SuperGlue: A Sticky Solution for Meta Data Management

Informatica is betting product will form tight bond with customers

It started out as a codename, but proved so fitting an appellation that it eventually stuck. That’s the backstory behind Informatica Corp.’s new meta data management system, SuperGlue.

Now, Informatica is betting that SuperGlue will form a tight bond with enterprise customers concerned about ensuring compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations.

Informatica officially unveiled SuperGlue this week, in tandem with The Data Warehousing Institute’s World Conference 2003, held in Boston. SuperGlue is based on a new meta data repository but also includes pieces of Informatica’s PowerCenter extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) and PowerAnalyzer business intelligence (BI) tools.

Informatica officials position SuperGlue as a meta data management system that can provide executives and other business decision makers with personalized, dashboard-driven views that enable them to understand, audit, and report on the information flows which inform their decisions.

According to Sanjay Poonen, Informatica’s senior VP of marketing, SuperGlue features a technology called “Intelligent Lineage” which provides a visual representation of data flow and dependencies between different systems.

In this respect, he argues, SuperGlue is different from competitive meta data management solutions: “We have taken a very technical term, meta data, which makes people’s eyes glaze over, and explained it in simple terms,” he asserts. “Think of it as providing a Visio diagram that tracks dependencies and highlights nodes where there are anomalies. It’s demystifying meta data.”

SuperGlue is not Informatica’s first foray into meta data management. According to Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis, the vendor first introduced its Metadata Exchange (MX) Architecture in 1997. Since then, Informatica has also introduced MX Data Model plug-ins designed to leverage MX APIs.

But while MX was based on a mix of proprietary plug-ins and connectors, SuperGlue is built entirely on a Web-based architecture and supports common Web services standards. As a result, says Poonen, SuperGlue can interface with any application that supports XML and Web services standards. “In the input stage, someone might say, 'My meta data is going to exchange with you, not through a proprietary interface, but through a Web services protocol,'” he explains. “On the output, they may say, 'I don’t want to use PowerAnalyzer, I want to display the output of what you’re generating inside my own portal.'”

When it was introduced, MX was endorsed by a variety of BI players, and to this day remains a going concern. According to Poonen, Informatica will continue to support and enhance the MX APIs. “We are absolutely an open platform. Our strength has been the fact that we have an open meta data exchange with BI tools, because a good 20 to 30 percent of our customers use other BI tools,” he notes.

Things have changed somewhat since Informatica introduced MX, however. With the release of PowerAnalyzer 4.0, for example, the one-time data integration pure-play became a full-fledged BI vendor, competing with many of the same vendors with which it once partnered. The upshot is that even though Informatica touted SuperGlue endorsements from key vendors—including WebMethods Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and BEA Systems Inc.—the absence of testimonials from major BI players was notable.

“The real proof will be just how successful Informatica is in attracting additional software vendors, especially those that now compete with the company in the BI arena, and we eagerly await to see just how sticky SuperGlue will be,” writes Current Analysis’ Schiff.

For his part, Informatica’s Poonen points out that many of Informatica’s erstwhile partners—including Business Objects SA and Cognos Inc.—now market ETL tools that compete with Informatica’s PowerCenter.

“People obviously don’t look at both sides of the coin. The only BI player that’s remaining standalone is MicroStrategy—they’re the only one remaining that doesn’t have an ETL tool,” he asserts. “At the end of the day, it’s co-opetition between us, Business Objects, and Cognos.”

In addition to its support for XML and Web services, SuperGlue supports the Common Warehouse MetaModel (CWM) standard, a specification that describes a mechanism for meta data exchange among disparate data warehousing, BI, knowledge management, and portal technologies. As a result, Schiff acknowledges, Informatica can rightly position SuperGlue as an “open” offering.

For his part, Informatica’s Poonen claims that an open meta data repository such as SuperGlue can simplify the task of performing audits on data culled from a variety of different sources. With the advent of Sarbanes-Oxley and similar legislation, Poonen argues, there’s a demand for a more intelligent way to manage meta data: “We think the time is right for this kind of solution because of the nature of compliance, and I think with SuperGlue we’re the first to take a complex thought like meta data management and make it highly relevant for today’s discussion.”

About the Author

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