Informatica promises speedier report development

Informatica 9.6 borrows a few techniques from agile development to hasten the delivery of business intelligence

Informatica 9.6 provides interfaces for the business and the IT department.

Informatica 9.6 provides interfaces for the business and the IT department.

Informatica hopes to save business analysts time by allowing them to build their own queries and reports, without requiring the IT department to do all the assembly work.

Borrowing from agile programming methodology, the newly released Informatica PowerCenter 9.6 "allows business analysts to do virtual integration of data quickly so they can see the results," said Todd Goldman, Informatica vice president and general manager of enterprise data integration. "The whole development process is accelerated as a result."

Informatica predicts that use of this new approach can speed the delivery of business analysis products such as reports and dashboards by five times.

With this new release, a business analyst can connect to the data sources directly from his or her Web console, and build a working prototype of the desired product.

The analyst can pull specific data columns of interest, using the software's data virtualization capabilities to merge multiple sources of data. The software will present to the analyst a prototype with the data included, allowing the analyst to make additional changes. Only when the analyst has finished designing the work product is it sent to the developers to finalize.

"It allows the data analysts to do virtual integration quickly, and see the results. When they pass it off to the developers they know they are getting exactly what they expected," Goldman said.

Goldman noted with earlier versions of Informatica, development could take time because business analysts had no way of viewing the results from the specifications they provided to developers.

As a result, the analyst wouldn't get to see the end product until the developer had finished the design. If anything needed to be changed -- such as adding another column -- the analyst would have to task the developer with further modification.

The new approach reduces this back and forth between the analyst and the developer.

"Business analysts are able to self-correct earlier in the process because they can see the results up-front," Goldman said.

Informatica has offered this prototyping capability before through a combination of two add-on products, namely the company's ETL (extract, transform and load) software, and its data visualization product. Informatica PowerCenter 9.6, which is the core Informatica data integration product, now offers this capability natively.

The Informatica 9.6 suite offers a number of other new capabilities as well.

The company's Informatica Data Quality software provides a new way to handle dirty data, which is to say data that has not been formatted correctly. Dirty data may include, for instance, a person's name that was not capitalized.

The Data Quality software has long had the ability to do data correction. Now the software includes the ability to set up processes to route questionable data to a specific individual. Before, all the exceptions were just compiled in a file, which then had to be parsed by the IT staff. Now a single individual can be appointed to inspect and correct the data. Informatica calls this feature "holistic data stewardship."

"It provides a business process to allow people to remediate exceptions that aren't automatically fixed," Goldman said.

Informatica PowerCenter 9.6 comes in three editions: standard, advanced, and a new premium edition. The premium edition offers process monitoring, which can assure that a processing task completes within a required time, and can send alerts when the task may not complete in this timeframe. Informatica declined to provide pricing information for the new product, citing variability in costs from customer to customer

The company also offers a free trial version of Informatica PowerCenter for exploring use of the technology for big data styled deployments.

With this release, Informatica also provides a software development kit (SDK) for adding new data sources. The Informatica software can connect over 100 data sources, but the SDK can be used to build connectors to other data sources.

About 2,000 organizations used the Informatica software to analyze more than two billion records a day. The company also offers a hosted version of its software, Informatica Cloud.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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