The Rise of Data Integration Storefronts

DI storefronts provide a context in which ISVs, partners, or developers can list assets or solutions. They should be of some help to customers, too.

Almost a year ago, Informatica Corp. launched Marketplace, an online storefront -- not unlike Saleforce.com's AppExchange or Apple Inc.'s App Store -- for data integration (DI) software, services, and other assets.

Last month, Informatica rival Pervasive Software Inc. announced its own Web storefront -- Pervasive Galaxy. Like Marketplace, Galaxy provides an online bazaar for data integration offerings -- including connectors, plug-ins, templates, and services.

The resemblance doesn't stop there. Marketplace, for example, provides a context in which ISVs, integrators, partners, and individual developers can sell assets or solutions -- including data models, connectors, mappings, "mapplets," utilities, methodologies, and services offerings. So does Galaxy, which likewise encourages users to request, preview, rate, and even build solutions -- a class that includes data models, connectors, mappings, plug-ins, templates, and services. Both storefronts have forum and chat features, too.

Depending on how and what you count, Informatica Marketplace now hosts more than 200 assets (or "blocks," in Informatica lingo). The official tally is 255 -- a figure that includes forum discussions -- of which about 220 are actual salable "blocks." That actually works out to a decent growth rate: at launch last year, CIO Tony Young touted "more than 50" salable blocks, of which just over half (27) had been developed by third parties.

One month after it first went live, Pervasive Galaxy features nine assets -- all of which are free. However, Pervasive is a much smaller company than Informatica, which in 2010 generated almost 14 times Pervasive's revenue ($650 million to $47 million). Viewed in this context, Galaxy's nine free assets -- seven templates and two plug-ins -- aren't such a bad start.

Analysts Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe of The SMB Group argue that the size or scope of a virtual storefront like Galaxy is beside the point. It shouldn't be about having the biggest DI storefront.

Nor should Pervasive expect Galaxy -- in its gestational phase, at least -- to be a reliable revenue generator. That being said, Galaxy's pricing scheme -- which has Pervasive getting a 30 percent cut of sales -- could ultimately prove to be quite lucrative. By comparison, Informatica charges a fee to list an asset on Marketplace but doesn't excise a post-sale cut.

That's in the future, however. In the near-term, a mature Galaxy storefront will probably most benefit Pervasive's customers. After all, the assets currently listed on Galaxy are free.

From a customer perspective, a thriving Galaxy marketplace could potentially eliminate hours of searching via Google, not to mention the frustration of following up with value-added resellers (VAR) and solution providers.

"Instead of starting with a Google search, or contacting a VAR or consultant and trying to figure out if there is an existing integration solution that's right for their needs, customers can go to Galaxy and see if there's an existing solution that fits the bill," write Aggarwal and McCabe, in a research blast. "They can also use Galaxy to locate a partner [that] can customize an available integration to their individual needs, or build a custom solution from scratch."

One of the most valuable dimensions of a resource such as Galaxy is its potential for feedback, Aggarwal and McCabe point out.

"End users will not only be able to shop for ready-made solutions on Galaxy, but will also be able to view and rate templates, connectors, plug-ins and solutions. They can also use Galaxy to inform developers and integrators about their needs, request new integrations, and link to others with similar needs to share the costs of getting a new integration developed," they write.

This feedback loop won't just benefit Pervasive's customers, either.

"Pervasive should also be able to extract a lot of insight about customer and partner integration requirements and demands across different ... markets, which it can use in its own product planning efforts," the pair observes.