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IBM Integration Products Combine For Beta

IBM is doing more than putting data integration company Ascential in its back pocket for safe keeping.

Big Blue is tucking the $1.1 billion acquisition into its middleware folds in new ways, wrapping together two major products in a beta to see if they mesh well for customers. The Armonk, N.Y., systems vendor has wrapped its own Serrano information integration product, formally called WebSphere Information Integrator, with the Ascential project Hawk, also known as WebSphere Data Integration Suite.

Combined, the software will make it easier for customers to integrate their copious business information at a time when more stringent regulations demand companies keep close tabs on their data, said Nelson Mattos, distinguished engineer and vice president of information integration at IBM.

Mattos contends that businesses have large volumes of data but often don't know where it is or how to find it. Project Serrano helps users find information and integrate it.

Project Hawk lets data administrators interpret source data, preserve the quality of that data, transform data and manage metadata. Ultimately businesses can construct enterprise data warehouses or run business intelligence systems with Hawk.

"Their capabilities are very complementary," Mattos said. "This is ideal for customers who don't want to buy integrating software from different vendors."

Together, the software will help customers tap into structured information, including databases, XML servers and ERP systems, and unstructured information, such as PDFs or photos.

For now, the product merger is in beta, and IBM is soliciting customers to test it. Mattos said the public can expect to see products before 2006.

Integration software makes life easier for businesses struggling to pinpoint and manage their glut of data, which includes anything from account numbers and access privileges to human resource records and other business blueprints.

Thanks to homegrown WebSphere products and software from acquisitions like Ascential, IBM is a leader in integration software, boasting more than 5,000 customers since the Ascential acquisition closed. Competition includes BEA Systems, Informatica, Microsoft and a host of other software makers.

IBM is also prepping tow new integration products from Serrano and Hawk: Rational Data Architect and WebSphere Information Analyzer, Mattos said.

Hatched in the Serrano project, IBM Rational Data Architect is a set of tools for data modeling and database design. Built on the open source Eclipse platform, which IBM helped forge, the software helps developers find and analyze data across multiple information sources. Software architects can automate integration tasks as they build new data models or reconcile others.

WebSphere Information Analyzer, part of project Hawk, profiles and analyzes data for business and data analysts. It shares a central repository with WebSphere DataStage and WebSphere QualityStage, automating metadata sharing across those products. The product also has a new user interface that will eventually be ported to the whole information integration platform.

Data Architect and Information Analyzer are complementary, highlighting the integration between the Serrano and Hawk projects. Models built in Rational Data Architect can be used with WebSphere Information Analyzer for data analysis and modeling.

Rational Data Architect and WebSphere Information Analyzer will be available for beta testing throughout the summer.