The market for federated queries (or EII – enterprise information integration) is hotting up. First, Informatica announced that it would have a complete federated query solution in 18 months' time. Then IBM announced that it was acquiring Ascential, positioning the product very much alongside its WebSphere (previously DB2) Information Integrator offering. Now Informatica has disclosed that its plans in this area were based on a partnership with Composite Software and that it is now bringing that forward, to the extent that Informatica will be reselling Composite's federated solution in conjunction with PowerCenter.
So, how do these solutions stack up? In terms of functionality there is little to choose between Informatica and Ascential. The latter has a broader product set thanks to its extended data quality products and the functionality it acquired from Mercator, but the former has much better integration with a single metadata repository underlying all of its products, whereas Ascential uses meta-brokers to intercommunicate between its different products. On the other hand, Ascential has typically been regarded as a safer company to do business with (and even more so now that it will be part of IBM), even though Informatica is a big enough company in its own right. And conversely, according to preliminary results from Evalubase Research's ongoing study of the enterprise technology market (see www.evalubase.com) you need more external consultancy with an Ascential solution and get a quicker return on your investment with Informatica.
So, it is swings and roundabouts in so far as the two companies' product sets are concerned. In terms of federated platforms, WebSphere Information Integrator is the clear market leader. However, that is not necessarily the same thing as saying that it is best. It is certainly the broadest, in the sense that it supports a number of complementary capabilities, not least including content as well as data support.
Nevertheless, Composite Software is certainly a contender. While there have not yet been any formal benchmarks in this space (see my recent article on the subject) what evidence there is suggests that Composite would come out somewhere near the top in terms of performance. But then again, I would expect IBM (not to mention Callixa) to be one of the leading performers as well, given its years of experience with cost-based optimisation.
So the bottom line would appear to be that Informatica has at least held its own with this announcement and that it is likely to remain, at least for the foreseeable future, in much the same position vis a vis Ascential as it has been for some years. No doubt the company will gain some business through partnerships with other vendors that would prefer not to partner with IBM while, conversely, it will surely lose some business because of the extra clout that IBM has to offer. As I said: swings and roundabouts.
P.S. One further point may be worth remarking on. You may recall that Cognos took a stake in Composite Software late last year. Does this have any bearing on the relationship between Informatica and Composite? Between Informatica and Cognos? Reading between the lines is entirely at your own risk.