Back from the dead

Those of you with long memories will recall that the first three real ETL vendors were Prism, Carleton and ETI.  The others were acquired but ETI survived as an independent company, though with an ever-diminishing profile.  Early this year they were apparently down to just one salesman, but having the US Department of Defense as a customer does wonders for maintenance revenue.  In recent years the company had been pared down to a minimum, and I had assumed that, like an old soldier, they might just fade away.  However in the summer the original investors were bought out and a new capital injection happened in a USD 6.5 million round from investors Appian Ventures of Denver, Access Venture Partners and Osprey Ventures, and a $5M line of credit was negotiated with Comerica bank.  Consequently the company is effectively born again, with new money, owners and management, but with established technology.

ETI’s software used to be strong at dealing with extracting data from esoteric sources, generating code against things like COBOL workbooks and assorted mainframe file systems, as well as having the usual transformation capabilities.  It suffered from being rather complex to use and from some weak marketing. 

So, the interesting question is whether this old warhorse can be dusted off, repainted and revitalised.  Judging by the seven vice presidents that have appeared in the management ranks, the new board is not afraid to spend some of that new money.  They have also licensed in some data quality offerings from a couple of small British companies, which is a logical step to broaden the product range from just ETL.  This is important because ETL on its own is a tough market, as ETI has discovered.  More and more ETL functionality is being thrown into the database (MSFT with SSIS – previously DTS – and Oracle with the poorly named Warehouse Builder tool, which is really an ETL tool) which makes it hard work to persuade a customer to buy your technology.  Only Sunopsis has really made much headway here in recent times, with a clever pitch built around using rather than competing with the database capabilities.  Other pure plays like Sagent have withered and died.  Informatica is really the only ETL player of size left standing, and they have broadened their appeal by going for a wider integration message.  So what has changed that will allow ETI to flourish now when it clearly has not done fo some time?  Perhaps new the investors have noticed a flurry of companies being bought out in the data quality space recently and so can see a fairly quick exit, perhaps there is just too much venture capital around, or maybe they have more ambitious plans for the company.

ETI certainly has some well proven technology, and its foray into data quality looks logical.  Good luck to them.  Yet relaunching a company is hard work, and it will take some impressive sales and marketing execution to turn breath new life into this particular body.