One on One with HiT’s Giacomo Lorenzin
October 19, 2016 Alex Woodie
Some people say data is the new oil. If that’s true, then what better business to be in than selling tools to the data miners? That’s basically what HiT Software does. IT Jungle recently caught up with Giacomo Lorenzin, the managing director for the BackOffice Associates subsidiary, to talk about what’s driving business, the latest in data integration tools, and the state of the industry.
This is a condensed version of a Q and A that was conducted via email.
IT Jungle: First of all, how’s business? How are sales of IBM i software going?
Giacomo Lorenzin: The IBM i market continues to be relevant and important for us. We are winning new customers and selling additional licenses to current customers. We are one of the few companies in the world offering specialized middleware for the IBM i platform, the same technology that is embedded in our data replication product. What is encouraging is that we are not just holding position, but expanding in all the regions we are selling, that is North and South America, EMEA and Asia.
ITJ: You’ve been a BackOffice Associates subsidiary for over six years now. What’s been the most surprising change or adaptation for HiT Software during that time? What concerns did you initially have that proved to be unfounded?
GL: These last six years have been exciting and I still think that becoming part of BackOffice Associates was the right decision. The technology HiT Software brought in the acquisition continues to be an important part of the overall BackOffice product offer. BackOffice Associates over the years has been focusing more and more on software products, on premise and in the cloud, and the HiT products fit well in the portfolio. I’d like to add that being part of one of the world leaders in information governance and data migration allows us to offer our data integration solution to customers that otherwise would have been more difficult to reach.
ITJ: Real-time data replication and change data capture (CDC) are your specialties at HiT Software. Why do data replication and CDC pose such challenges to businesses?
GL: Replicating data is a challenging proposition because businesses typically move data to be consumed by other applications that need it accurate, secure, and as close to real time as possible. Often companies have databases from different brands because they don’t like being locked to one vendor and they also prefer to choose the database that best fits their requirements and budgets. However, they cannot operate these different repositories as silos, so CDC becomes absolutely necessary. They need a product that can glue the different databases together.
ITJ: Why do Oracle’s GoldenGate technology and IBM’s DB2 Connect cost so much? Should users think twice about paying so much to get real-time data integration capabilities?
GL: I don’t like speculating on prices of competitive products. What I like to say though is that we enjoy talking to customers that are challenged by the prices of the Oracle or IBM real-time replication solutions. Prospects typically like our pricing structure and our lower entry point.
ITJ: What data-related challenges do you see HiT Software’s customers struggling with the most these days? How has that changed over the past five years?
GL: The basic need for replicating data in real-time from one database to another has not changed much over the past five years. However, the amount of data that needs to be moved has increased, so the replication product must be efficient in reading the data from the source, and demonstrate the same performance transferring and writing the data to the target using different techniques depending on the databases involved.
ITJ: What about for IBM i customers? Do they suffer from the same types of challenges as customers running standard-based systems (i.e., X86 servers)?
GL: I believe IBM i customers are not different from other customers. While it’s true there are customers (typically small and medium size businesses) who rely only on the IBM i and Windows PC clients for their IT solutions, the majority of them have their IBM i systems to coexist with other databases and applications. So, for such customers it’s important to rely on vendors that make products which address the IBM i and other standard-based systems equally well. Our DBMoto is, for sure, one of the leaders in this camp.
ITJ: HiT Software recently launched DBMoto version 9, which added real-time replication support for Hadoop. What kind of demand are you seeing for Hadoop data integration solutions?
GL: We see customers experimenting with Hadoop and trying to decide how they can take advantage of this technology. We want to offer these customers a solution for moving data from traditional relational databases to Hadoop. For now we support Hadoop as a target and we are very much interested in talking to companies that are planning to deploy Hadoop side by side with their databases.
ITJ: What other big data platforms are you hearing about from your customers? What other systems do your IBM i customers need access to in order to solve business challenges?
GL: While the number of customers moving data from IBM i to traditional relational databases such as MS SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle and others remains high, we see an increasing number of customers who move data to databases that are particularly well geared to retrieve data for fast analytics, such as IBM PureData System, SAP HANA, Teradata, HP Vertica and others. Our DBMoto handles all these platforms particularly well, making sure that data is moved accurately and in real-time.
ITJ: The Hadoop space, and big data analytics in general, is really taking off. You’re seeing IBM investing millions in things like Apache Spark and Watson’s machine learning. Do you get the sense that IBM i customers are aware of what’s going on in the broader big data community, or that they even care? Does it matter to them?
GL: As said earlier, I believe there is a small number of IBM i customers who are totally focused on the IBM i platform and are not too involved in the broader big data discussion and challenge, but the majority are connected, interested, and active like users of others platforms. I also think that IBM is trying hard to make them interested in the technologies you mentioned that are strategic to IBM.
ITJ: Companies often talk about how data and information is their greatest asset. In general, do you think companies are doing enough to leverage their data and information? What more can they do with their data to get more out of it?
GL: My short answer is no, most companies don’t do enough to leverage data, which is one of their most critical assets. And when I say leveraging data, I don’t just mean identifying the data an organization needs in order to operate and make sure the data is clean, commonly referred to as data governance, but also setting rules and enforcing data policies to maximize the business value of data. Organizations should engage with vendors that can effectively help them in their information governance journey. Our company BackOffice Associates is a world leader in this field.
ITJ: Do you work mostly with IT departments or with line of business (LOB) departments, such as sales or marketing? Who is typically driving the adoption of real-time data replication or CDC? And how do LOB requests for proposals and POCs differ from what you hear from the IT departments?
GL: We used to talk exclusively to IT departments, but we have an increasing number of customers where the IT and LOB departments work together and some cases where the LOB departments are our primary contacts. The latter is possible because we offer a CDC solution that takes the user by the hand in a journey that does not require programming, unless one wants to introduce sophisticated logic to the process, and that happens via an intuitive GUI.
ITJ: Lastly, how do you see your customers leveraging the cloud, either as a source of new data sources, or as a repository for data? What interesting use cases are you seeing among customers that are combining data from the cloud with on-premise data?
GL: I like finishing our conversation with the cloud. This is an area where BackOffice Associates is investing significantly, particularly in the area of information governance and cross platform business process orchestration. While we see some companies moving all of their data sources to the cloud, most of them still maintain some of their corporate repositories on premise, but at the same time move data in real-time to platforms on the cloud, or on private clouds. We believe that with our technologies we are very well positioned to bridge the on-premise and cloud worlds.
ITJ: Thanks, Giacomo, for your time. Best of luck to you and your colleagues at HiT Software and BackOffice Associates.