DataFlux: Expanding Business Opportunities via XML Support
Company Background: Providing Data Quality and Data Integration Solutions
Founded in 1996 with the goal of providing companies with data quality solutions, DataFlux has since expanded its platform to include award-winning technology that enables companies to analyze, improve and control its data through an integrated technology platform.
A wholly owned subsidiary of SAS since 2000, DataFlux provides data quality and data integration technology that enables companies to build a solid information foundation designed to deliver a unified view of customer, product, supplier, or any other corporate data assets. DataFlux helps customers enhance the effectiveness of their data-driven initiatives, including customer data integration (CDI), product information management (PIM) and compliance.
The Challenge: More Business Through Expanded Opportunities
Like most Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), DataFlux is always seeking ways to provide solutions to new and expanding markets. Scott Gidley, CTO and a co-founder of the company, realized that XML offered intriguing and potentially lucrative opportunities.
“XML is becoming a standard for the way applications share data,” he says. “Many of our customers have begun taking data from legacy systems and converting it to XML to then be consumed by their CRM, ETL or other modern application. They want to be able to provide data quality at the point of transition from one system to another. If we have difficulty supporting or reading XML it limits our ability to provide flexible solutions to those customers.”
Gidley also reports that DataFlux is keenly aware of opportunities to be realized expanding into supporting non-relational, semi-structured, hierarchical data sources and industry-specific file formats.
“We saw XML and XQuery integration as a great way for us to expand into that area,” he says. “Entire industries rely on standards such as ACORD, HL7, and SWIFT. These represent markets in which we were seeing lots of opportunities within organizations but didn’t have the ability to support them.”
The Solution: An Old Provider Revisited
In its search for a third-party provider, DataFlux evaluated several technologies – including open source – but encountered support and/or performance issues with all of them. When Gidley discovered that DataDirect markets an XQuery engine and XML Converters, he was intrigued.“We’d been working with DataDirect Technologies since embedding the DataDirect Connect for ODBC drivers in the DataFlux® dfPower® Studio offering in 1998,” he says. “It almost didn’t occur to us to think of DataDirect, because as an OEM we’d almost never needed their support; we’d been able to just take everything DataDirect provided us, brand the drivers and get the thing working. We’d never had any issues with integration or held up a release due to performance issues. We were at the point where their technology was just assumed to be a part of our own.”
Gidley’s prior experience with DataDirect’s ODBC drivers and its superior quality of product had also impressed him.
“We’d worked with other ODBC drivers — those included in commercial databases, for instance — and had run into problem after problem. DataDirect’s breadth of support for both database and operating system platforms is extremely comprehensive, and their innovations in technology — such as the wire protocol ODBC drivers that saved us so much time and trouble when installing client components — have made the relationship a highly successful one.”
DataFlux decided to embed the DataDirect Data Integration Suite comprised of the DataDirect XQuery engine and XML Converter technology in the prototype versions of its dfPower Studio, a design environment that business analysts or IT personnel use in building data quality “workflows” and the DataFlux Integration Server, a runtime environment that executes the workflows on various OS and database platforms.
DataDirect XML Converters are an integral part of the DataDirect Data Integration Suite, providing the ability to seamlessly and bi-directionally convert any data file including EDI, flat files and other legacy formats to ready-to-use XML, accessible from any Java™ or .NET application. The DataDirect XQuery engine is a high-performance, scalable implementation that plugs easily into any Java architecture and accesses almost any data source — relational or XML, SOAP, EDI, legacy, etc. — using a single query, independent of underlying database server, operating systems, or proprietary extensions to XQuery. Requiring no server of its own, DataDirect XQuery is used by the dfPower Studio environment to create connections to data sources; a data source node is dropped into the workflow which is then built using that data source. With the additional functionality provided by the DataDirect Data Integration Suite, DataFlux users can now convert any data format to XML on the fly to be transparently queried with DataDirect XQuery.
The Results: Eye Opening
The first test of the prototyped version of DataFlux’s product using the DataDirect Data Integration Suite was conducted with an actual customer project that involved a 600 MB XML file and had previously defeated multiple attempts to support it.
“This particular customer couldn’t execute the file,” says Gidley. “It was so large that the ODBC driver we were using couldn’t handle using all this memory.”
Gidley explains that the company was using the job as an ETL transport file format; it had only about 50,000 records of data, but the extensive XML markup made it so large. The company wanted to use DataFlux’s profiling and data monitoring technology to validate the data in the file before it went from a legacy system into a data warehouse via XML format.
Using a standalone XML product that allowed DataFlux to create tables out of the XML structure and feed them into the DataDirect XQuery engine embedded in the prototype, the file was processed in under a minute’s time.
“That instantly opened our eyes,” Gidley reports. “It was very easy to drag and drop. We’ll now be able to support this customer with our next release. We’ve since shown the prototype to three or four different customers who have similar requests, and they’re now chomping at the bit to get an early release of the technology.”
With the inclusion of the DataDirect XML Converters, DataFlux is meeting customer demand for vertical industry standards support. For those DataFlux customers concerned about data alterations concealed in industry-specific formats, DataDirect XML Converters allow users to easily support data interchange standards like HL7, X12, ACORD, IATA and SWIFT for improved data exchange and compliance efforts.
“Many companies in our market would like to monitor packets of data with routine to be sure they’re compliant with whatever government, industry or corporate regulations might be in effect,” Gidley says in conclusion. “That’s where we see further opportunities to expand and grow the business, and DataDirect is helping us get there.”
DataFlux and all other DataFlux Corporation product or service names are registered trademarks or trademarks of, or licensed to, DataFlux Corporation in the USA and other countries.
DataFlux Customer Case Study
The goal: Provide data quality solutions to new markets through improved support for the XML standard.
Why they selected DataDirect: Previous experiences with DataDirect’s connectivity products and support team impressed DataFlux.
Business benefits: Embedding the DataDirect Data Integration Suite (DataDirect XQuery and XML Converters) into its data quality offerings enables DataFlux to expand services to customers and plan strategies to acquire new business via support for industry-specific standards.
Technical benefits: DataDirect XML technologies plug easily into DataFlux’s applications to provide standardized, high-performance, scalable access to almost any data source independent of underlying DBS, OS, or proprietary XQuery extensions.
Technical environment: Java-based ISV applications that provide data quality with access to a wide range of database and operating system platforms.
“DataDirect’s breadth of platform support is extremely comprehensive. Their innovations in technology have made the relationship a highly successful one.”