Category Archives: Cloud Data Integration
Informatica joins new ServiceMax Marketplace – offers rapid, cost effective integration with ERP and Cloud apps for Field Service Automation
To deliver flawless field service, companies often require integration across multiple applications for various work processes. A good example is automatically ordering and shipping parts through an ERP system to arrive ahead of a timely field service visit. Informatica has partnered with ServiceMax, the leading field service automation solution, and subsequently joined the new ServiceMax Marketplace to offer customers integration solutions for many ERP and Cloud applications frequently involved in ServiceMax deployments. Comprised of Cloud Integration Templates built on Informatica Cloud for frequent customer integration “patterns”, these solutions will speed and cost contain the ServiceMax implementation cycle and help customers realize the full potential of their field service initiatives.
Existing members of the ServiceMax Community can see a demo or take advantage of a free 30-day trial that provides full capabilities of Informatica Cloud Integration for ServiceMax with prebuilt connectors to hundreds of 3rd party systems including SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Netsuite and Workday, powered by the Informatica Vibe virtual data machine for near-universal access to cloud and on-premise data. The Informatica Cloud Integration for Servicemax solution:
- Accelerates ERP integration through prebuilt Cloud templates focused on key work processes and the objects on common between systems as much as 85%
- Synchronizes key master data such as Customer Master, Material Master, Sales Orders, Plant information, Stock history and others
- Enables simplified implementation and customization through easy to use user interfaces
- Eliminates the need for IT intervention during configuration and deployment of ServiceMax integrations.
We look forward to working with ServiceMax through the ServiceMax Marketplace to help joint customers deliver Flawless Service!
With Informatica’s Data Mania on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about REST APIs. In particular, I’ve been considering how and why they’ve become so ubiquitous, especially for SaaS companies. Today they are the prerequisite for any company looking to connect with other ecosystems, accelerate adoption and, ultimately, separate themselves from the pack.
Let’s unpack why.
To trace the rise of the REST API, we’ll first need to take a look at the SOAP web services protocol that preceded it. SOAP is still very much in play and remains important to many application integration scenarios. But it doesn’t receive much use or love from the thousands of SaaS applications that just want to get or place data with one another or in one of the large SaaS ecosystems like Salesforce.
Why this is the case has more to do with needs and demands of a SaaS business than it does with the capabilities of SOAP web services. SOAP, as it turns out, is perfectly fine for making and receiving web service calls, but it does require work on behalf of both the calling application and the producing application. And therein lies the rub.
SOAP web service calls are by their very nature incredibly structured arrangements, with specifications that must be clearly defined by both parties. Only after both the calling and producing application have their frameworks in place can the call be validated. While the contract within SOAP WSDLs makes SOAP more robust, it also makes it too rigid, and less adaptable to change. But today’s apps need a more agile and more loosely defined API framework that requires less work to consume and can adapt to the inevitable and frequent changes demanded by cloud applications.
Enter REST APIs
REST APIs are the perfect vehicle for today’s SaaS businesses and mash-up applications. Sure, they’re more loosely defined than SOAP, but when all you want to do is get and receive some data, now, in the context you need, nothing is easier or better for the job than a REST API.
With a REST API, the calls are mostly done as HTTP with some loose structure and don’t require a lot of mechanics from the calling application, or effort on behalf of the producing application.
SaaS businesses prefer REST APIs because they are easy to consume. They also make it easy to onboard new customers and extend the use of the platform to other applications. The latter is important because it is primarily through integration that SaaS applications get to become part of an enterprise business process and gain the stickiness needed to accelerate adoption and growth.
Without APIs of any sort, integration can only be done through manual data movement, which opens the application and enterprise up to the potential errors caused by fat-finger data movement. That typically will give you the opposite result of stickiness, and is to be avoided at all costs.
While publishing an API as a way to get and receive data from other applications is a great start, it is just a means to an end. If you’re a SaaS business with greater ambitions, you may want to consider taking the next step of building native connectors to other apps using an integration system such as Informatica Cloud. A connector can provide a nice layer of abstraction on the APIs so that the data can be accessed as application data objects within business processes. Clearly, stickiness with any SaaS application improves in direct proportion to the number of business processes or other applications that it is integrated with.
The Informatica Cloud Connector SDK is Java-based and enables you easily to cut and paste the code necessary to create the connectors. Informatica Cloud’s SDKs are also richer and make it possible for you to adapt the REST API to something any business user will want to use – which is a huge advantage.
In addition to making your app stickier, native connectors have the added benefit of increasing your portability. Without this layer of abstraction, direct interaction with a REST API that’s been structurally changed would be impossible without also changing the data flows that depend on it. Building a native connector makes you more agile, and inoculates your custom built integration from breaking.
Building your connectors with Informatica Cloud also provides you with some other advantages. One of the most important is entrance to a community that includes all of the major cloud ecosystems and the thousands of business apps that orbit them. As a participant, you’ll become part of an interconnected web of applications that make up the business processes for the enterprises that use them.
Another ancillary benefit is access to integration templates that you can easily customize to connect with any number of known applications. The templates abstract the complexity from complicated integrations, can be quickly customized with just a few composition screens, and are easily invoked using Informatica Cloud’s APIs.
The best part of all this is that you can use Informatica Cloud’s integration technology to become a part of any business process without stepping outside of your application.
For those interested in continuing the conversation and learning more about how leading SaaS businesses are using REST API’s and native connectors to separate themselves, I invite you to join me at Data Mania, March 4th in San Francisco. Hope to see you there.
Informatica’s Redshift connector is a state-of-the-art Bulk-Load type connector which allows users to perform all CRUD operations on Amazon Redshift. It makes use of AWS best practices to load data at high throughput in a safe and secure manner and is available on Informatica Cloud and PowerCenter.
Today we are excited to announce the support of Amazon’s newly launched custom JDBC and ODBC drivers for Redshift. Both the drivers are certified for Linux and Windows environments.
Informatica’s Redshift connector will package the JDBC 4.1 driver which further enhances our meta-data fetch capabilities for tables and views in Redshift. That improves our overall design-time responsiveness by over 25%. It also allows us to query multiple tables/views and retrieve the result-set using primary and foreign key relationships.
Amazon’s ODBC driver enhances our FULL Push Down Optimization capabilities on Redshift. Some of the key differentiating factors are support for the SYSDATE variable, functions such as ADD_TO_DATE(), ASCII(), CONCAT(), LENGTH(), TO_DATE(), VARIANCE() etc. which weren’t possible before.
Amazon’s ODBC driver is not pre-packaged but can be directly downloaded from Amazon’s S3 store.
Once installed, the user can change the default ODBC System DSN in ODBC Data Source Administrator.
Strata 2015 – Making Data Work for Everyone with Cloud Integration, Cloud Data Management and Cloud Machine Learning
Are you ready to answer “Yes” to the questions:
a) “Are you Cloud Ready?”
b) “Are you Machine Learning Ready?”
I meet with hundreds of Informatica Cloud customers and prospects every year. While they are investing in Cloud, and seeing the benefits, they also know that there is more innovation out there. They’re asking me, what’s next for Cloud? And specifically, what’s next for Informatica in regards to Cloud Data Integration and Cloud Data Management? I’ll share more about my response throughout this blog post.
The spotlight will be on Big Data and Cloud at the Strata + Hadoop World conference taking place in Silicon Valley from February 17-20 with the theme “Make Data Work”. I want to focus this blog post on two topics related to making data work and business insights:
- How existing cloud technologies, innovations and partnerships can help you get ready for the new era in cloud analytics.
- How you can make data work in new and advanced ways for every user in your company.
Today, Informatica is announcing the availability of its Cloud Integration Secure Agent on Microsoft Azure and Linux Virtual Machines as well as an Informatica Cloud Connector for Microsoft Azure Storage. Users of Azure data services such as Azure HDInsight, Azure Machine Learning and Azure Data Factory can make their data work with access to the broadest set of data sources including on-premises applications, databases, cloud applications and social data. Read more from Microsoft about their news at Strata, including their relationship with Informatica, here.
“Informatica, a leader in data integration, provides a key solution with its Cloud Integration Secure Agent on Azure,” said Joseph Sirosh, Corporate Vice President, Machine Learning, Microsoft. “Today’s companies are looking to gain a competitive advantage by deriving key business insights from their largest and most complex data sets. With this collaboration, Microsoft Azure and Informatica Cloud provide a comprehensive portfolio of data services that deliver a broad set of advanced cloud analytics use cases for businesses in every industry.”
Even more exciting is how quickly any user can deploy a broad spectrum of data services for cloud analytics projects. The fully-managed cloud service for building predictive analytics solutions from Azure and the wizard-based, self-service cloud integration and data management user experience of Informatica Cloud helps overcome the challenges most users have in making their data work effectively and efficiently for analytics use cases.
The new solution enables companies to bring in data from multiple sources for use in Azure data services including Azure HDInsight, Azure Machine Learning, Azure Data Factory and others – for advanced analytics.
The broad availability of Azure data services, and Azure Machine Learning in particular, is a game changer for startups and large enterprises. Startups can now access cloud-based advanced analytics with minimal cost and complexity and large businesses can use scalable cloud analytics and machine learning models to generate faster and more accurate insights from their Big Data sources.
Success in using machine learning requires not only great analytics models, but also an end-to-end cloud integration and data management capability that brings in a wide breadth of data sources, ensures that data quality and data views match the requirements for machine learning modeling, and an ease of use that facilitates speed of iteration while providing high-performance and scalable data processing.
For example, the Informatica Cloud solution on Azure is designed to deliver on these critical requirements in a complementary approach and support advanced analytics and machine learning use cases that provide customers with key business insights from their largest and most complex data sets.
Using the Informatica Cloud solution on Azure connector with Informatica Cloud Data Integration enables optimized read-write capabilities for data to blobs in Azure Storage. Customers can use Azure Storage objects as sources, lookups, and targets in data synchronization tasks and advanced mapping configuration tasks for efficient data management using Informatica’s industry leading cloud integration solution.
As Informatica fulfills the promise of “making great data ready to use” to our 5,500 customers globally, we continue to form strategic partnerships and develop next-generation solutions to stay one step ahead of the market with our Cloud offerings.
My goal in 2015 is to help each of our customers say that they are Cloud Ready! And collaborating with solutions such as Azure ensures that our joint customers are also Machine Learning Ready!
To learn more, try our free Informatica Cloud trial for Microsoft Azure data services.
In our house when we paint a room, my husband does the big rolling of the walls or ceiling, I do the cut-in work. I am good at prepping the room, taping all the trim and deliberately painting the corners. However, I am thrifty and constantly concerned that we won’t have enough paint to finish a room. My husband isn’t afraid to use enough paint and is extremely efficient at painting a wall in a single even coat. As a result, I don’t do the big rolling and he doesn’t do the cutting in. It took us awhile to figure this out, and a few rooms had to be repainted while we were figuring it out. Now we know what we are good at, and what we need help with.
Payers roles are changing. Payers were previously focused on risk assessment, setting and collecting premiums, analyzing claims and making payments – all while optimizing revenues. Payers are pretty good at selling to employers, figuring out the cost/benefit ratio from an employers perspective and ensuring a good, profitable product. With the advent of the Affordable Healthcare Act along with a much more transient insured population, payers now must focus more on the individual insured and be able to communicate with the individuals in a more nimble manner than in the past.
Individual members will shop for insurance based on consumer feedback and price. They are interested in ease of enrollment and the ability to submit and substantiate claims quickly and intuitively. Payers are discovering that they need to help manage population health at a individual member level. And population health management requires less of a business-data analytics approach and more social media and gaming-style logic to understand patients. In this way, payers can help develop interventions to sustain behavioral changes for better health.
When designing such analytics, payers should consider the following key design steps:
- Extend data warehouses to an analytics appliance
- Invest in a big data platform to absorb patients’ social data
- Build predictive analytics for patient behavior
- Bridge collaborative and behavioral analytics with claims to build revenue and profitability
Due to payers’ mature predictive analytics competencies, they will have a much easier time in the next generation of population behavior compared to their provider counterparts. As clinical content is often unstructured compared to the claims data, payers need to pay extra attention to context and semantics when deciphering clinical content submitted by providers. Payers can use help from vendors that can help them understand unstructured data, individual members. They can then use that data to create fantastic predictive analytic solutions.
It’s no secret that the explosion of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps has revolutionized the way businesses operate. From humble beginnings, the titans of SaaS today include companies such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Marketo, and Workday that have gone public and attained multi-billion dollar valuations. The success of these SaaS leaders has had a domino effect in adjacent areas of the cloud – infrastructure, databases, and analytics.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), which originally had only six services in 2006 with the launch of Amazon EC2, now has over 30 ranging from storage, relational databases, data warehousing, Big Data, and more. Salesforce.com’s Wave platform, Tableau Software, and Qlik have made great advances in the cloud analytics arena, to give better visibility to line-of-business users. And as SaaS applications embrace new software design paradigms that extend their functionality, application performance monitoring (APM) analytics has emerged as a specialized field from vendors such as New Relic and AppDynamics.
So, how exactly did the growth of SaaS contribute to these adjacent sectors taking off?
The growth of SaaS coincided with the growth of powerful smartphones and tablets. Seeing this form factor as important to the end user, SaaS companies rushed to produce mobile apps that offered core functionality on their mobile device. Measuring adoption of these mobile apps was necessary to ensure that future releases met all the needs of the end user. Mobile apps contain a ton of information such as app responsiveness, features utilized, and data consumed. As always, there were several types of users, with some preferring a laptop form factor over a smartphone or tablet. With the ever increasing number of data points to measure within a SaaS app, the area of application performance monitoring analytics really took off.
Simultaneously, the growth of the SaaS titans cemented their reputation as not just applications for a certain line-of-business, but into full-fledged platforms. This growth emboldened a number of SaaS startups to develop apps that solved specialized or even vertical business problems in healthcare, warranty-and-repair, quote-to-cash, and banking. To get started quickly and scale rapidly, these startups leveraged AWS and its plethora of services.
The final sector that has taken off thanks to the growth of SaaS is the area of cloud analytics. SaaS grew by leaps and bounds because of its ease of use, and rapid deployment that could be achieved by business users. Cloud analytics aims to provide the same ease of use for business users when providing deep insights into data in an interactive manner.
In all these different sectors, what’s common is the fact that SaaS growth has created an uptick in the volume of data and the technologies that serve to make it easier to understand. During Informatica’s Data Mania event (March 4th, San Francisco) you’ll find several esteemed executives from Salesforce, Amazon, Adobe, Microsoft, Dun & Bradstreet, Qlik, Marketo, and AppDynamics talk about the importance of data in the world of SaaS.
A Data Lake is a simple concept. They are a catchment area for data entering the organization. In the past, most businesses didn’t need to organize such a data store because almost all data was internal. It traveled via traditional ETL mechanisms from transactional systems to a data warehouse and then was sprayed around the business, as required.
When a good deal of data comes from external sources, or even from internal sources like log files, which never previously made it into the data warehouse, there is a need for an “operational data store.” This has definitely become the premier application for Hadoop and it makes perfect sense to me that such technology be used for a data catchment area. The neat thing about Hadoop for this application is that:
- It scales out “as far as the eye can see,” so there’s no likelihood of it being unable to manage the data volumes even when they grow beyond the petabyte level.
- It is a key-value store, which means that you don’t need to expend much effort in modeling data when you decide to accommodate a new data source. You just define a key and define the metadata at leisure.
- The cost of the software and the storage is very low.
So let’s imagine that we have a need for a data catchment area, because we have decided to collect data from log-files, mobile devices, social networks, from public data sources, or whatever. So let us also imagine that we have implemented Hadoop and some of its useful components and we have begun to collect data.
Is it reasonable to describe this as a data lake?
A Hadoop implementation should not be a set of servers randomly placed at the confluence of various data flows. The placement needs to be carefully considered and if the implementation is to resemble a “data lake” in any way, then it must be a well-engineered man-made lake. Since the data doesn’t just sit there until it evaporates but eventually flows to various applications, we should think of this as a “data reservoir” rather than a “data lake.”
There is no point in arranging all that data neatly along the aisles because when we get it, we may not know what we want to do with it at the time we get it. We should organize the data when we know that.
Another reason we should think of this as more like a reservoir than a lake is that we might like to purify the data a little before sending it down the pipes to applications or users that want to use it.
As reviewed by Loraine Lawson, a MeriTalk survey about cloud adoption found that a “In the latest survey of 150 federal executives, nearly one in five say one-quarter of their IT services are fully or partially delivered via the cloud.”
For the most part, the shifts are more tactical in nature. These federal managers are shifting email (50 percent), web hosting (45 percent) and servers/storage (43 percent). Most interesting is that they’re not moving traditional business applications, custom business apps, or middleware. Why? Data, and data integration issues.
“Federal agencies are worried about what happens to data in the cloud, assuming they can get it there in the first place:
- 58 percent of executives fret about cloud-to-legacy system integration as a barrier.
- 57 percent are worried about migration challenges, suggesting they’re not sure the data can be moved at all.
- 54 percent are concerned about data portability once the data is in the cloud.
- 53 percent are worried about ‘contract lock-in.’ ”
The reality is that the government does not get much out of the movement to cloud without committing core business applications and thus core data. While e-mail and Web hosting, and some storage is good, the real cloud computing money is made when moving away from expensive hardware and software. Failing to do that, you fail to find the value, and, in this case, spend more taxpayer dollars than you should.
Data issues are not just a concern in the government. Most larger enterprise have the same issues as well. However, a few are able to get around these issues with good planning approaches and the right data management and data integration technology. It’s just a matter of making the initial leap, which most Federal IT executives are unwilling to do.
In working with CIOs of Federal agencies in the last few years, the larger issue is that of funding. While everyone understands that moving to cloud-based systems will save money, getting there means hiring government integrators and living with redundant systems for a time. That involves some major money. If most of the existing budget goes to existing IP operations, then the move may not be practical. Thus, there should be funds made available to work on the cloud projects with the greatest potential to reduce spending and increase efficiencies.
The shame of this situation is that the government was pretty much on the leading edge with cloud computing. back in 2008 and 2009. The CIO of the US Government, Vivek Kundra, promoted the use of cloud computing, and NIST drove the initial definitions of “The Cloud,” including IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS. But, when it came down to making the leap, most agencies balked at the opportunity citing issues with data.
Now that the technology has evolved even more, there is really no excuse for the government to delay migration to cloud-based platforms. The clouds are ready, and the data integration tools have cloud integration capabilities backed in. It’s time to see some more progress.
In a previous life, I was a pastry chef in a now-defunct restaurant. One of the things I noticed while working there (and frankly while cooking at home) is that the better the ingredients, the better the final result. If we used poor quality apples in the apple tart, we ended up with a soupy, flavorless mess with a chewy crust.
The same analogy can be applied to Data Analytics. With poor quality data, you get poor results from your analytics projects. We all know that companies that can implement fantastic analytic solutions that can provide near real-time access to consumer trends are the same companies that can do successful targeted marketing campaigns that are of the minute. The Data Warehousing Institute estimates that data quality problems cost U.S. businesses more than $600 billion a year.
The business impact of poor data quality cannot be underestimated. If not identified and corrected early on, defective data can contaminate all downstream systems and information assets, jacking up costs, jeopardizing customer relationships, and causing imprecise forecasts and poor decisions.
- To help you quantify: Let’s say your company receives 2 million claims per month with 377 data elements per claim. Even at an error rate of .001, the claims data contains more than 754,000 errors per month and more than 9.04 million errors per year! If you determine that 10 percent of the data elements are critical to your business decisions and processes, you still must fix almost 1 million errors each year!
- What is your exposure to these errors? Let’s estimate the risk at $10 per error (including staff time required to fix the error downstream after a customer discovers it, the loss of customer trust and loyalty and erroneous payouts. Your company’s risk exposure to poor quality claims data is $10 million a year.
Once your company values quality data as a critical resource – it is much easier to perform high-value analytics that have an impact on your bottom line. Start with creation of a Data Quality program. Data is a critical asset in the information economy, and the quality of a company’s data is a good predictor of its future success.
In 2014, Informatica Cloud focused a great deal of attention on the needs and challenges of the citizen integrator. These are the critical business users at the core of every company: The customer-facing sales rep at the front, as well as the tireless admin at the back. We all know and rely on these men and women. And up until very recently, they’ve been almost entirely reliant on IT for the integration tasks and processes needed to be successful at their jobs.
A lot of that has changed over the last year or so. In a succession of releases, we provided these business users with the tools to take matters into their hands. And with the assistance of key ecosystem partners, such as Salesforce, SAP, Amazon, Workday, NetSuite and the hundreds of application developers that orbit them, we’ve made great progress toward giving business users the self-sufficiency they need, and demand. But, beyond giving these users the tools to integrate and connect with their apps and information at will, what we’ve really done is give them the ability to focus their attention and efforts on their most valuable customers. By doing so, we have got to core of the real purpose and importance of the whole cloud project or enterprise: The customer relationship.
In a recent Fortune interview, Salesforce CEO and cloud evangelist Marc Benioff echoed that idea when he stated that “The CEO is now in charge of the customer relationship.” What he meant by that is companies now have the ability to tie all aspects of their marketing – website, customer service, email marketing, social, sales, etc. – into “one canonical file” with all the respective customer information. By organizing the enterprise around the customer this way, the company can then pivot all of their efforts toward the customer relationship, which is what is required if a business is going to have and sustain success as we move through the 2010s and beyond.
We are in complete agreement with Marc and think it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to declare 2015 as the year of the customer relationship. In fact, helping companies and business users focus their attention toward the customer has been a core focus of ours for some time. For an example, you don’t have to look much further than the latest iteration of our real-time application integration capability.
In a short video demo that I recommend to everyone, my colleague Eric does a fantastic job of walking users through the real-time features available through the Informatica Cloud platform.
As the demo demonstrates, the real-time features let you build a workflow process application that interacts with data from cloud and on-premise sources right from the Salesforce user interface (UI). It’s quick and easy, thus allowing you to devote more time to your customers and less time on “plumbing.”
The workflows themselves are created with the help of a drag-and-drop process designer that enables the user to quickly create a new process and configure the parameters, inputs and outputs, and decision steps with the click of a few buttons.
Once the process guide is created, it displays as a window embedded right in the Salesforce UI. So if, for example, you’ve created an opportunity-to-order guide, you can follow a wizard-driven process that walks your users from new opportunity creation through to the order confirmation, and everything in between.
As users move through the process, they can interact in real time with data from any on-premise or cloud-based source they choose. In the example from the video, the user, Eric, chooses a likely prospect from a list of company contacts, and with a few keystrokes creates a new opportunity in Salesforce. In a further demonstration of the real-time capability, Eric performs a NetSuite query, logs a client call, escalates a case to customer service, pulls the latest price book information from an Oracle database, builds out the opportunity items, creates the order in SAP, and syncs it all back to Salesforce, all without leaving the wizard interface.
The capabilities available via Informatica Cloud’s application integration are a gigantic leap forward for business users and an evolutionary step toward pivoting the enterprise toward the customer. As 2015 takes hold we will see this become increasingly important as companies continue to invest in the cloud. This is especially true for those cloud applications, like the Salesforce Analytics, Marketing and Sales Clouds, that need immediate access to the latest and most reliable customer data to make them all work — and truly establish you as the CEO in charge of customer relationships.