IBM Lays Path To Easier Data Integration

Using technology from its $1.1 billion Ascential Software Corp. acquisition in May, IBM is expanding the reach of its data-management software to bring data-integration capabilities to its WebSphere middleware and Rational development tools, providing them with the ability to tap into common sources of business information.

Such capabilities will make it easier to integrate systems, such as those acquired in a merger, by allowing them to discover and share summary information, or metadata, about enterprise databases and data flows, IBM says.

IBM has released a beta version of WebSphere Information Analyzer, a data-management tool that analyzes information across a wide variety of data sources and creates a metadata repository that's shared with other data-integration tools. The software is based on technology Ascential developed called Project Hawk.

A system developed to analyze financial data to assure Sarbanes-Oxley compliance can use WebSphere Information Analyzer's data-checking and validation capabilities to verify financial information, IBM product manager Michael Curry says. Information Analyzer is aimed at business and data analysts who can use it to populate business applications with data.

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IBM also is offering a beta release of Rational Data Architect, which can perform database design and data discovery, mapping, and analysis tasks. Those capabilities spring from IBM's Project Serrano, an effort to simplify and automate the integration of information from complex environments.

The software represents IBM's latest step in building data-management services that cross heterogeneous systems, rather than provide separate "silo" applications with data, says Judith Hurwitz of Hurwitz and Associates, an IT consulting firm.

A user of WebSphere DataStage, ProfileStage, and QualityStage, previously Ascential data-management products, says the ability to pull information from a variety of sources and work with it is crucial to his business. Atique Shah, customer-relationship-management and technology solutions VP at Churchill Downs Inc., home of the Kentucky Derby, needs information from the 900 million transactions conducted each year at Churchill's seven race tracks. Customer information is pulled together by the three Ascential products for marketing campaigns to members of the Twin Spires Club, the Churchill Downs loyalty program for regular track bettors.

Shah has seen demonstrations of the data-integration products and says IBM is adding "brand-new capabilities that Ascential didn't have before." While ProfileStage showed the characteristics of a data source, the shared metadata repository allows the data to be transformed and cleansed before being added to a consolidated database or data-staging area.

Churchill Downs, for example, just went live with a customer-data-analysis and campaign-management system, which needs to pull customer information out of track betting systems and Churchill Downs' Web sites. Shah plans to test the products in connection with his marketing systems to reduce the amount of massaging the data needs before loading it into the marketing system. "It makes the use of data direct from the source much more seamless," he says.

WebSphere Information Analyzer and Rational Data Architect will be available in the fourth quarter; pricing is still to come.