i2 Plans Vertical Partner Ecosphere for Middleware

Updated: To penetrate new spaces with its MDM software, the longtime supply chain vendor is signing Patni and other SI partners with domain knowledge beyond its traditional markets.

In its recent rollout of a pact with Patni Computer Systems Ltd., i2 Technologies Inc. is proceeding to build an "ecosphere of partners" around its master data management middleware, aiming the new initiative at systems integrators with vertical market expertise outside the supply chain vendors traditional realms.

"We are looking for partners for MDM," Samir Bhargava, i2s senior director for business development, said during an interview.

"MDM can be [used] way beyond supply chain, and way beyond the manufacturing and retail markets that weve targeted so far," Bhargava said.

MDM middleware is designed to provide a "single view" of data, so that everyone within an organization is working with the same information, Bill Swanton, an analyst with AMR Research Inc., said in another interview.

Essentially, MDM offerings from i2 and its competitors in this space synchronize data among multiple enterprise applications.

Teradata, a division of NCR Corp. of Dayton, Ohio, announced as an i2 partner in May, and Patni Computer Systems Ltd., based in Andheri, India, announced last Thursday, are among the first members of the emerging "partner ecosphere," Bhargava said.

"We supply the basic framework," he said. "SIs [systems integrators] can provide custom solutions to customers. That is the basis of our relationship with Patni."

i2, until recently known mostly as a supply chain vendor, has also signed an MDM partnership deal with an SI headquartered in Japan, according to the senior business development director. Talks are in progress, too, with SIs based in Europe and North America.

But regardless of where SI partners call home, i2 is emphasizing the United States for initial penetration of new vertical markets, according to Bhargava.

/zimages/5/28571.gifi2 Technologies moves into next-generation SCM. Click here to read more.

Patni, for example, provides custom solutions to users in insurance and banking, as well as in retail and manufacturing. "Its biggest customers are in the United States," Bhargava said.

i2 plans to build its partner ecosphere gradually, however, he said, on a "one-by-one, partner-by-partner basis."

Due to issues involving financial revenues, i2s direct sales force has been getting smaller, he said.

But i2 will continue to sell directly to longtime customers in retail and manufacturing.

Partners chosen to resell the software will have deep domain knowledge outside these traditional markets.

In banking, insurance and other new markets, i2 will take care of its software product, but partners will handle services to customers, he said.

In the Patni deal, Patni will receive "finders fees" for generating leads that result in customer engagements.

Other terms of i2s new relationship with Patni are flexible, however. Depending on customer preferences, i2 will either license MDM directly to the customer or license its software to Patni as part of an integrated solution, with Patni incorporating the licensing fees in the bill to the customer.

Over time, i2 said it expects to build a number of other lures for SI partners, ranging from marketing collateral programs to Web seminars and other internal and external product training vehicles.

Teradata, on the other hand, is "more of a partner for hardware and services than for vertical [markets] and services," Bhargava said.

Meanwhile, because of a recent string of IBM acquisitions, IBM—a longtime i2 partner on the services side—has now turned into somewhat of a software competitor, the i2 executive said.

IBMs acquisitions have included Trigo Software, Ascential and DWL.

But although i2 continues to partner with IBMs services arm, Bhargava anticipates no conflict with new partnerships. None of i2s service partnerships are "at all exclusive," Bhargava said.

"There is some level of competition, but IBMs services [division] will probably continue to implement i2s software," AMRs Swanton said.

Yet i2 and IBM are hardly alone in the growing arena of MDM, the analyst said.

"Everyone is jumping into MDM. The market is getting messy," Swanton said.

Other rivals include Oracle Corp. and SAP AG, along with many smaller players hailing from market segments such as data warehousing, PIM (product information management) and data cleansing.

"The ERP offerings are still fairly embryonic," according to the analyst. Other products, though, are more advanced. IBM is pulling together its three acquisitions to form a PIM offering of its own.

"Some data cleansing vendors do small bits of MDM," the AMR analyst said. These vendors include Siperion and Silver Creek Systems, for instance. Kalido, on the other hand, is among the entrants from the data warehousing space.

Customers looking to buy MDM systems should carefully consider the type of data they need to manage, Swanton said.

In the manufacturing and retail markets, for example, customers have been moving to packaged software. But in the financial services space, a lot of development is still done from scratch, Swanton said.

"Setting up governance is also important. Sometimes the problem is people, more than the quality of the data. Everybody in an organization should know which data theyre responsible for," he said.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include additional comments from i2s Samir Bhargava and AMRs Bill Swanton.

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