Long Live MDM

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Jeff Schaffzin. Jeff is an independent consultant with over 15 years of experience in high tech. He’s worked with a number of leading software vendors in roles such as product marketing, professional services and information technology. Specializing in data management, Jeff has spent the last three years focusing on Customer Data Integration and Master Data Management and has worked with a number of high profile companies in the United States and abroad.

DISCLAIMER: While the facts that I’ve included here are true, I’m speculating on the reasons why they’re taking place. I have no affiliation with any company mentioned here, nor should my opinions be construed as knowledge of their actions.

If you, like me, have followed MDM for the past year or two, you knew that what has been happening recently was going to happen sooner or later. Whether it was due to choice or necessity, MDM has been in the IT press a lot lately. Oracle acquired Silver Creek to enrich its product information management offering. Talend has announced and started to promote its open source MDM application. Data integration provider Informatica acquired Siperian recently in order to enter the MDM space and IBM recently acquired Initiate Systems as well.

Each of these events leads to one key question – how will this impact MDM in the short term and in the future? Given my understanding of the space, I think three scenarios are likely:

Scenario 1

It is hard to ignore the movements that IBM and Oracle have been making in the past year or so. In a market economy, the goal is to have as much market share as possible. In order to do this, you either build new products or acquire existing companies that have the technologies that you want.

While each company has done a combination of both building and buying solutions, their strategic plans are hardly a secret. IBM has proposed a vision of an end-to-end data management platform, which includes their MDM offering as well as reporting tools like Cognos and analytics/statistics from SPSS. Now that IBM has acquired Initiate Systems to complement their MDM stack, the question is why. Do they want to be known as a serious player in the health care industry? There could be other reasons too – they may consider MDM just a small piece of their data management toolkit and this could solidify that position, moving MDM from one of the hottest ‘technologies’ out there to just a “means to an end” to increase market share for their software business unit. Regardless of the reason, it means one less major MDM player in the market.

Then we have Oracle. For as long as I can remember, Oracle has been promoting its Fusion strategy. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Fusion is Oracle’s attempt to provide one code base that would pull together the applications it has built and purchased. This momentous undertaking was finally demonstrated at last year’s Oracle Open World (while Oracle continued to acquire other companies such as Silver Creek Systems).

However, like IBM, one can speculate on where MDM fits in this Fusion strategy. Oracle has always promoted its database first and sold its applications second. Even with the numerous special purpose hubs they’ve been developing lately, could this finally be the technology that enables Oracle to transcend from being a database vendor to a true platform player. Only time will tell with this one.

Scenario 2

There’s always the possibility that MDM has been considered the “secret sauce” – the so-called missing link – that rounds out the product lines for data integration/migration vendors.

Talend’s acquisition of French software company Amalto provided them a way to enter the MDM space. The open source vendor has been a darling of the analysts for a number of years and even won an award by Gartner, one of the first (if not the first) they offered such a company. However, since I don’t have contacts within Talend, it’s not clear what their next step will be, since they seem to be focusing their energies mostly in MDM after hiring two people to drive that effort within the past 6 months or so.

As the de facto leader in data integration, Informatica needed to extend its reach beyond that space. If you look at their job listings, they are looking for someone to market their CEP (Complex Event Processing) efforts. Relatively recently, they were looking to hire someone who had experience with ERP or MDM, but it is unclear which path they decided to take with that. Regardless, there were always looming rumors of them wanting to add MDM to their portfolio with the press suggesting that they would acquire Initiate Systems. However, instead of buying them, they purchased Siperian – a company half its size in terms of customer base and revenue.

In either of these cases, MDM may not be their flagship product, but at least it shows that it is a viable technology and shows that it is something that won’t be going away any time soon.

Scenario 3

People like me who have been in the data management space are always interested in improving something. I believe in the statement, “even if something isn’t broken, there’s always a reason to make it better.” This was clear when Customer Data Integration (CDI) first came about and many companies hopped on that bandwagon, knowing that they wanted a way to track their customers more efficiently.

At the same time, other companies explored Product Information Management (PIM), a way to have a single source of product information which was sourced from PLM, inventory and supply chain systems. Following that was the concept of MDM – a beautiful vision – having a single source of truth that can be used by an entire company.

Now we have a new concept that has been promoted – Multi-domain MDM. Siperian and other companies have began to promote this to show the world that they are truly the most advanced players out there. While this has been going on, there have been rumblings about Enterprise Information Management (EIM). What I’m still not clear on is – what’s the difference between multi-domain MDM and EIM? Are they the same? If not, what are the differences between the two concepts?

In any case, there’s a lot to think about. I don’t know where you stand, but one thing is certain – MDM is not going away, at least for the foreseeable future.

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