Firstlogic Heeds Web Services Call
New development tool accelerates integration efforts
At the TDWI World Conference, held this week in Boston, Mass., Firstlogic Inc. announced a new development environment for its Information Quality (IQ) data quality platform, called IQ8 Integration Studio.
Although IQ8 Integration Studio is intended as a replacement for Firstlogic’s existing data quality tool set, Joe Zurawski, vice-president of development with Firstlogic, says that it’s actually more akin to an integrated development environment (IDE) than a collection of data quality tools. “It’s not just a data quality tool set. It really is a development environment. It can be related in some regards to an IDE for building and integrating data quality solutions. What that means is that it provides all of the functionality that businesses will need to support their business and technical requirements.”
More to the point, claims Zurawski, Firstlogic envisions IQ8 Integration Studio as a sort of data quality integration factory, with a Web services API that allows it to interface with business intelligence and enterprise applications from Informatica Corp., PeopleSoft Inc., SAP AG, and Siebel Systems Inc, as well as custom applications developed by an organization’s in-house staff. “You’ll see us transitioning to take advantage of enterprises migrating to a service-oriented architecture and really kind of taking advantage of … the loose coupling and Web services standards. We had integration capabilities previously, but not nearly as flexible and powerful as what we’re releasing here.”
The new IQ8 Integration Studio includes an IQ8 Repository, a Data Quality Server, a so-called “Project Architect,” and the IQ8 Web Service.
The IQ8 Repository stores configuration rules—i.e., transforms, compound transforms, and projects—and runtime metadata. The Data Quality Server, on the other hand, provides an engine for processing the batch projects and transactional data that are launched by the IQ Web service. In addition, says Zurawski, the IQ8 Repository stores the data flows and other objects that define business rules for processing by the IQ8 Server.
The IQ8 Project Architect provides a graphical application environment that can be used to design data flows that tell IQ8 Server how to process data. Project Architect includes a point-and-click tool called Dataflow Designer (DfD) that can be used to set up data flows graphically. Finally, the IQ8 Web service is the mechanism that facilitates exchanging data between an application and the IQ8 Server. Data can be processed either on a batch or transactional basis, and the Web service includes Web methods that can be used to monitor the status of data flows in the IQ8 repository.
Elsewhere, the IQ8 Integration Studio includes productivity enhancements in the form of so-called Data Quality Blueprints; these are pre-defined transforms and technology pieces that accelerate common tasks and best practices. “We’ve taken what we see customers do often, and so we provide quick-start Data Quality Blueprints for getting up and running very quickly,” says Zurawski. The idea, he explains, is that “What we’ve delivered in the blueprint is some tweaking and modification of what the customers want to do, so people do not have to start with a blank canvas. They’re not starting from scratch.”
Add it all together, says Zurawski, and you’ve got a “completely new framework … designed specifically from the ground up with enterprise data quality needs in mind.” Not surprisingly, then, Firstlogic officials say that they’re primarily targeting new customers with the IQ8 Integration Studio. The new release, for example, won’t ship with any upgrade tools, scripts, wizards, or other integration components to help customers migrate—at least not right away. “Initially, with this first release, we have not done that. We’re kind of going to run both product suites in parallel, so there’s no mandated product upgrade. This is targeted to new customers,” he says. “For those customers who aren’t necessarily compelled out of the chute for a variety of reasons, there will be subsequent upgrades down the road. That’s absolutely something that we’re going to do.”
It’s been a busy fortnight for Firstlogic, which in late April introduced a new Match/Consolidate Wizard for its IQ Suite. These improvements are part of a larger trend, says Rob Lerner, a senior analyst for application infrastructure for consultancy Current Analysis Inc.—as a result, Firstlogic has steadily augmented the ease-of-use features of its product stack. “Over the years, [Firstlogic] has been making its technology easier to use, especially for the business user, who has more at stake in the quality of an organization’s data than the IT department,” he writes. “Giving the business user more control and flexibility over their data will doubtless increase the overall attractiveness of Firstlogic’s technology and help increase uptake.”
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.