What do you do for a follow-up act after a record year?  Given the plentiful demand but also the highly competitive environment of the integration software market, you continue to push out integration’s innovative edges and improve the customer value proposition.  That is precisely what Informatica is doing with it latest version of its market leading data integration platform unveiled last week, Informatica 9.6.  The improvements of 9.6 span the breadth of the offering, from detailed technology additions to new developer options, from deployment flexibility to packaging.  Rather than attempting to describe all the improvements, here are two general areas of enhancement to which customers and prospects should pay particular attention.

More Customer-Friendly Packaging

The good news when you have a have a market leading platform is that you can stand shoulder to shoulder with competitors on a feature-function basis.  The bad news is that the scope creep of the platform down through the years may lead to too many SKUs, potentially confusing buyers.  Before 9.6, PowerCenter, Informatica’s on-premise data integration product line brand, came packaged in three ways, with 10 add-on options.  Going forward, the recombined PowerCenter stills come in three editions, now known as Standard, Advanced, and Premium, but significant bundling has taken place, reducing the number of add-ons to 4.

The new editions not only give customers more bang for the buck, they thoughtfully map to three customer integration engagement styles:  (1) Do you apply integration on an individual project basis? (2) Is your objective to operate more of an integration center of excellence, supporting on-going projects?  (3) Does your notion of an integration facility extend to a true data platform that includes, for example, metadata management; the type of facility to address the needs of a Chief Data Officer (CDO)? The updated PowerCenter editions also closely align to Informatica’s Data Quality editions, and the shortened add-on list packs more of a meaning solution punch including options for real-time integration, data virtualization, support for more complex transformations, and hybrid cloud integration.

Developer Productivity:  Tools and Test Data

Some of the newer entrants to the integration software market have banked on the idea that more visually-oriented developer tools that shrink development cycles are highly valuable.  They are right.  Informatica has long been aware that reducing the developer burden in the integration lifecycle reduces costs, risk, and hastens time-to-deployment.  To that end, all 9.6 editions include basic profiling, a lifecycle-wide multi-role developer framework, and data validation testing features that together Informatica claims improves the development process “up to 5x faster.” Informatica has also added an Eclipse-based software developer kit (SDK) for building connectors that may be published on the Informatica Marketplace, and a VIBE Starter Kit for hybrid integration development.  Suffice it to say that Informatica 9.6 adds several tools that underscore the vendor’s commitment to developer productivity.

Informatica 9.6 also extended a feature set that should please both developers and QA personnel alike with its Informatica Test Data Management (“TDM”) offering.  Generating test data, and specifically quality test data, often acts as a stumbling block in the development lifecycle.  The search for appropriate test data spreads from unit test to integrated and system testing, impacting both developers and QA professionals.  The tie between TDM and the Informatica data quality tools, like data masking, make it possible to eliminate risk and rework by using the same rules for test data as you will apply in production.  There is also an “as a service” option making it easy to jump into TDM nearly immediately, and the synthetic test data generation features are extensive and deep.  The one fresh option that may prove particularly enticing to CDOs is the ability to integrate test data to their Business Glossary.

Summary:  Stomping on the Product Accelerator

The packaging and developer/QA improvements alone would qualify 9.6 for its own release, but we are just scratching the surface.  On top of 9.6, the time will soon come for Informatica to unveil its next Cloud integration release (Informatica updates its cloud offering three times per year) which is already in pre-release.   Informatica is also directly addressing arguably the most in-demand overall enterprise integration requirement for 2014 and perhaps the next several years:  Hybrid Cloud Integration.  Overall, Informatica seems intent on keeping its pedal to the metal on all product fronts to ensure it is able to meet evolving demand during 2014 as effectively as it did in 2013.