Informatica springs new release of Cloud platform

Madan Sheina, Lead Analyst, Software – Information Management

Informatica continues to see data disintermediation between cloud and on-premise IT systems as a lucrative opportunity. The latest release of its Informatica Cloud – marketed seasonally as Cloud Spring 2014 – advances this strategy, delivering new self-service tooling and user interface enhancements, aimed at business users, that are intended to remove much of the complexity and burden of cloud and on-premise data integration.

Informatica has leveraged its experience from on-premise data integration assets in the cloud to good effect, and its platform is technically enabled by its new Vibe technology, which ensures that reusable and self-adapting integration designs are fully portable across cloud and on-premise application environments.

Hybrid integration agility through self-service user empowerment

The main design theme for Cloud Spring 2014 is making business application users and administrators more self-sufficient in servicing their data integration needs. A brand new Cloud Designer tool enables IT and business users to collaborate to create and execute custom integration jobs by using preconfigured templates, visual drag-and-drop palettes, and point-and-click wizards.

Cloud Designer effectively replicates the advanced mappings and transformation capabilities in Informatica’s classic on-premise PowerCenter Visual Designer tool. But it also introduces some differentiated tooling, notably “parameterized templates.” These allow IT developers to build and configure advanced transformations, mapping, and workflow logic into reusable templates that comprise variable data joins, filter conditions, field mapping, source, and target connection values, which line-of-business application users can access, configure, and populate according to their own customized integration schemes.

Reusability of the parameterized templates mappings is aided by a new rules-based linking technology that dynamically updates, resolves, and propagates mapping and transformation rules and other metadata logic from the integration workflow when data changes at source.

Since all parameterized integration workflow logic is saved as a Vibe Integrations Package (VIP), it can be used across hybrid cloud and on-premise (PowerCenter) integration platforms, thanks to Informatica’s “map once and deploy anywhere” Vibe technology.

Informatica also allows VIPs to be distributed via the Informatica Marketplace and easily embedded (by customers, systems integrators, and OEM partners) into third-party applications via APIs.

Realtime process orchestration across hybrid environments

Cloud Spring 2014 builds on the services-based process capabilities introduced in Informatica’s Winter 2014 platform last year, to bring realtime integration process orchestrations that can be split across various cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-on-premise scenarios. Application integration runtime processes can now run either hosted in the cloud or on-premise as a “secure agent” – a dedicated security mediator technology in the cloud or running locally behind the firewall that safeguards access to sensitive data.

Providing a realtime process engine built into both an on-premise virtual data machine and in the cloud is touted as an industry-first by Informatica. However, Dell Boomi AtomSphere also provides the option of deploying on-premise-to-SaaS integration runtimes on-premise or in the cloud. Regardless, the technology helps companies to both orchestrate a business process regardless of whether the data is in the cloud or on-premise and ensure that the data is secure and governed by company policies.

Easier access to SAP data

SAP data has always been an important target source for Informatica, and Cloud Spring enhances connectivity around business metadata mediated by the BAPI layer – as opposed to having to decipher data structures through an XML-based Web Services Description Language layer. This is particularly helpful for business users that want to connect with and integrate specific SAP data fields without having to paddle through and comprehend complex technical metadata. It also reduces the number of processing cycles needed to pinpoint and extract relevant data from SAP.

Market-differentiated functionality

With Cloud Designer, Informatica has simplified the process for development and execution of integration flows for line-of-business users. This is a step in the right direction and will put pressure on data integration rivals to provide similar easy-to-use interfaces. Other platforms tend to be either very developer-centric or of such a high level that they cannot be easily customized by business users. The ability for business users to quickly change a parameter and generate new data, without having to go to IT for every change request, will certainly resonate in the market.

Hybrid strategy dependent on ensuring parity with PowerCenter

So how do Spring 2014′s data integration capabilities compare with on-premise PowerCenter? Informatica asserts that Cloud Spring 2014 is fully compatible with PowerCenter’s traditional metadata-centric approach, meaning that integrations defined in the cloud can be ported bilaterally across both environments. But there are differences; the parameterized templates and automatically generated business-user configuration interface is unique to Cloud Spring 2014.

While a number of advanced PowerCenter transformations have yet to be on-boarded to Cloud Spring 2014, both platforms now leverage Vibe, which should provide an easy path for Informatica to ensure closer compatibility and on-board more of the data quality and data management capabilities from PowerCenter into Cloud Designer.

Informatica’s burgeoning cloud business

Cloud integration remains one of Informatica’s fastest-growing business segments, growing consistently over the past several years and reflective of a broad cloud integration portfolio that has also expanded to areas like test data management, cloud data quality (MDM), and realtime app integration and process automation.

The company continues to add new logos to its Informatica Cloud subscription portfolio – notably as part of its largest deals in 2013. Growing business incrementally from upselling to its existing installed base remains a near-term opportunity. Informatica is also starting to see traction from new clients as a result of a broadened ecosystem beyond (which accounts for much of the early traction) which opens new opportunities to penetrate accounts that implement other cloud-focused applications like NetSuite, Workday, and Zuora, which are primarily deployed in midmarket organizations. These opportunities are being enabled through a combination of a close partnership with Amazon Web Services and Informatica’s Marketplace initiative.

Finally, cloud sales are being ramped up through an increased sales effort and resources (increasing fivefold in 2014, including Informatica’s entire sales force, which are now tasked with selling cloud integration solutions) and a new cloud SKU and a cloud integration and SaaS connectivity pack specifically aimed at existing traditional PowerCenter customers.

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24 Mar 2014, 8:37 p.m.

Informatica is also leveraging the cloud for Identity Access Management (IAM). They are utilizing Okta's cloud identity service to manage external identities and provide an identity layer that connects their SaaS offering to their user store. Great use case!