Informatica Wants to Be a Big Data Overlord
By Ashlee Vance

One of the catchiest slogans of the dot-com boom came from Sun Microsystems: “Write once, run anywhere,” the tagline for Java. Sun pushed the idea that software written in the Java language would work just as well on a cell phone or a PC as it would on a mainframe. And this notion took hold, with Java ending up as one of the most massive platforms in the technology industry.

The data specialist Informatica (INFA) has now tried to ape Sun’s strategy in a bid to become a major player in the Big Data era. On Tuesday, it unveiled a new application called Vibe with the slogan, “Map Once. Deploy Anywhere.” While the tagline is not as catchy or as self-explanatory as Sun’s, it marks an attempt by Informatica to simplify a complex concept and broaden its reach at the same time.

The company is playing off the rise in devices that create information and the increase in different technology used to analyze that data. Informatica wants to make it possible for customers to collect data easily on any type of computing system—from a mainframe right on down to a tiny sensor—and analyze that information on a wide variety of data-crunching machines. Such work is possible today, but it tends to require a lot of manual configurations between the computers and devices producing information and the machines analyzing it.

Informatica wants to improve the situation with Vibe, which it bills as a virtual data machine. The big pitch here is that companies should build Vibe into their applications and devices to ensure they can all communicate well and hammer away at big data problems with relative ease. The technology builds off Informatica’s success in the so-called data integration market, where it helps applications built by such companies as Oracle (ORCL), SAP (SAP), and IBM (IBM) work together. Through Vibe, Informatica hopes to move from being a niche data-integration player to a major force in Big Data and the equally hyped “Internet of Things”. Last year, the company posted record full-year revenue of $811.6 million, and its shares have more than doubled over the past five years.

The bet here is that all manner of devices will be throwing off data in the years ahead, which will cause some chaos as companies try to come up with a systematic way to handle the information. There’s already a host of competing data-analytics technology—data warehouses, Hadoop, NoSQL—and even more should appear. “We make sure that there is some consistency among all this raw data,” says Marge Breya, the chief marketing officer at Informatica. “Every business and every industry and every connected device should include our technology. If it’s not ours, it will be someone else’s.”

A number of companies are scrambling to build out the infrastructure behind the “Internet of Things“—the coming wave of smart devices that compute and talk to the Internet. LogMeIn, for example, has just started the Xively cloud computing service that tries to handle a lot of the low-level communication functions for application and device makers, so they don’t have to build this basic set of technology from scratch.


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