Informatica Moves 'Beyond Data Warehousing'

If 80 percent of enterprise information in unstructured, could the effective integration of that info spell trouble for the old 80/20 rule?

Analyst calls are curious things. To distill the salient kernels of truth, one must strip away the value judgments and corporate clichés—even some of the numbers, give or take. Somewhere, deep beneath the veneer, you'll always hear those one or two comments that make it all clear. In this case, two statements rose above the rest.

The last question of this hour-long call focused on how much Itemfield-related business Informatica expects from business intelligence (BI) activity, compared to a range of other potential markets, such as integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, compliance-related solutions, data governance programs and the like.

Informatica chairman and CEO Sohaib Abbasi, whose company had just agreed to pay $55 million (in cold, hard cash) for the Israeli-founded integration specialist, answered: "This acquisition is very much in line with our corporate strategy, which is to go beyond data warehousing to broader data integration."

In that statement, Abbasi summed up an industry-wide transformation: data integration is all grown-up now. Data warehousing (DW) will continue to be a major business driver, but integration has lots of new friends these days, like compliance, and governance, and ERP, and CRM, and dashboards, and that increasingly popular character: the service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Speaking of, here's the second prominent quote from Abbasi: "One of the most attractive elements of Itemfield was its modern architecture. It is built using the latest SOA architecture; it was designed from the outset to be embeddable technology that could be invoked as a service. That made it relatively straightforward for us to integrate both from a design-time perspective, as well as an execution perspective."

Abbasi went on to outline Itemfield's OEM success, noting how far and wide it has already been embedded in several industry-leading platforms. "In fact," he said, "if you look at the list of partners they've already announced, you would get a sense of the unique architecture they've got. SAP is using it as part of NetWeaver. IBM has announced an add-on to their WebSphere business integration. And Oracle and we have used it more in terms of data integration."

SAP, IBM, Oracle—those are pretty big companies. And, all three will now be talking to Informatica about the Itemfield technology embedded in their platforms. At least, they'll be talking if and when the acquisition achieves regulatory approval, which Informatica says should happen by mid-December.

Sohaib was downright effusive in explaining the many ways that Itemfield's technology augments Informatica's offerings. "Itemfield complements every stage of the data integration lifecycle," he said. Those stages include: 1) accessing data; 2) the discovery phase (identifying the most relevant data—Itemfield features a powerful user interface for this process, one that allows business users to merely highlight fields in a spreadsheet to show info of interest); 3) measuring and improving data quality; 4) integrating data; and, 5) delivering data throughout and beyond the enterprise.

All this from a company with but 60 employees, half of whom hail from Israel—that's the research and development base. The headquarters is located in San Mateo, CA, not far from Informatica's Redwood City home—a mere eight miles, in fact.

Sohaib said that Itemfield's "dissociative" technology far exceeded that of other vendor they investigated. He further stated there are four key elements that Itemfield delivers:

  1. near universal access to unstructured data, including out-of-the-box support for several popular standards for unstructured data; and a broader range of unstructured formats supported without requiring any programming

  2. the breadth of data exchange standards that it supports; the library of data exchange standards that it supports, out-of-the-box

  3. its uniquely modeled architecture which provides a much more adaptable framework

  4. the productive environment that it offers—developers and even business users can mark up a document.

But the lynchpin really boils down to that 80/20 rule. Recent studies indicate that 80 percent of enterprise information is stored in unstructured format: PDFs, text documents, PowerPoint slides and other such unruly formats. By giving end users a means to incorporate such unstructured data into their reporting and analysis environments, Informatica can really open some doors, and that might do much more than improve the integration giant's bottom line. It can fundamentally change the depth and breadth of what is today called business intelligence, providing even more room for growth in this already burgeoning field of information management.

About the Author

Eric Kavanagh is the president of Mobius Media, a strategic communications consultancy. You can contact the author at