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IBM and Informatica Acquire MDM Capabilities

Special Note: This analysis was written by Philip Russom, Wayne's colleague in TDWI's research department who covers MDM and data integration.

I don’t know about you, but when I read two, similar announcements from competing software vendors, delivered at pretty much the same time, I can’t help but compare them. So that’s what I’m thinking about today (February 3, 2010), after hearing that IBM intends to acquire Initiate Systems. This bears strong resemblance to Informatica’s announcement a few days ago (on January 28, 2010) about their completion of the acquisition of Siperian.

If you work in data management or a related field, these are noteworthy announcements coming from noteworthy vendors, and, therefore, worth understanding. So let me help you by making some useful comparisons – and some differentiations that you may not be aware of. I’ll organize my thoughts around some questions I’ve just seen in the blogosphere and my Twitter deck.

1 – Are both acquisitions about MDM?

Well, sort of. Siperian is well-known for its master data management (MDM) solution. It has attained one of the holy grails among MDM solutions, in that it works with multiple data domains (that’s data about customers, products, financials, and other domains).

Initiate, on the other hand, is well-known for its identity resolution hub. Initiate’s identity resolution capabilities are commonly embedded within applications for MDM and customer data integration (CDI). The way that I think of it, Initiate’s hub isn’t for MDM per se, but it can improve MDM when embedded within it.

At this point, I need to cycle back to Siperian and point out that it, too, provides identity resolution capabilities. And I forgot to mention that Initiate also has some MDM capabilities. You could say that Siperian is mostly MDM, but with identity resolution and other capabilities, whereas Initiate is mostly about identity resolution, but with MDM and other capabilities.

2 - So, the two acquisitions are about identity resolution?

Yes, but to varying degrees. For example, IBMers were very clear that their primary interest in Initiate is its ability to very accurately match data references to patients in healthcare and citizens in government. IBM’s campaign for a Smarter Planet has strong subsets focused on healthcare and government, two industries where Initiate has reference clients doing sophisticated things with identity resolution. My impression is that IBMers are hoping Initiate’s identity resolution functionality will help them sell more products and services into these industries.

Returning to Informatica and Siperian, let’s recall that for years now the Siperian hub has been integrated with Informatica PowerCenter (similar to pre-existing integration among IBM and Initiate products). Among other things, this integration enables Siperian’s identity resolution functions to be embedded within the PowerCenter platform under the name Informatica Identification Resolution. Hence, identity resolution was one off the key capabilities paving the path to this acquisition.

3 – What do these acquisitions mean for IBM and Informatica?

As noted, IBM is counting on the Initiate product to help their campaigns for Smarter Healthcare and Smarter Government. Informatica has now filled the largest hole in its otherwise comprehensive product line, filling it with one of the better tools available via acquisition. Both IBM and Informatica are aggressively building out their portfolios of diverse data management tools, driven both by user demand and competitive pressures. Since both have customers with growing demands for more diverse data management tool types, both will have no trouble cross-selling the new tools to their existing customer bases, as well as selling their older products to the newly acquired customer bases.

4 -- What do these acquisitions mean for technical users?

In my experience, Informatica and IBM both have rather faithful customers, in that they tend to get most of their data management tools from a primary supplier. Technical users from both customer bases now have more functionality available from a preferred technology supplier.

But these aren’t just any data management functions. The two acquisitions focus the spotlight on two of the hottest functions today, in terms of user organizations adopting them, namely: MDM and identity resolution. More than ever, organizations need trusted data, in support of regulatory reporting, compliance, business intelligence, analytics, operational excellence, and other data-driven requirements. MDM and identity resolution are key enablers for these requirements, so it’s no surprise that two leading vendors have chosen to acquire these at this time.

Posted by Wayne Eckerson on February 3, 2010


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