Talend reveals open-source MDM

The technology provides an alternative to proprietary master-data-management tools

An open-source MDM (master data management) suite from Talend is now available, giving companies a lower-priced option to proprietary products from the likes of Tibco, Kalido and IBM, the company announced Monday.

Master data is information used across multiple applications, such as lists of products and customers. MDM tools work to make master data consistent and accurate.

Talend's offering is derived from its acquisition last year of technology from Amalto. The suite incorporates Talend's own tools for data integration and data quality, which are also open source.

"Amalto's strength is its use of open standards for integration and use of an open XML database," said Ray Wang, a partner with analyst firm Altimeter Group, via e-mail.

But the technology "did not offer very much depth or breadth compared to packaged operational MDM offerings on the market today," Forrester Research analyst Rob Karel said in an e-mail. "They focused on smaller data sets (tens of thousands of items vs. millions or tens of millions, etc), and [were] less capable in real-time vs. batch."

"The acquired technology was more comparable in the market to model management, governance-centric MDM offerings from vendors like Orchestra Networks, Kalido, or Oracle's Hyperion DRM as opposed to operational MDM hubs," he added. "The technology also lacked any significant data quality or matching capabilities, so I expect Talend has worked to bridge these gaps as best they can with their own [data quality] capabilities."

In addition, Amalto didn't have many relationships with professional services companies, Wang said: "Part of the MDM experience also requires strong partnerships with other parts of the ecosystem including data quality partnerships, data cleansing partnerships, etc."

A Community Edition of Talend's MDM suite is available under the GPL open-source license.

It omits some features, such as data standardization, data cleansing, roles-based security and remote management, which are part of an Enterprise Edition that is available via subscription. Pricing starts at US$50,000 per year for "typical projects," according to a spokeswoman for the company.

That represents a significant cost savings over proprietary products, but it's hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons, according to Wang. "A full MDM suite would have more features, but this is close," he said.

MDM products are usually priced using factors such as the total number of records, number of connection points, or types of data, Wang added.

While Talend's announcement claimed it has the only open-source MDM suite, that isn't the case. Sun Microsystems launched the open-source Mural project in 2008.

But Oracle, which is acquiring Sun, has a proprietary MDM suite of its own, leaving the fate of Mural highly questionable once the merger is complete.

"It doesn't seem likely that [Mural] will survive," Wang said.

While it's unlikely Oracle factored Mural into its decision to buy Sun, that doesn't mean it will be spiked, Karel said. For one, Oracle could decide to present it as a mid-market entry point to MDM, he said: "My prediction is Mural won't go away, but you won't see a whole lot of focus or innovation on it anytime soon."

In any event, open-source MDM is currently a niche market, Wang said.

"Depending on overall open source adoption, there could be a bigger play in the SMB markets," Wang said. "But for now, customers buying MDM tend to be larger enterprises who see this as part of their SOA and middleware strategy. They realize this is a core investment and have the money to invest."

Talend faces a double burden in cracking the MDM market, according to Karel. Beyond the technical complexity of the space, "organizational, governance, and political inhibitors to MDM in most large organizations are the biggest risk, which is why the more traditional MDM software partners are likely to continue to be used to help those projects gain credibility," he said.

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