Big Blue’s Master Data Product Push
Don’t look for WebSphere DataStage this year...
To the buyer belong the spoils—especially when the buyer in question has ponied up $1 billion or more. So it was that IBM Corp. co-opted last week’s Ascential World customer confab and turned it into a showcase for its broad (and growing) stack of data integration products.
Of more importance to many dyed-in-the-wool Ascential World attendees, of course, was the fact that Big Blue shed new light on the whereabouts of the first IBM-branded release of Ascential DataStage, now called WebSphere DataStage. According to IBM officials, that product will ship sometime in Q2 of 2006—in other words, a few months behind the end-of-2005 GA date that Big Blue disclosed shortly after it acquired Ascential. (http://www.esj.com/business_intelligence/article.aspx?EditorialsID=7542)
For the record, IBM said that WebSphere DataStage and its forthcoming WebSphere Metadata Management Server (also based on Ascential technology) would ship concurrently, in the Spring of 2006.
For many attendees, IBM’s first-ever Information Integration Live! event marked a coming out party of sorts for Big Blue’s master data management (MDM) strategy—and not a moment too soon. MDM is fast going mainstream: large ISVs such as SAP AG and Oracle Corp. already market MDM-specific offerings of their own, while business intelligence (BI) players such as Hyperion Solutions Corp., Informatica Corp., Teradata (a division of NCR Corp.), and others have announced MDM-related initiatives, too.
There’s also sense, then, in which IBM—with its array of federated data access, content management, and metadata management technologies—almost seems late to the party. Dan Druker, director of master data management with IBM, disputes this idea. For starters, Druker says, MDM is a good fit for Big Blue’s overall information integration strategy. “IBM has historically talked about On Demand, and what we’re seeing is that as companies move to service-oriented architectures, they’re seeing information more and more as a service, and this [information service-enablement] is really what we’ve been trying to do with all of our integration technologies.”
In fact, Druker argues, Big Blue has had MDM on the brain for a few years now. No, really. He cites IBM’s acquisitions of product information management specialist Trigo (Druker’s former company) in early 2004; of federated access champ Venetica in August of 2004; and—recently—of customer data authority DWL just this summer. They all add up to the same thing, he says.
“We tend to be more conservative about what we announce than some of our competitors. Really, today is the first time we announced what all of these strategic acquisitions have been about,” he says. “MDM, you can come at it in a lot of different ways. There are all kinds of different entry points into MDM, but we wanted to be very conservative about not tipping our hand too much, because we’ve spent a large amount of money on this strategy.”
There is, after all, a lot at stake. Druker points to a recent study from International Data Corp. (IDC), which found that the market for MDM-related solutions could reach $10 billion by 2009. In a certain sense, he says, this is a no-brainer: MDM’s fortunes are yoked (to a large degree) to those of SOA, which—over the last few years, especially—has experienced an explosion in popularity. “For companies that are trying to get to an SOA, how are you going to quickly assemble new applications if your master data is wrong?” he asks.
IBM’s MDM push isn’t a vapor initiative. At last week’s event, Big Blue announced several new or updated MDM offerings, including WebSphere Customer Center (a “new” product for customer-centric data), WebSphere Product Center (an updated offering for product-centric data), and WebSphere Metadata Server (a not-yet-available product for service-enabled metadata management). WebSphere Customer Center is a first-ever IBM offering, but it’s not a new product. Instead, it’s based on DWL’s Customer Center 6.0. Druker says IBM has done some integration work to tie it in with the rest of its WebSphere integration stack. Similarly, WebSphere Product Center—which is based on technology IBM acquired from the former Trigo—has also been available for some time.
Big Blue isn’t the first of the big software vendors to wake up and smell MDM, however. But Druker clearly expects that IBM can be as successful in the burgeoning MDM market as it was in the enterprise information integration (EII) space a few years ago, when it released its first DB2 Information Integrator tools. At the time, many industry-watchers credited Big Blue with effectively mainstreaming EII as a technology practice. This time around, some analysts again like IBM’s chances. “They’re certainly not an innovator here. Everybody’s worried about [MDM]. But when IBM embraces something explicitly, it sort of pushes it up into the spotlight. It certainly is going to help broaden the recognition” of MDM as a technology practice, says Mike Schiff, a principal with BI and data warehousing consultancy MAS Strategies.
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.