IBM Unveils Data Integration Products

WebSphere Data Integration Suite gets an update; new Federated Records Management software reaches across repositories to archive or kill all contextually related documents.

WESTBORO, Mass.—IBM on Wednesday unveiled the first fruits of its Ascential Software Corp. integration: to wit, the next generation of WebSphere Data Integration Suite—an iteration that ties together into one common look and feel what was once a collection of disparate tools—and new Federated Records Management software, which promises to enable companies to reach across repositories to either archive or kill all contextually related documents, be they customer records or scanned images that pertain to those customers.

IBM wrapped up the Ascential acquisition on Monday and lost no time in unveiling the WebSphere Data Integration Suite, which is a repackaging of a software platform code-named "Hawk" that Ascential has been working on for some two or three years.

/zimages/5/28571.gifHow essential is Ascential to IBM? Click here to read more.

The suite encompasses ProfileStage, a tool to analyze data systems that determines metrics such as data format, data structure, relationships between information, and quality of data; QualityStage, a tool that standardizes, cleanses and matches data; and DataStage, a data transformation and enrichment engine thats optimized for mass ETL (Extraction, Transformation and Loading) of data.

DataStage TX, an EAI (enterprise application integration) flavor of the transformation engine that includes Ascentials acquired Mercator technology, is now in closed beta and is expected to be generally available in the fourth quarter. An open beta will be announced later this quarter.

During a press event that featured IBM Information Management General Manager Janet Perna along with a panel of customers and data integration experts at Ascentials headquarters here, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Vice President of Strategy for Information Integration Nelson Mattos told Ziff Davis Internet that Ascential made a "very significant investment" in Hawk over the past years, creating, in essence, the next generation of integration platforms.

"Its providing, with the Mozart interface, the same integrated look and feel to the user so they have one interface: one look and feel across different technologies," Mattos said. "So whether theyre using profiling or data quality technologies, its all one, single integration. Before, you had different tools supporting different technologies."

That will serve to speed up deployment and decrease costs of using the technology, Mattos said, and will simplify the use of the technology across the enterprise.

"One of the promises of integration is to allow customers to take advantage of information assets," he said. "You want to make the deployment of it as easy as possible, otherwise youre just increasing complexity in an environment thats already complex."

Pete Fiore, former Ascential president and now vice president of Information Integration Solutions for IBM, told Ziff Davis Internet that there are some 20 to 25 customers in the beta program, which started eight weeks ago. They include financial services, insurance and logistics firms.

Beyond giving Hawk components a unified look and feel, significant enhancements have been made in the suites metadata technology, Mattos said. At this point, all the tools can share common metadata. Metadata discovered in back-end systems while doing profiling can be shared with data movement or data quality tools, without those tools having to rediscover the metadata.

Thats important for both simplification and speed of data integration. Perna quoted statistics that cite copy management as accounting for 30 percent to 50 percent of the cost of developing applications, as significant chunks of metadata are copied across various enterprise initiatives.

Beyond this work, IBM is adding the ability to use metadata beyond just Hawk—the Ascential portions of the platform—but also for the entire Information Integrator portfolio. That will be helpful in that the metadata for data quality or data profiling will also support the data modeling technology in Serrano. Serrano is the code name for the new version of WebSphere Information Integrator, now in beta, a broad suite of offerings to federate and manage structured and unstructured data.

"That capability of being able to take advantage of the metadata that was discovered initially by Ascential technologies or had been discovered by an application developer can be used across the portfolio," Mattos said.

In Hawk, IBM has also added connectors, improving connectivity between existing WebSphere Information Integrator and Ascential technologies. Exchange of metadata with other products, including DB2 Cube Views, has also been improved.

The second unveiled product, Federated Records Management, is designed to usher in a new age of automated electronic records management across the enterprise. As it now stands, scanned images of documents stored in content management systems exist shut off in separate silos from customer records in content repositories from companies such as IBM or FileNet.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read a question-and-answer session with IBMs Janet Perna on how the companys purchase of Ascential is expected to expand IBMs ETL capabilities.

Thats a problem for enterprises that need to destroy or archive information to stay compliant with regulations, Mattos said. "When I destroy information about a specific customer or product, I want to destroy or archive information related to that customer across different content repositories," he said. "There was no solution in the industry for that" prior to FRM, which is a tool that provides one, centralized place to define retention policies, declare which records will be maintained and manage the retention process, all without requiring content movement.

FRM is generally available now.

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