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Do I Need ETL/ESB Inside My MDM Solution or MDM Inside My ETL/ESB?

(In short: Neither.) Data integration is a critical component of any Master Data Management program but beware of all-in-one solutions.

Over the last 12 months, the Master Data Management (MDM) landscape has evolved and many say it has matured. As MDM and Data Governance became top priorities for large companies, traditional ETL/ESB vendors seized the opportunity and acquired MDM pure-play vendors.

In the past, ETL or ESB vendors have been “integration-focused”. But now with their newly acquired technologies, they are positioning MDM as an extension of their data integration (DI) platform which they are calling a “unified platform”. Does this provide real benefits to users or is there a hidden agenda?

At Orchestra Networks, we believe it is critical to clearly decouple the MDM solution from the middleware layer.
Here’s why.

First–most large companies didn’t wait for an MDM technology or solution before they invested in a middleware infrastructure. Data integration is a common component of any information system, so why not reuse the legacy? If your company has invested in data integration software from XYZ company, why do you think you should buy MDM from that same company? The selection criteria between ETL/ESB and MDM is very different since MDM is a business-user facing solution and has many internal “functional customers” across the enterprise.

Next–there is no “one-type-fits-all” data integration platform. Most of our customers have invested in multiple solutions in order to address all types of integration requirements, such as message-oriented, bulk data exchange, etc. Since MDM is a central, enterprise-wide solution for managing all master data, it is common to connect it to multiple middleware platforms. Selecting the right integration platform also depends on the life cycle and “volatility” of your master data. While customer data has a very short life cycle and is mainly real-time and transactional, product catalog or chart of account data has a very long and complex life cycle with bulk data integration. More importantly, relying on a single integrated MDM and DI solution could be a roadblock for future deployments.

Finally–let’s look at what ETL/ESB vendors propose in their MDM offering. Most of these solutions were originally CDI (Customer Data Integration) solutions with limited end-user Data Governance capabilities. One of the risks of using this type of solution is that the MDM initiative will evolve into a technical project. We’ve seen a lot of projects start out as a master data governance initiative and end-up defining all business rules and workflows in the ETL layer. In cases like this, the lines of business are not partners in collaboration on the MDM initiative which experience shows can result in poor Data Governance and lower user adoption.

More than ever, we believe that best-of-breed is the right approach. When selecting an MDM platform, focus on the real business requirements and make sure that the solution provides a standards-based interface with any middleware platform (both your current and any future ones).

We don’t mean that data integration can be avoided–it is a critical component of a successful MDM project. However, by decoupling MDM and DI, you will deploy a much more flexible and adaptable solution. Orchestra Networks’ customers have successfully connected our EBX software to more than 15 leading middleware solutions, including: ETL, EAI or ESB. We are also building an ecosystem of data integration partners that provide flexible, cost-effective solutions to complement any MDM project.

Our recently introduced EBX5 solution provides a new Master Data Lineage feature, which allows the definition of all relationships between the MDM and source / target systems. Data Lineage is a bridge between your central MDM repository and the Information System. It provides fine-grained data services with mapping profiles and allows you to perform enterprise-wide impact analysis and real-time monitoring. Master Data Lineage also enables the decoupling of your MDM from the various applications that consume or produce master data, regardless of your chosen data integration platform.

All-in-one solutions may look tempting but remember that relying on a single, integrated DI and MDM product may not give you the flexible and adaptable solution required for long-term Data Governance success. The new EBX5 multidomain MDM solution from Orchestra Networks offers universal compatibility with all the leading middleware solutions. In fact, our customers and partners refer to us as the “Switzerland of MDM.”

By Christophe Barriolade