An aggressive cloud computing strategy and a need for ease of use prompted healthcare industry marketing company PDI Inc. to choose the Informatica Cloud data integration platform over competing products from Boomi Inc., company officials said in an interview.
The Parsippany, N.J.-based PDI Inc. -- which handles marketing activities for pharmaceutical firms and healthcare providers -- also evaluated hosted offerings from Adeptia Inc. and Magic Software Enterprises Ltd. before ultimately settling on Informatica Cloud for its data integration needs.
Gartner reveals pros and cons of Informatica
Redwood City, Calif.-based Informatica Corp. is tops when it comes to data integration tools, but the software vendor can’t claim perfection, according to a recent Magic Quadrant report from Stamford, Conn.-based IT analyst firm Gartner Research Inc.
The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Integration Tools, which was released last October, found that Informatica’s key strengths include its highly robust products that support a wide variety of integration use cases.
Gartner was also impressed with Informatica’s recently added self-service capabilities, which allow non-technical business analysts to create simple data integrations.
But potential Informatica buyers should also be aware that the platform is expensive and that its architecture remains heavily oriented toward bulk, batch-oriented data delivery.
“Given the increasing demand from visionary implementers for a full range of integration styles,” the report reads, “this indicates that Informatica must continue to focus on developing best practices and solid references for ‘non-batch,’ and strengthen its ability to gain market share beyond its core area of expertise.”
IT officials at PDI initially liked Boomi -- the data integration company that was later acquired by Dell Computer Corp. -- because it boasted a truly multi-tenant cloud offering that could be accessed via Web browser, according to Raj Muthuswamy, manager of sales technology and support at PDI. But the IT team ultimately decided that Informatica Cloud was easier to use and would therefore be more appealing to the company’s highly mobile sales and marketing professionals.
“Ease of use was not a big thing with Boomi,” Muthuswamy said. “Informatica required much less time to get up and running.”
PDI found that hosted data integration tools from Adeptia took too much time and effort to set up, while Magic Software, another hosted software provider, lacked the reliability of Informatica Cloud.
“Magic Software’s offering couldn’t stack up to Informatica not just in ease of use, but also in reliability and scalability,” Muthuswamy said. “It wasn’t robust enough, either.”
Salesforce.com drives need for cloud data integration
PDI Inc. first deployed Informatica Cloud in the summer of 2009 along with Salesforce.com, the popular cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation platform. The company has been using Informatica Cloud to integrate Salesforce.com-based data with on-premises systems ever since, according to Jo Ann Saitta, the chief information officer at PDI.
The company -- which runs its operations on several in-house technologies, including Oracle Database, Microsoft SQL Server, the Linux operating system and Oracle-MySQL database – first looked to Salesforce.com and Informatica as part of an aggressive strategy to deploy cloud applications wherever possible.
Saitta said one of the key benefits of the strategy is that cloud applications take much of the pressure of software maintenance and upgrades off the company’s IT team, allowing them to focus on more strategic activities.
Informatica Cloud replicates PDI’s Salesforce.com CRM data into the company’s reporting infrastructure where it can be shared across the enterprise. Employees use that data to create client and sales reports and to power key payroll and finance activities and other business functions.
“The Informatica experience we’ve had with one of our largest systems, the sales force automation platform, has really paved the way for other applications to transition to the cloud,” Saitta said. “Knowing that we have a very reliable data integration vehicle is without question opening doors for us.”
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Cloud data integration tools require plenty of testing
Informatica Cloud proved relatively easy to implement and was up and running in full production at PDI in less than a month. But Muthuswamy cautioned that the key to the success of any cloud data integration software initiative is plenty of testing.
“You have to have a pilot program,” he said. “We ran ours for at least four weeks and that was a big lessoned learned.”
Organizations considering a cloud data integration project should also spend time looking at what other companies in similar positions have done. Muthuswamy said PDI reached out to other firms both inside and outside of the pharmaceutical industry to see how they were grappling with data integration challenges. He added that industry case studies and publications are also a big help.
Potential buyers of cloud data integration software should also beware of vendors who fail to provide a test account that potential customers can use to build experimental integrations, Muthuswamy added.
“If support from your vendor is not great at the time of the pilot then it is definitely not going to get any better,” he said.
Looking ahead, PDI plans to continue using Informatica Cloud to facilitate integrating its Linux-based business applications and powering its increased adoption of cloud applications.
“We initially implemented that as a data integration tool for our CRM system but there are other creative ways you can use it,” Muthuswamy said. “Informatica is truly platform agnostic.”