As a technology reporter, I’ve come to expect two different types of responses whenever I ask software executives about their competition: Either they go on a near-tirade talking smack about their chief rival, or they go the other way and don’t say anything about them at all. (The latter response oftentimes reminds me of a Tonight Show guest referring to a television show which appears on “another network,” as if the mere mention of another network’s actual name would immediately send droves of viewers into a channel-changing frenzy and ultimately destroy NBC’s business. But that’s a bit off topic and bad for search engine optimization.)
That’s why you could color me surprised the other day when I was interviewing two Oracle executives about the newly updated Oracle Data Integrator, a data integration offering Oracle acquired along with Sunopsis Inc. last October. When I asked who Oracle’s chief data integration competitors were and how Oracle’s approach differed from theirs — admittedly a bit of a softball question — I’m pretty sure I got a straight answer. Oh, it definitely sounded a little bit like a sales pitch, as responses from marketing execs tend to, but it had substance.
“From my perspective the main competitors would be the data integration players, which are really comprised by Informatica, IBM and to a lesser extent companies like Tibco,” said Jeff Pollock, senior director of Oracle Fusion Middleware.
What differentiates Oracle from those vendors, Pollock continued, is Oracle’s strong support for heterogeneous (a word I still can’t spell on my own after seven years in the business) architectures; a useful set of pre-fabricated templates called Knowledge Modules that simplify the data integration mapping process; support for both batch and real-time updates; and a strong ETL (extract, transform, load) engine — which Oracle refers to somewhat confusingly as an ELT (extract, load, transform) engine — that gives the system greater performance and broader support for third parties. Finally, Pollock said, the fact that Data Integrator runs on Oracle Fusion Middleware and is 100% Java-based makes it the right choice for folks looking to build a service-oriented architecture (SOA).
At that point I suggested in passing that existing Oracle customers might prefer being able to go to an existing vendor — Oracle — for their data integration needs, and that seemed to throw the executives off a bit. It was then clear that they didn’t want to focus on the old “one-stop-shop” marketing campaign and rather focus on the features of the product.
“It’s also hot-pluggable,” said Ashish Mohindroo, senior product director for Oracle Data Integrator continued, “which means that it can work with the existing infrastructure. So, if you have invested in Teradata or IBM WebSphere [or others], that’s all fine because the majority of the components of the Oracle Fusion Middleware family can plug right on top of that to extend and evolve, rather than rip and replace, that infrastructure.”
I’d like to ask some questions to folks out there with data integration experience: Am I right? Did Oracle give me a straight answer or did I just get shamboozled by a couple of corporate slick talkers who were presumably wearing nice suits. And if you believe they are on the level, do you see a need for these “differentiating” features in your organization? Let me know by sounding off on this blog thread. If there’s a good amount of interest, I’ll write a follow-up story showcasing your opinions and getting to the bottom of what end users really want from data integration providers.
Talk to you soon.
— Mark Brunelli, News Editor