Reflecting how the battle for database market share is likely to play out, IBM has developed new software to aid enterprise integration: the DB2 Information Integrator and DB2 Information Integrator for Content. The new applications allow businesses to access and integrate both structured and unstructured data as if it were stored in one place.
Data integration approaches differ from vendor to vendor, with some companies adhering to the belief that the best remedy is to centralize data in a single repository, Nelson Mattos, director of information integration at IBM, told CRM Buyer Magazine.
“We believe customers need a choice to move the data when it makes sense, or leave it in place and federate it — in other words, accessing the data when they need it,” Mattos said.
The new software offerings are the first products available to customers based on IBM’s Xperanto project — an IBM R&D initiative that focuses on addressing evolving data management needs.
“Data management vendors, in general, have been fighting to gain market share in last few years,” Mattos said. “In that battle, we believe the next major round will be around the question of what is the best solution to address information integration challenges that customers have today.”
Ready, Set, CRM
IBM says the new software is ideal for CRM, where call center operators need to pull together customer information residing in multiple databases or in unstructured formats, such as e-mail messages or flat files.
For example, a call center rep can access and integrate relational data in DB2 and Oracle, images in Documentum, e-mail in Lotus Notes, spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel and Web services generated by WebSphere Application Server through just one query, IBM says. This data is then presented in a consolidated view.
Call centers will be the killer application for this software, agrees Philip Russom, research director at Giga Information Group. “Its best potential is to assemble customer data on the fly,” he told CRM Buyer.
IBM Enters EII
From an IT standpoint, Russom points to the fact that IBM has entered a whole new software niche — enterprise information integration, or EII — that thus far has been populated with very small, best-of-breed vendors. “It is an important development,” he said. “IBM will raise the bar from what has been expected so far from an EII platform.”
EII is a middleware product that allows applications to access diverse and distributed data throughout an enterprise, enabling the applications to view that data as if it were in a single source, whether or not it is, Mattos explained.
Competing vendors in this space include MetaMatrix, Nimble and Enosys, as well as BEA’s Liquid Data, rolled out in mid-2002.
But “IBM is the first large database vendor to enter EII,” Russom said, and it has already broadened the category by including unstructured data and write-only platforms. Most EII platforms are read-only and focus primarily on structured data, he noted.
Eventually, Russom expects to see Oracle and Microsoft enter this space, but not for at least 18 months. “I think they will pull together various tech pieces that they have which are relevant to EII and turn them into a product offering,” he predicted.
DB2 Information Integrator software supports two different programming models, IBM reports. The DB2 Information Integrator is tailored to the SQL-based developer community, and the DB2 Information Integrator for Content supports a content-management programming model. Both provide federated access across both structured and unstructured data; however, there are also features tailored for their particular programming model.
The software also incorporates enhancements to the query optimizer technology, allowing IT staffs to slash unnecessary run time on searches and increase developer productivity with fewer hand-coding requirements, IBM said.
DB2 also support XML (extensible markup language) support for accessing and integrating XML documents as data sources and generating XML documents as a query result, IBM said.
But because this particular software category is so new and relatively untested, it is difficult to place bets on the optimal technology.
“The vendors are devoted to XML as the enabling technology,” Russom said. But down the road, he added, EII will rely on Xquery standard, which has not been written yet. “Eventually the future of EII will be about the ability to read and parse XML documents, to generate XML into output format for the exchange of data and to even store XML in its native format.”
Future product road maps will likely address the level of XML provided, particularly Xquery, he said.