Information Builders Bolsters Data Asset Management Strategy
June 18, 2013 Alex Woodie
Information Builders is in the process of overhauling its iWay data integration tools as part of a new focus on data asset management. With the new strategy, the company is looking to tie the disciplines of data integration, quality, and master data management (MDM) closer together. The new iWay 7 suite is the result of this strategy, and will be rolled out over the next 18 months.
The market for data integration tools has changed dramatically over the years, according to Dennis McLaughlin of Information Builders. Instead of trying to hook together disparate databases or utilize application-level adapters–as was traditionally the case a decade ago when iWay competed aggressively with companies like webMethods and TIBCO–organizations today are struggling to make sense of, and benefit from, the unstructured and semi-structured data that is now flowing into and through their operations.
McLaughlin says he hasn’t seen a request for a ‘traditional’ integration project in about two years. “For some of our biggest projects in last 12 months, at least half of the information being integrated is not database-centric. It’s documents, non-structured data, waveform data, things like that,” he tells IT Jungle.
As a result of the sea change in the integration space, Information Builders is overhauling its iWay products, which it no longer sells through an independent subsidiary; iWay is now a business unit of the New York City company. While many iWay customers are also users of Information Builder’s business intelligence products, many of them aren’t, and use iWay tools to move data for all kinds of needs, such as fueling CRM systems and portals with data.
The overhaul has already begun, and will continue with the third-quarter rollout of the first iWay 7 products. The new iWay 7 suite will feature a common user interface that links each of the three major functional areas–integration, data quality, and MDM–into a common user experience. “One of the things we’ve noticed in recent days is a real coalescence of those three disciplines, not as separate tools, but as fully integrated sets of functionality,” McLaughlin says.
“That has caused us to do quite a bit of work around taking individual toolsets, combining them into one UI framework, and making them all work together,” he continues. “We said, let’s normalize the tools with one pallet, and make it very easy to do the full integration workflow. If I need to do complex workflow and integration, I can do that. If need to call or build data quality routines, they come down as drop-down boxes.”
The overhaul required Information Builders to establish a new framework on top of the data quality and MDM components, which are based on technology the company OEMs from the Czech software company Ataccama. Information Builders is keeping that technology at the core, but it’s building a new framework to overlay that technology to give it more freedom to innovate.
The new framework will also allow Information Builders to address another aspect of data quality: interfacing with the end user.
While much of the heavy lifting of normalizing and cleansing data can only be done by skilled data stewards, there are some data quality questions that are best answered by the boots on the ground. For example, in a healthcare setting, there may be a question of whether certain documents are describing one patient or multiple patients. It can be tough to discern that from the documents themselves, but a nurse with an iPad in the room can quickly find the answer.
iWay 7 will also bring new functionality in the areas of pattern management, data stewardship, and hierarchical data management.
Pattern management will make it easier for users to define and manage multiple integration flows. It will let users define rules for data flowing through integration ‘pipes,’ such as for documents or EDI data. “The goal is to make it easy to manage the types of things we will drive across the bus,” McLaughlin says.
iWay’s data steward functionality will allow customers to accept more roles. “It’s is predominantly directed toward only a couple of IT roles,” McLaughlin says. “We kept hearing from customers that would like to have more roles than that.”
Finally, the version 7 release of MDM is due out this summer. “We’re investing heavily in things like hierarchy management,” which will give users the capability to get 360 degree views of customers and provide a lineage of where the data came from.
Also on tap from the iWay division of Information Builders is a new community edition. The company is taking the free software route to give it a leg up on upstart open source data integration tool vendors like Talend that give away software. The community edition, which has not yet been formally announced, will be a stepping stone to the full enterprise version.