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IBM to Update Information Integration Tool

Since it was unveiled earlier this year, IBM's DB2 Information Integrator product, which pools data many sources into one location, has become so popular that customers have asked the company to one-up itself.

So IBM has embarked on a new project, codenamed "Masala," to add to that product, which was purchased by such customers as Merrill Lynch, Quad Graphics, and Chinese Ministry of Railways.

While DB2 Integrator product currently lets businesses access information stored in distributed locations, Masala's primary goal is to help businesses make better use of the information once it can be accessed centrally.

Business integration has boomed in the IT industry, with numerous software vendors fighting for their piece of the large, multi-billion-dollar pie that aims to tie all sorts of heterogeneous infrastructure -- new and old -- together. IBM is an integration leader, along with Tibco and webMethods . BEA , Microsoft and Oracle are stepping up their efforts in the space.

Nelson Mattos, IBM Distinguished Engineer and director of information integration, said IBM is working on adding rich media capabilities, administrative features, flexibility and speed, and more specific search characteristics to this integration tool, which competes with products such as BEA's Liquid Data..

Mattos, who said Masala is an Indian word meaning a "mixture of spices," said DB2 Information Integrator should be a much more mixed bag when Masala reaches full fruition sometime in late 2004.

Mattos told internetnews.com that while customers seem to be pleased with what the integration tool has provided for them thus far, he and his team were asked to do better to help them link business information assets. "Masala symbolizes a harmony of technology in Information Integrator," Mattos said.

The project leader said that while the tool already enables enterprises to tap into data sources, such as databases, e-mail, XML and flat files, corporations are asking to get access to their application assets as well. For example, Integrator, once Masala is finished, will help customers pool apps from SAP or Siebel. "Customers want to get to content repositories for rich media," Mattos said.

As for administrative features, Mattos said IBM is designing a new Integrator that IT managers don't need to spend a lot of time managing, which would boost return-on-investment.

Thus, in a heterogeneous environment, it would manage itself, a feature IBM has been adding to most of its software and hardware products in the last year as part of its on-demand computing for e-business strategy. "It would be as good dealing with Oracle or SQL server as it would with DB2 database products," he said.

Third, Mattos said engineers are crafting a high-speed way for customers to replicate data, another ROI solution. Lastly, IBM is working on alleviating the frustration of searching for data using Integrator. "We want to provide a deep understanding of profiles that exist and give customers free-form access and relevancy for what they are looking for."

Masala will follow the same path as DB2 Integrator, which was originally a product from a project called "Xperanto," in terms of its creation process. IBM is speaking to customers about what is needed in it and will do limited doing technology previews and rolling betas before using it internally at IBM.

By early next year, Mattos anticipates Masala will be ready for an official beta program, with general availability in late 2004.