recent research paper, Mike Schiff, an analyst with market research firm Current Analysis, speculates that the upside of Informatica's new approach to marketing its analytic applications is that it "will allow users to combine BI tools and analytic applications in order to meet their analysis requirements through a ‘build and buy' modular approach."

At the same time, Schiff notes, "Informatica is certainly not unique in being a proponent of this approach."

With regard to Informatica's prospects of challenging Business Objects or Cognos, Schiff offered a more pragmatic assessment. "While Brio, Business Objects, and Cognos are all included in the Informatica Web site partner list, … these partnerships, assuming they still truly exist, will likely not be strengthened by Informatica's analytical capabilities."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.