Informatica’s stretch goal

February 27, 2012

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is senior analyst at Ovum.

Informatica is within a year or two of becoming a $1 billion company, and the CEO’s stretch goal is to get to $3b.

Informatica has been on a decent tear. It’s had a string of roughly 30 consecutive growth quarters, growth over the last 6 years averaging 20%, and 2011 revenues nearing $800 million. Abbasi took charge back in 2004, lifting Informatica out of its midlife crisis by ditching an abortive foray into analytic applications, instead expanding from the company’s data transformation roots to data integration.

Getting the company to its current level came largely through a series of acquisitions that then expanded the category of data integration itself. While master data management (MDM) has been the headliner, other recent acquisitions have targeted information lifecycle management (ILM), complex event processing (CEP), low latency messaging (ultra messaging), along with filling gaps in its B2B and data quality offerings. While some of those pieces were obvious additions, others such as ultra messaging or event processing were not.

CEO Sohaib Abbassi is talking about a stretch goal of $3 billion revenue. The obvious chunk is to deepen the company’s share of existing customer wallets. We’re not at liberty to say how much, but Informatica had a significant number of 6-figure deals. Getting more $1m+ deals will help, but on their own won’t triple revenue.

So how to get to $3 billion?


O
bviously, two strategies: deepen the existing business while taking the original formula to expand the footprint of what’s data integration.

First, the existing business. Of the current portfolio, MDM is likely best primed to allow Informatica to more deeply penetrate the installed base. Most of its data integration clients haven’t yet done MDM, and it is not a trivial investment. And for MDM clients who may have started with a customer or product domain, there are always more domains to tackle. During Q&A, Abbasi listed MDM has having as much potential addressable market as the traditional ETL and data quality segments.

The addition of SAP and Oracle veteran Dennis Moore to the Informatica MDM team points to the classic tightrope for any middleware vendor that claims it’s not in the applications game – build more “solutions” or jumpstart templates to confront the same generic barrier that packaged applications software was designed to surmount: provide customers an alternative to raw toolsets or custom programming. For MDM, think industry-specific “solutions” like counter-party risk, or horizontal patterns like social media profiles. If you’re Informatica, don’t think analytic applications.

That’s part of a perennial debate (or rant) on whether middleware is the new enterprise application: you implement for a specific business purpose as opposed to technology project, such as application or data integration, and you implement with a product that offers patterns of varying granularity as a starting point.

Informatica MDM product marketing director Ravi Shankar argues it’s not an application because applications have specific data models and logic that become their own de factor silos, whereas MDM solutions reuse the same core metadata engine for different domains (e.g., customer, product, operational process). Our contention? If it solves a business problem and it’s more than a raw programming toolkit, it’s a de facto application. If anybody else cares about this debate, raise your hand.

MDM is typically a very dry subject but demo’ing a social MDM straw man showing a commerce application integrated into Facebook perked Twitter debate among analysts in the room. The operable notion is that such a use of MDM could update the customer’s (some might say, victim’s) profile by the associations that they make in social networks. An existing Informatica higher educational client that shall remain anonymous actually used MDM to mine LinkedIn to prove that its grads got jobs.

This prompts the question, just because you can do it, should you. When a merchant knows just a bit too much about you – and your friends (who may not have necessarily opted in) – that more than borders on creepy. Informatica’s Facebook MDM integration was quite effective; as a pattern for social business, well, we’ll see.

Staking new ground

S
o what about staking new ground? When questioned, Abbasi stated that Informatica had barely scratched the surface with productizing around several megatrend areas that it sees impacting its market: cloud, social media, mobile, and big data. More specifically:

  • Cloud continues to be a growing chunk of the business. Informatica doesn’t have all of its tooling up in the cloud, but it’s getting there. Consumption of services from the Informatica Cloud continues to grow at a 100 – 150% annual run rate. Most of the 1,500 cloud customers are new to Informatica. Among recent introductions are a wizard-driven Contact Validation service that verifies and corrects postal addresses from over 240 countries and territories. A new rapid connectivity framework further eases the ability of third parties to OEM Informatica Cloud services.
  • Social media – there were no individual product announcements her per se, just that Informatica’s tools must increasingly parse data coming from social feeds. That covers MDM, data profiling and data quality. Much of it leverages HParser, the new Hadoop data parsing tool released late last year.
  • Mobile – for now this is mostly a matter of making Informatica tools and apps (we’ll use the term) consumable on small devices. On the back end, there are opportunities for optimizing virtualizing and replicating data on demand to the edges of highly distributed networks. Aside from newly-announced features such as iPhone and Android support of monitoring the Informatica cloud, for now Informatica is making a statement of product direction.
  • Big Data – Informatica, like other major BI and database vendors, have discovered big data with a vengeance over the past year. The ability to extract from Hadoop is nothing special – other vendors have that – but Informatica took a step ahead with release of HParserlast fall. In general there’s growing opportunity for tooling in a variety of areas touching Hadoop, with Informatica’s data integration focus being one of them.We expect to see extension of Informatica’s core tools to not only parse or extract from Hadoop, but increasingly, work natively inside HDFS on the assumption that customers are not simply using it as a staging platform anymore. We also see opportunities in refinements to HParser providing templates or other shortcuts for deciphering sensory data. ILM, for instance, is another obvious one.

    While Facebook et al might not archive or deprecate their Hadoop data, mere mortal enterprises will have to bite the bullet. Data quality in Hadoop in many cases may not demand the same degree of vigilance as SQL data warehouses, creating demand for lighter weight data profiling and cleansing tooling And for other real-time web centric use case, alternatives stores like MongoDB, Couchbase, and Cassandra may become new Informatica data platform targets.

What, no exit talk?


Abbasi commented at the end of the company’s annual IT analyst meeting that this was the first time in recent memory that none of the analysts asked who would buy Informatica when. Buttonholing him after the session, we got his take which, very loosely translated to Survivor terms, Informatica has avoided getting voted off the island.

At this point, Informatica’s main rivals – Oracle and IBM – have bulked up their data integration offerings to the point where an Informatica acquisition would no longer be gap filling; it would simply be a strategy of taking out a competitor – and with Informatica’s growth, an expensive one at that.

One could then point to dark horses like EMC, Tibco, Teradata, or SAP (for obvious reasons we’ve omitted HP). A case might be made for EMC, or SAP if it remains serious in raising its profile as database player– but we believe both have bigger fish to fry. Never say never. But otherwise, the common thread is that data integration will not differentiate these players and therefore it is not strategic to their growth plans.

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is senior analyst at Ovum.

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