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Wheels with wheels -- Informatica vs. Ascential

Phil Howard of IT-Director.com recently wrote about a number of a number of developments in the market for data connectors and concluded that the independent sector for data connectors is likely to be put under some considerable pressure. This column goes into further detail.


Market Analysis

Wheels with wheels -- Informatica vs. Ascential
Earlier this week I wrote about a number of a number of developments in the market for data connectors (IBM buying CrossAccess Corporation and Informatica acquiring Striva) and concluded that there was a strong possibility that a combination of circumstances suggests that the independent sector for data connectors is likely to be put under some considerable pressure.

Also in that article I mentioned Informatica's announcement of a partnership with IBM. To recap, this stated that "the two companies will jointly integrate, market and sell advanced business intelligence solutions worldwide…. In addition the new agreement also provides for the training of IBM sales personnel on the entire Informatica product family, including the PowerCenter data integration solution, the Informatica PowerAnalyzer business intelligence solution, and the new Informatica SuperGlue metadata management solution."

You have to do some reading behind the lines here. The main point of this agreement is that "the two companies will jointly integrate, market and sell advanced business intelligence solutions worldwide." The question is: what do they mean by "business intelligence"? My guess is that IBM takes it to mean PowerAnalyzer while Informatica takes it to mean the whole of its product set.

Of course, these sorts of announcements shouldn't be taken too seriously. IBM's preferred partner for ETL (extract, transform and load), data profiling and analysis, and data cleansing, has been Ascential ever since IBM's acquisition of Informix (of which Ascential was a part, at that time). However, that doesn't mean that Informatica hasn't had a close relationship with IBM at the same time. There are enough companies that have a strategic investment in Informatica that IBM could hardly afford to ignore them.

So, in a sense, this announcement does not disturb the status quo. Nevertheless, if I was Ascential I would be worried. PowerAnalyzer is clearly a lever, and Informatica obviously intends to use it as a means to challenge Ascential's position with IBM.

In addition, Informatica intends to become much more competitive with Ascential across the latter's product range. It has already announced a close partnership with FirstLogic (though it continues to work with other data cleansing vendors such as Trillium) and, in the forthcoming Informatica release, the company will also extend its range of capabilities.

While the fact that data cleansing is still sourced from a third party may be perceived as a weakness, it won't be much of one provided that that integration can be achieved at the metadata level (via SuperGlue), which will put Informatica in an even stronger position.

The one remaining area where Ascential has a significant advantage over Informatica is that the former is SAP's partner of choice. The question is: how will Informatica penetrate that market?

Ascential should make the assumption that Informatica will get into the SAP market more than it has to date. In that case, the company needs to branch out. It already acquired Mercator, which will help to extend its product set beyond that of Informatica but, in my view, it needs to do more. To use a military metaphor, Informatica is attempting an encirclement, Ascential needs to plan a breakout.


Copyright 2003. Originally published by IT-Director.com, reprinted with permission. IT-Director.com provides IT decision makers with free daily e-mails containing news analysis, member-only discussion forums, free research, technology spotlights and free on-line consultancy. To register for a free e-mail subscription, click here.

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