SAS recently announced a change in their product direction. Currently they have a strong data quality technology in DataFlux, a reasonable ETL technology (Data Integraton Studio) and a niche MDM product (DataFlux qMDM). It is clear that there is a strong link between MDM and data quality, and indeed most MDM vendors either OEM or partner with a data quality tool, unless they have built or acquired their own. Moreover there are natural links between MDM and the world of data integration, since there is limited use of having a master data hub if you can't actually get the data into it or out from it to other systems. Again, most MDM vendors have some form of co-existence strategy with ETL and EAI technologies, while a few have their own offerings as well.
SAS's plan is to bring these three product lines together into a single product offering, covering data integration, MDM and data quality. The three internal development teams have already been redeployed under the DataFlux group, and the intention is to release "Project Unity" in its initial form in Q4 2009, which will bring together the three strands in a single platform. A further release will follow about a year later, bringing in a unified user interface and reporting environment as well as support for unstructured data via its Teragram acquisition.
This is an interesting move. A cynic might say that the DataFlux MDM offering had negligible market presence so further tying it to the successful DataFlux data quality platform made sense, but extending the offering to data integration is a more interesting proposition. Currently the leading integration vendor, Informatica, has steadfastly refused to be drawn into the MDM world, a stance that has puzzled many, this author included. Informatica has acquired two well-thought-of data quality vendors so has plenty of coverage there, but does not attempt MDM. IBM has acquired strong integration technology (Ascential came with a data quality tool) and separate MDM technology (DWL, Trigo), and is doing a decent job of knitting all this together, at least at the Powerpoint level. Oracle and SAP are the only other vendors to really span these three markets, and in their case they have quite separate product lines, mostly concentrating on their own ERP worlds.
Hence this is quite a bold stance by SAS. The Unity platform will not require the underlying SAS platform technologies, so it can be seen as a stand-alone offering. I feel that the merging of the data quality and MDM offerings makes good sense, and I would expect to see other MDM vendors and data quality vendors tying the knot in the coming years. Wrapping in data integration may be biting off more than can easily be chewed, since enterprises are much more attached to their investments in data integration than they are to data quality or MDM tools, and are likely to insist on co-existence with their own deployed data integration platform. However this does give SAS a new angle to attack Informatica accounts, since Informatica lacks an MDM component. It remains to be seen how much traction this approach will get in the marketplace but as Aesop said, "In union there is strength".