The Long and Winding Road of MDM Product Integration

IBM as just announced version 10 of its MDM offering, now called “Infosphere Master Data Management”. IBM has been on a long-term path to merging the MDM technologies it acquired in the product domain (from Trigo) and the customer domain (DWL). This was a path further complicated by its more recent purchase of Initiate. This announcement brings these product lines together, at least under a common marketing banner and price structure. The idea is that the new product is available is four “editions”. The “collaborative” edition is essentially the old MDM Server for PIM (exTrigo). The “standard” edition is essentially the old Initiate product. The “Advanced” edition bundles these two technologies together. The “enterprise edition” adds in the old MDM Server for Customer (ex DWL) product.

There is a unified pricing model behind these editions, though this apparent step forward is rather handicapped by the pricing model being distinctly opaque. It is based on no less than four parameters: edition, industry, data domains being managed and how many records are being mastered. When something becomes this complex it gives the sales force considerable flexibility (presumably the intention) but is potentially confusing for the customers, and possibly IBM’s own staff.

Fortunately, as well as this partial step forward on the marketing side, there is some actual code in the release. The Initiate matching engine, which was well regarded, is now used across the product line for probabilistic matching (the old Quality Stage approach is still available fro deterministic matching). The workflow engine BPM Express is bundled in with the enterprise edition, meaning that very complex sets of workflow and permissions can now be handled, if need be in a real-time manner. There is a much-needed overhaul of the old PIM user interlace in the new Collaborative Edition. Other enhancements are present, such as integration with the Guardium Data Activity Monitor.

All this amounts to a significant release that at least starts IBM on a path to unifying its MDM technologies. This will be a long path, as there are still three underlying, different, server technologies here. However at least customers now have a sense of the MDM direction in which IBM is heading now even if they need to realise that it will be a long and winding road before they get there.