Friday, June 20, 2008

Where are the EII Tools of Yesteryear?

All in all, it seems bizarre to me to realize that the old “pure” EII (Enterprise Information Integration) vendors are no longer thick on the ground. It was only 6 years ago that I first discovered EII tools and issued my first report – an extremely short half-life for a technology. And yet, of the existing or nascent EII tools then, Metamatrix has gone to Red Hat, Avaki to Sybase, Venetica to IBM, and another whose name I no longer recall was folded into BEA as Liquid Data and is now being re-folded into Oracle. Meanwhile, IBM has renamed Information Integrator as Federation Server, and rarely mentions EII. Of the oldies, only Composite Software and Attunity remain proudly independent.

And yet, the picture is not as bleak as it appears at first glance. Composite Software and Attunity are still small (under $100M in revenues), but continue to survive and even thrive. Ipedo and Denodo, newer entrants with interesting differentiators (Ipedo with its XML database, Denodo with its Web-search capabilities), are likewise out there. In fact, Stylus Studio with its EII support for programmers and Silver Creek Systems with its “missing link for EII” appear to have entered the fray recently.

Just as important, many of the infrastructure-software companies that have acquired EII vendors have come to realize that EII is a positive thing to customers and should be kept as a distinct product, not treated as another component to fold into a product or hide under the umbrella of an overall strategy. Sybase, especially, has been unusually active in positioning their EII solution as a “key component” of their key data-integration product suite.

However, it is also fair to say that EII’s marketing is not all it should be. A Google search turned up very few of these tools, and in the advertising on the right-hand side, several of the companies were not in EII at all (SAS? I don’t think so) and Sybase’s webcast on the subject was no longer available.

What’s going on? I would suggest that one of the key reasons for EII’s mixed picture of success is that vendors have begun doing what they should have done three years ago: leverage EII tools’ metadata repositories as separate products/value-add. Metadata management is now In, to the point that even Microsoft and EMC are now talking about enterprise-wide metadata repositories (and realizing just how tough the job is). In other words, some of the revenue and visibility that are derived from EII products are now showing up under the heading of master data management and composite apps (along the lines of Denodo’s “data mashups”) instead of being credited to EII.

This is not to say that EII is the only source of an enterprise metadata repository; EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) tools like IBM’s Ascential, data-search tools like EMC’s Tablus, and “pure” repository plays like Syspedia are other tools that can be used as the foundation of an enterprise-metadata-repository product. Still, I would argue that EII tools have virtues that none of the others share, or at least to the same extent. Specifically, creating a good repository is key to the success of a good EII implementation; such repositories are often used for querying apps, so optimizing query performance should be considered; and EII tools do both automatic discovery of a wide variety of automated data sources and support for hand-definition of data relationships and data with different names but the same meaning (“customer ID” or “buyer name”). Contrast this with EAI, which is usually restricted to a narrower range of structured data, is often handed the metadata rather than discovering it, does not have to consider real-time performance in queries, and often doesn’t provide support for the kind of data reconciliation involved in master data management. I was reminded of this recently, when I talked to Composite Software about a new Composite Discovery product whose foundation is an innovative way of discovering “probable” relationships between data items/records across data sources.

So the EII market is doing quite well, thank you, even if many of its pioneers have been folded into larger companies. However, EII remains under-utilized by large infrastructure-software vendors, not because their users don’t appreciate their EII implementations, but because vendors aren’t giving visibility to their EII technology’s usefulness in larger projects such as master data management and composite-application development. Where are the EII tools of yesteryear? Doing well; but not visibly enough.

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