Composite Software Updates Flagship EII Suite
One vendor whose enthusiasm hasn't diminished is Composite Software, which recently announced a new version of its flagship EII suite
The story of enterprise information integration (EII) is one of fits and starts.
When it first burst on the scene, half a decade ago, EII was viewed as something of a Wunderkind -- or a bona-fide Wunderkammer (that is, a curiosity) from the perspective of those who didn't quite understand it.
Since then, EII has become less wondrous and altogether more mundane. Adopters found that it worked very well for some implementations -- e.g., data warehouse prototyping, frequently refreshed reporting, and consolidated views of widely distributed data sources -- and less well for others (as a replacement for the venerable data warehouse itself, for example).
That's a good thing, proponents say: it's a correction of the hype cycle that restores the focus back to EII as a complementary or enabling technology.
One vendor whose enthusiasm hasn't diminished is Composite Software Inc., which -- from the beginning -- has been a major proponent of data federation, EII, or the virtualization of data views. Composite recently updated its flagship Composite Information Server. Version 4 boasts improved performance (via a native 64-bit JVM), additional SOA amenities (via support for SOAP/JMS binding), and an array of developer-friendly enhancements -- including, significantly, beefed up collaboration capabilities and compliance with common software development lifecycle (SDLC) methods.
The upshot, says vice-president of marketing Bob Eve, is that Composite -- like EII itself -- has matured. The Composite solution stack of today, he says, bears little resemblance to the market-leading platform Composite marketed four or five years ago, when EII was riding the crest of the Next Big Thing wave.
According to Eve, it's indicative of a shift on the part of customers away from reflexive behavior ("We have to have this!") to a careful, deliberate consideration.
"I think what's happening right now with this EII approach … [to] virtual data federation [is that] it used to be kind of an early-adopter technique, where these wild, crazy guys would use it. Now it's sort of mainstream," he observes. "The questions we're getting now [are]: When's the right time to use it? When should I use this versus consolidating data into a warehouse, a data mart, that sort of thing?"
When should customers opt for EII? Eve, not surprisingly, has a ready response. "In a nutshell, [EII] is great for whenever you sort of need that single view of anything. If you think about it, there have been a lot of things such as customer data integration or master data management, but that's really about getting the core customer data correct. If you're in a customer service center, you also need to see the last 10 invoices, the last 10 shipments, the last set of returns -- these other pieces of data that are tied to the customer that you'd like to see. The best way to do that, across all of these different systems, is to use virtual data federation."
In many cases, Eve maintains, it just doesn't make sense to feed data -- or data from a host of highly distributed sources -- into a single, consolidated enterprise data warehouse.
"The concept of the usage situation [is] any data I want to pull together that's pretty disparate and [which] hasn't already been integrated into a warehouse," he comments. "Some customers are building this virtual layer around [their warehouses], then when [for example] the financial analysts need certain data, they can build views or services in our layer … [so they] can simplify that access and provide them with virtual views of the data they need. They can do that really, really quickly and save time."
The model isn't necessarily quick-and-dirty access, however, according to Eve.
"What happens … is that [data warehouses] were designed and architected to meet a lot of the core requirements [of a business at any given time], but new requirements come up on a constant basis -- [things like] 'Can I add just a few more fields on the database?' or 'We've acquired a company and it has some other information we'd like to join to,'" he explains. There are a host of other considerations, too -- especially in a legal or compliance climate where certain kinds of data simply can't be feed into a data warehouse.
"In cases like this, 80 percent of this information comes from the warehouse, but maybe 20 percent comes from other sources," he asserts. "These are permanent requirements. These are cases where [customers] typically aren't going to move it into the warehouse when [they] get done with it."
Composite has enjoyed enormous success on the partnering front. Two of its biggest partners are the former Cognos Inc. (now Cognos: an IBM Corp. Company) and Informatica Corp. Both of these relationships are complicated, to a degree: Cognos, for example, was acquired late last year by IBM, which -- with its Information Integrator stack -- already has an EII technology of its own. Informatica has a special licensing arrangement with Composite whereby it purchased Composite's source code and is incorporating it into its data integration stack. Over time, Informatica officials have said, the Composite code will morph into Informatica's own highly customized EII offering (see http://esj.com/Business_Intelligence/article.aspx?EditorialsID=8466).
What do developments like this mean for Composite, which has thrived -- to a degree -- on OEM or reseller revenues? Eve seems largely nonplussed.
"We've had a very good relationship with Cognos. We're definitely integrated into what they do, and our integration strategies continue to be better than ever. We've done a number of activities with them -- including recent ones [after] the acquisition," he notes. "You have to realize that Cognos has designed us [into their stack]: we're built into a number of customers, and their technology relies on us, and I think to swap all of that out for Information Integrator adds no value to them.
"With Informatica, we just renewed our agreements with them, and we're continuing the original OEM agreement. [We're] providing them some additional flexibility to do some more lease-out," he says. "They wanted to do that because they have to provide complete data integration solutions to their customers, and there's a lot of use cases where [EII is used as] a data warehouse extension, for example. There just are cases where you kind of want to use both sets of technology."
Nor is Composite's partner ecosystem limited to just Cognos and Informatica. The company recently signed an accord with SAS Institute Inc., and long-time partner BMC Software Inc. also remains a huge consumer.
"We just announced activities with SAS, and this is on top of the work we've done in the past with BMC where they've used our product to integrate their different system management tools and create their own manager of the system manager, if you will. So we're seeing some additional traction [on this front]."
Composite will mostly likely remain a partner of choice, Eve says, thanks to the ineluctability of consolidation in a red-hot business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing technology segment.
"As the industry consolidates, what happens is that the consolidators are seeing our technology as an enabler to consolidate some of the things they've consolidated."
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.