Informatica unveils broad data integration strategy with Cloud Winter 2014

Madan Sheina, Lead Analyst, Software – Information Management

Data integration continues to loom over organizations looking to move their applications and data into the cloud. With the announcement of the latest platform iteration of the cloud strategy it embarked on several years ago, Informatica continues to address the challenges facing these organizations.

Informatica Cloud Winter 2014, unveiled earlier this month and now generally available, is a major step forwards that (rightly) recognizes that integration across hybrid cloud spans data, services, and processes. Informatica continues to present a clear, disciplined, and comprehensive platform-driven roadmap approach.

Built on Vibe to span integration processes across data, services, and lines of business

Cloud Winter 2014 represents a new release, but not necessarily a brand-new product. It is in fact built on Informatica’s existing Vibe embeddable virtual data machine, announced this summer as a way to create integration logic (mappings) once, and run it across different platforms – including on-premise, cloud, in batch, or realtime, and against both big- (Hadoop) and small-scale data – by separating instructions from execution.

Cloud Winter 2014 builds on that flexibility to support different patterns of cloud integration in a unified platform. It also includes a host of advances to ease cloud integration pain-points. What stood out for Ovum was the following:

  • Cloud process automation – The ability to build realtime integration schemes across cloud data, services, and processes, thereby affording line-of-business (LOB) users greater autonomy to develop orchestrated integrations across various applications using preconfigured applications that can be exposed to various applications as RESTful or SOAP APIs. This could prove to be an important capability as more LOB IT projects increasingly focus on the cloud, yet require e-services that drive a series of long-running processes requiring multiple levels of approval.
  • A new shared global “repository” – For reusable and collaboration development and deployment of cloud integration elements across multiple enterprise integration projects, with the added benefit of centralized control and consistency, and possibly monetization (partners and LOBs “selling” best integration practices stored in the repository).
  • Deepened understanding of Salesforce CRM events – Extends Salesforce outbound messages with customizable incident/event integration templates. While Ovum believes this is a good start, Informatica still needs to deliver a customizable realtime integration layer that extends beyond Salesforce’s messaging layer to automate and ensure adherence to best integration practices.
  • Cloud data quality and master data management (MDM) – Delivered in the cloud as SOAP-based web services to be consumed by data warehousing and analytic applications. Informatica has also gone the extra mile by providing predefined data quality and MDM rules for specific industries (healthcare and financial services), which Ovum applauds as we believe MDM will evolve most quickly as a vertically focused solution. However, we would like to see more usability features included as part of its cloud data quality and MDM services.
  • Productivity enhancements for test data generation in the cloud – Builds off of Informatica’s cloud data-masking service, with a sharper focus on Salesforce.com environments.
  • Extended process automation options in Cloud Extend for mobile users – Includes general availability of an iPhone app and a preview version for Android.

These latest enhancements reinforce Informatica’s platform-based approach to enterprise-wide cloud data integration, while also addressing more tactical, departmental issues.

Informatica is clearly starting to push the cloud integration stakes, and the enhancements offered in Cloud Winter 2014 demonstrate its standing as a leader in cloud-based and on-premise integration, which Ovum believes will be the norm for the next five years at least. We are also impressed with the effort Informatica is putting toward critical adjunct processes like data quality, MDM, and test data management.

The key for Informatica, however, is to make integration between these environments less complex, and also engage nontechnical business users in the process. There are signs that Informatica is starting to address this in Cloud Winter 2014 with skip-selectable automated guided operations and embedded preconfigured control-flow options.

A perfectly timed release

Informatica’s Cloud processes more than 60 billion transactions per month. The release of Cloud Winter 2014 is timely in a marketing sense – coinciding with the re:Invent conference hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS), arguably the largest IaaS vendor, and the Dreamforce conference, hosted by Salesforce.com, one of Informatica’s largest cloud integration partners.

Cloud integration continuing to mature at pace

In many ways, cloud integration is going through the same evolution as on-premise data integration – shifting from manual custom-coding to a more automated platform approach. It still presents a formidable barrier for cloud adoption, so integration vendors are not surprisingly targeting that need. Cloud integration solutions have matured in the past five years, driven by small-to-midsized players like Scribe, Dell Boomi, SnapLogic, and MuleSoft. But, arguably, only a handful of large platform-as-a-service (PaaS) vendors really matter in this space: Informatica, IBM (Cast Iron), and Tibco Software.

Ovum expects this market to grow significantly over the next five years as more integration services are required to extend not only beyond the firewall, but also across both analytic and operational data and processes. After initially avoiding being drawn into the process-integration arena, Informatica – following its acquisition of Active Endpoints earlier this year – is finally widening its lens beyond data, especially in the cloud, to multiple integration paradigms.

Gone are the days when companies had to choose data or process-integration solutions. Informatica’s support for RESTful APIs is a big step in this direction.

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