Microsoft has moved further in its plans to introduce a master data management (MDM) capability into its product line. Microsoft had previously purchased Stratature, an MDM vendor known for its dimension management, and has used this as the basis for its MDM offering, previously known as Project Bulldog. The product, with the catchy name "SQL Server 2008 R2 Master Data Services", which I will refer to as MDS, has been in a private technical preview for around a year now, and it is now clear that it will emerge with the CTP3 (like a third stage beta) release of SQL Server possibly late in 2009. The production ship date for the overall SQL Server package is slated for the first half of 2010 (think June 30th).
Interestingly, a lot of work appears to have gone on under the hood of the original product, which now has SQL Server as its core engine. In particular the product team seem confident that MDS will be capable not just of analytic MDM deployments but also of full scale operational deployments.. However at this point it is unclear what the practical performance and volume limits of the product will be.
One thing which does remain from the Stratature heritage is its inherently multi-domain nature, but it is clear that a lot of additional functionality will be included, particularly around operational management.; indeed it seemed clear that the MDS team has no desire to try and build from the ground up the various components of data quality that are already available out in the market (such as address matching) and that third party tools will be able to plug into it via an API. MDS will have a very full API, allowing third parties to build add-ons for it, for example specific industry offerings, and this is something that Microsoft will encourage.
As and when MDS does appear, it will be a significant entrant into the market based on the sheer market presence of Microsoft. For example, over 200 companies have been working with the technical preview version of the product, which is much greater than the original Stratature customer base, so by the time it sees the light of day it will have had a lot more customer exposure than most new MDM products. Given that it is bundled with SQL Server, it will change the price point of an MDM solution considerably downwards; today MDM hubs can sell for as much as a million dollars. While doubtless MDS will not, in its early stages, have the kind of full functionality and proven performance of some alternatives, its presence in the market alone is likely to apply pricing pressure to other vendors.
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