How vendors can adopt the right approach to the data integration market

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2014 will see opportunities for data integration vendors increase as businesses ramp up their focus on data and as big data technologies mature. To take advantage, vendors need to adopt the right approach to data integration.

IT has a key role to play in driving the success of most businesses today but during 2014 we expect to see companies move beyond pure IT to focus on using data to transform their business. Big data will start to fulfil its potential as projects move out of the sandbox and into real commercial applications. Businesses will increasingly use big data to monetise their information assets, create new business models or take advantage of unexplored market segments.

With the big data market maturing rapidly, data integration will become increasingly important as businesses access a greater variety of data from a greater range of sources across the organisation and use it to drive analytics, business intelligence and strategic decision-making.

Businesses looking to make purchasing decisions in this market will, however, face a choice between different vendor approaches. The main distinction is between legacy proprietary vendors and those with an open, community-centric approach.

What the market expects

Buyers of data integration solutions are looking for scalability and business agility. Above all, they want a single platform that meets the needs of their business model, supports speed of deployment and ultimately rapidly leverages the data for business advantage. It is important also that the solutions and the approach used are intuitive, that they effectively make big data integration challenges easier to overcome and that the business can ‘upskill’ staff easily and quickly, making them ready for big data challenges today and in the future.

Businesses are increasingly crying out for an inclusive approach based around collaboration and partnership. In addition to their technology needs, they require experts to provide them with guidance and consultancy.

Vendors can play to this need by developing community editions that can be seeded across the account. This open, inclusive approach needs to extend to the technology platform also. Customers expect vendors to meet their data management or integration technology needs, whatever they may be. They want them to make their big data integration challenges easier to overcome.

To support requirements around scalability, ease-of-use and business agility, vendors must offer a truly unified platform that delivers comprehensive integration across the enterprise.

Buyers in this market need pricing and licensing models that make it easy to work out total cost of ownership from day one. And they want to be in control of the buying process. That typically means an incremental adoption path, delivering scalable integration at a predictable cost and driving short-term return on investment (RoI).

What doesn’t work

Unfortunately, these customer demands are not always being met. Some vendors continue to offer solutions that may deliver rich functionality but which are not easy to use; work with, or maintain, and offer poor integration. Vendors may pursue aggressive acquisition strategies and ‘buy in’ technical capability but often fail to properly integrate the different systems.

We are hearing of instances in which solutions do not deliver what has been promised of them, sometimes known as crippleware. We are also seeing instances of solution providers getting the pricing models wrong and levying a so-called ‘data tax’ on systems, effectively delivering complex, unwieldy solutions that require more money being spent on upgrades as data volumes grow.

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In particular, we are seeing the gradual decline of the vendor-centric proprietary approach to the marketplace and its replacement with a more collaborative, open model. In my view, there are deep systemic reasons for the decline of proprietary vendors. The principle ones are as follows:

  • Their business is steadily eroding: The new business vs recurring business mix is slowly but surely degrading. Over time, proprietary vendors have become increasingly dependent on selling more runtime licences, more services, and hopefully new projects to existing customers.
  • Their positioning is not in sync with the market: While proprietary vendors in this space often have great products and reliable technology, they also typically have many years of following legacy, and often unwieldy and cumbersome processes. As a result, their systems are unlikely to be backwards compatible and may struggle to take advantage of the latest technological advances.
  • The perpetual licence approach does not align with market expectations: The sky-high prices typical of this model date back to the mainframe era and the approach is becoming increasingly unpopular with customers. The approach is not sustainable in the long-term either, as it is neither scalable nor ‘future proof’. Also, with this model, spending is typically CAPEX in nature. Not only will this require a much higher level of sign-off, it will also require a totally different accounting approach as well as a bigger impact on the bottom line.

Finding a better path
So what do vendors need to do in order to build an approach that delivers business benefits for their data integration customers? The scale of the task is ramping up as the big data market starts to grow more quickly, with 2014 looking set to be the year of practical implementations as early adopters go live and start to reap the rewards.
The data integration solutions that support this new big data world deliver scalability both up and down. Today, change is happening continuously in the enterprise – and integration needs to help make this change happen. In particular, it needs to provide more value more quickly than before to all types of businesses large and small.
Scalability in this context could mean being able to scale the development team’s skillsets across all levels of integration - data, application, and business process. It could also mean being able to leverage the distributed power of today’s big data processing technologies like Apache Hadoop to deliver infinite scalability at a finite (and predictable) cost.
Going forward, there also needs to be an acknowledgement of the value of total data management. Big data is about all the data that organisations hold. It should incorporate all data sources and types - large and small, ‘slow’ and ‘fast’, traditional and emerging, in-house or external. It is not limited to specific nucleuses of data or confined simply to emerging data sets. It is about the totality of data in the enterprise.
As a result, solutions in this space should enable organisations to unlock all of their data, including historical, live and emerging data, whenever they need it, allowing them to realise the vision of achieving instant value from all their data.
Making the right choice
Data integration is becoming increasingly critical to businesses in driving benefits from rapid deployment of core operational strategies and enhanced data quality, to streamlined and more accurate decision-making.
Big data is becoming increasingly important to businesses. And to leverage big data effectively, businesses will need new technologies and new approaches, including innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision-making.
In meeting these requirements in 2014 and beyond, it is vital that organisations choose the right vendor to help them. Today, the proprietary approach to delivering data integration solutions is increasingly seen as outmoded and even as a hindrance to the achievement of key business goals. It is now being replaced by a more customer-centric model, in which flexibility and transparency are key attributes as is the ability to deliver a truly unified platform and, through the latest open source technology, drive competitive edge.

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