James Markarian, SVP GM, Data Integration Business Unit of Informatica points out that data integration is often the first step to virtualization or even getting on to the cloud. It could also help cut costs and optimize resources in a big way, and Informatica shows how.The Quest for Customer Data IntegrationQ: How can data integration be an effective cost cutting or an economizing tool in the present times?There are a couple of different ways that help integration improve different processes. For example, data centers today primarily use Hand code, a very cheap entry into data integration. There are programmers available and so the first reaction of the IT department is to apply some programming languages to the problem. As it turns out, this is the incorrect way of doing it. When you look at the overall cost of integrating information, you also calculate costs of maintaining it over time and the risk associated with programmers doing this job. Though they are writing code for these process, there is however a better solution- integration tools. These are far more productive, easier to maintain, and have a simpler system-so there is tremendous cost saving from an IT perspective. The biggest benefit to data integration is actually on the business side as it adds business value. ""We help customers integrate, access and improve the quality of their information for a variety of business purposes; to improve operational efficiency, assist with mergers and acquisitions, and help with governance and compliance solutions," James Markarian, SVP GM, Data Integration Business Unit"As an example, one could compare what it means to get a project done in a couple of weeks than a couple of months. Recently, there has been an outbreak of the H1N1 virus and the value of collecting information about the places that are most affected is significant. Also valuable is the information about certain patterns from clinics across the world, and getting this information at regular periods of time is extremely important as well, because it could be life saving. So it's really about the value of the information that adds to the business.There are many other cases as well, such as accelerating mergers and acquisitions. Today we are facing tough times, in terms of companies buying other companies, and by using our technology, our customers are able to integrate the companies more quickly, that accelerates the time it takes to shift to the new base. In tough economic times, the management wants more visibility, that's exactly where Informatica comes in. We can integrate businesses across business lines, and make customer, supplier or resource allocations efficiently.There are a couple of areas where Informatica is investing presently. One of our most recent acquisitions is a company that specializes in archival of information. In many corporate systems, almost 80% of the information is inactive. For regulatory reasons you cannot just dispose of the data, it needs to be kept away somewhere. We have technology that allows us to identify the dormant data and move it to other storage. It's very high speed storage in the first tier and tier two or tier three storage will save on those costs. Our customers usually ask to remove terabytes of information to three-tier storage that allows them to save millions of dollars in software and hardware every year just getting inactive data out of their systems. And that's a very exciting area for us.We have also made some recent investments in data quality. It is a very interesting technology that a lot of people are not really familiar with.It is about deriving value from data especially in cases like frauds and deliberate withholding of identity, this application would be a huge help. Typically speaking, data mining can detect patterns but cannot successfully detect particular identities.2. How can data integration lead to better resource planning?There are two dimensions of resource utilization, one is capital or supply chain optimization, and second is manpower utilization. If you look back at Informatica's roots, we were founded on data warehousing that was generally regarded operational efficiency and resource optimization problems. So, as far as employee resource optimization is concerned, it varies from many different connections and in the case of professional services, if you can provide professional information about all your employees, like their engagement history, educational background, previous work history, and centralize it in a single place so that employees with a particular kind of skills are assigned to a right kind of activities, that's a tremendous operational advantage for employee organization. We help customers optimize their material spend. So if you can collate that is spending across the organization you can negotiate well with your suppliers for materials.3. At any point do you think data integration can help in virtualization?Absolutely, Information and data virtualization are few of the biggest trends in data integration today. Most companies are now taking up the data warehousing approach - centralizing all of the companies' data in one place, for easy access and analysis. They want a single view of the customers or suppliers or even employees. One could move that data and get that information on demand or virtually. So I think that demanding the information this way is an emerging trend in IT. We are about to introduce some new products, by the end of the year. There are many different styles of integration, so this provides our customer with one more style of integration to best suit their application needs.4. What does Informatica do about security during data integration?There are a few different forms of security in terms of data integration; the first capability that any of our customers get is data privacy. What this allows him to do is to mask the true value of the information that is being moved through Informatica. Even the group responsible also doesn't have the privileges to see actual data values, the technology is called data making and it preserves the integrity of the information when it is moved from one place to the other. Another important segment is close to cloud computing, and Informatica has several cloud computing initiatives, which allow customers to keep information secure on the cloud.We have the ability to use secure sockets, the firewall and the connection. Informatica appoints an agent that sits inside a customer's firewall and initiates a communication with the outside world, and then the information is sent over a secure socket connection. The information is constantly encrypted, even as it's being transferred over, and when companies are over a private network.