Informatica to acquire Itemfield for unstructured data access

Informatica plans to acquire Itemfield, an OEM partner and data transformation vendor specializing in unstructured and semi-structured data.

Informatica, based in Redwood City, Calif., announced today that it will acquire one of its OEM partners to add semi-structured and unstructured data integration capabilities to its PowerCenter platform.

Informatica will pay approximately $55 million in a cash transaction to acquire privately held Itemfield Inc., a San Mateo, Calif.-based data transformation vendor with a research and development team in Israel. Itemfield's technology enables "near-universal" access to unstructured and semi-structured data, and according to the acquisition press release, the company was named as a 2006 "cool data integration vendor" by Stamford, Conn.-based analyst firm Gartner Inc. The vendor has had a year-long OEM partner relationship with Informatica, which offers embedded Itemfield technology as an option to its PowerCenter data integration platform. Notably, Itemfield is also a partner of SAP, Oracle and IBM.

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The acquisition makes a lot of sense, according to James Kobielus, principal analyst with Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis. Informatica has been bolstering its platform, most recently adding new data-quality features, the fruits of its acquisition of Similarity Systems earlier this year. Itemfield's expertise in unstructured and semi-structured data is a complement to Informatica's focus on structured data, Kobielus said, and the OEM agreement means that the companies have already integrated and deployed technology to 50 common customers, one-third of Itemfield's approximately 150 total customers.

"Itemfield doesn't bring a lot of new customers or revenue; rather, they're bringing in a core competency and set of products that have already been integrated with Informatica and have already been accepted by some of Informatica's customers," Kobielus said. "This acquisition is taking Informatica into a very important area that customers have been asking for, which is the ability to extract, transform and load all manner of data types into Informatica-based data warehouses."

This is important, as analyst firms such as Gartner estimate that more than 80% of data in an enterprise is unstructured, stored in Microsoft Office files, or in other forms such as portable document format (PDF). Semi-structured data includes formats such as XML data exchange standards used by the financial and healthcare industries. According to the release, Itemfield's technology can automatically infer and learn the format of unstructured and semi-structured data so that those data sources can be integrated with traditional structured data sources such as databases.

There are many benefits to combining these kinds of data, according to Brian Gentile, chief marketing officer with Informatica. Accessing unstructured data will help companies bring structure and new meaning to data types that have traditionally been outside the purview of databases. The combined technology will also help companies with cross-enterprise data exchange, Gentile said. More companies are finding that lack of easy access to unstructured information impairs business processes like exchanging healthcare or financial data between organizations.

In the longer term, Informatica also plans to further integrate Itemfield's technology with PowerCenter and its data-quality tools, with the goal of helping users automate the entire data integration lifecycle. An updated roadmap will be released sometime in the next few months, Gentile said. Itemfield's primary product, Content Master, will continue to be sold and supported as a standalone product -- though the name may change, he said. And Informatica plans to continue supporting Itemfield's existing customers.

"We have no intention of disrupting any of the ongoing product improvements and research and development for Content Master as a standalone product," Gentile said.

Another big question is what will become of Itemfield's partnerships with SAP, IBM and Oracle. The Content Master design environment is included with every copy of SAP NetWeaver, Gentile said. Users can design unstructured data access as part of that environment, though companies must buy a production license when they wish to deploy the Itemfield technology, he explained.

"The relationship with SAP is strategic, and we're thrilled with it. We'll be working hard to not only maintain it, but amplify that relationship in the oncoming quarters," Gentile said. "With the relationship with Oracle and a number of other vendors that are middleware-, database- and BI tool-oriented, our intention is to maintain those relationships and the technical integration that Itemfield currently offers. Informatica stands for neutrality and independence, and we have to maintain that neutral message as a value proposition to our customers."

The acquisition has been approved by both companies' boards and is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions. Gentile said that Informatica expects the acquisition to be complete by mid-December.

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