Partnership and connector for off-premise salesforce.com data, data integration on demand are highlights of Informatica World user conference

Data integration specialist Informatica took a step into the service world through partnerships announced today with salesforce.com and a new on-demand platform to be rolled out over the next year to a variety of business process and IT outsourcing partners. The news came at Informatica World, the annual user conference taking place this week in San Francisco.

A central announcement involves software-as-a-service (SaaS) connectivity allowing PowerCenter users data integration with off-premise service providers such as Hewitt for HR, NetSuite for financials and EDS for IT outsourcing. Several other outsourcing partner arrangements are planned or in the works. Brian Gentile, EVP and CMO at Informatica tells DM Review that the mix of in-house and outsourced projects and processes involving HR, travel, sales, etc. have made the time ripe for the product. "Our intention is to solve this cross-enterprise data integration problem, to treat all data with no distinction so the IT organization can implement the same data integration projects and processes with no difference as to whether the data is on premise or off."

The first product is PowerCenter Connect for salesforce.com, which will become generally available in Q3 of this year. Customers that switch to salesforce.com at some point need to migrate their data from on-premise systems to salesforce in order to initiate the service. Once that is done, data must be synchronized back to an on premise financial system of record (Oracle, SAP, etc.). Merging salesforce account information with SAP sales history and customer master information, for example, could align customer views for better service and insight. Ivan Chong, VP of Product Marketing at Informatica, says the new connector exchanges metadata that automatically identifies object types and understands the semantics behind the fields. "It's bidirectional so you can pull data out of salesforce.com or put data in," Chong says. "The connector embeds in our platform so all the integration capabilities are brought to bear."

Informatica is banking on the success of salesforce.com and the fact that both companies serve similar vertical markets. While the initial advantage seems to apply to salesforce.com's growing list of enterprise customers, Gentile says a further technology agreement with salesforce will allow affordable data integration services to small and mid-sized customers in the future. "It's an application-specific approach that delivers the capabilities of PowerCenter within a tab in the salesforce environment," he says, allowing an analyst using salesforce to invoke sophisticated back-end procedures managed by a hosted version of PowerCenter.

Informatica plans to roll out a broader data integration-as-service platform in Q4 of this year, which will be licensed and sold by SaaS providers, business process and IT outsourcers. Either the partner or Informatica will host the service, which will be sold on a subscription basis. A list of specialty and general partners includes names such as HP, CSC, CheckFree, and Accenture; Informatica is also in talks with Siebel to provide data integration services for the company's on-demand CRM products.

Gentile admits it's too early to tell how far and fast the on-demand trend will spread, but says deals like the salesforce.com partnership solve a real problem for the partner while giving Informatica access to a valuable list of potential service consumers. "Salesforce does not have the expertise to solve data integration problems, yet they have a growing customer base that demands it. It's even more obvious with some of the BPO providers that have been in the enterprise for a long time with no good answer for sophisticated data integration. We're able to ratchet up the level of skill and capabilities that these outsource providers are going to be able to deliver to their customers as an extension to our own business."

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