Informatica believes its virtual data machine Vibe will be to data what Java is to applications

Remember Sun Microsystems’s famous Java tagline: ‘Write once. Run anywhere’.

Java was a game-changer in a world where programmers were finding it tough to outpace rapidly changing technologies. Back then, Java enabled applications anywhere.

Over a decade later, data integration specialist Informatica is out with a platform that aims to do the same with data. Informatica’s recent release, Vibe, with the tagline ‘Map once. Deploy anywhere’ is an attempt to build a platform-agnostic way to access and deal with Big Data.

The idea is simple: Vibe allows developers to map data or collect it from anywhere — be it large mainframes, mobile phones or wall sensors — and then process it in any which way. Companies can use Vibe so their data engineers can concentrate on the data, rather than spend time, energy and code in finding ways to access it, says Sanjay Krishnamurthy, Chief Architect at Infomatica. He’s confident that Vibe will be the offering that will lead them from being “a category leader” in the still niche field of data integration to “an industry leader”, and fulfil the company’s goal of crossing the billion-dollar mark.

So, what is Vibe really? In technical terms, Vibe is a Virtual Data Machine. That is, while a regular machine takes a set of computing instructions and executes it, a VDM such as Vibe takes a set of data instruction (like fetch something from one place, and move it or merge or correlate it and deliver it elsewhere, like a data warehouse) and executes it.

Given that Big Data is a popular catchphrase in the industry, Vibe has, since its announcement earlier this month, been grabbing a lot of eyeballs. And it’s important too, explain the movers and shakers behind Vibe. Given that applications are moving quickly from transactional to informational, being able to harness data is key in every sector. Vibe “responds to customer challenges” in dealing with a wide variety of data from traditional mainframe ERP type data to social media and machine-generated data. In the ‘Internet of Things’, another much-talked about industry catchphrase, companies too are focussing hard on building capabilities to deal with, process and analyse data with agility.

This agility, Mr. Krishnamurthy points out, is dependent on being able to deal with data, without worrying about access points or platforms.

“Vibe enables you to do this with agility because having to rework your code to suit different platforms is not only difficult but also time-consuming. Which is why this will be a huge differentiator,” he explains.

The key problem Vibe tries to work around is that of access.

Just like with JAVA where you just write to the JAVA threading package, this too provides you with a platform-agnostic way of connecting to any kind of data, explains Mr. Krishnamurthy.

Level of abstraction

“Vibe basically raises the level of abstraction. So you’re dealing with data instructions as opposed to worrying about how to connect to it, how to scale this out on a Hadoop cluster. With this, you don’t need to care where, what format and how your data is; Vibe will take care of that.” So, in essence, it helps insulate the developer from these changing technologies and allows them to focus on the task at hand, that is deriving intelligence out of data.

Sanjeev Kumar, Vice-President and Managing Director, Informatica, Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd., says that platform neutrality has been part of Informatica’s philosophy from the late 90s.

“We wanted to build an integration platform that is agnostic to the underlying operating system. Vibe is a result of that work over the long term.”

On the anvil for the data giant is building an SDK (Software Development Kit) for embedding Vibe into smaller devices. “Today, there are a lot of devices collecting data out there and a majority of them are small devices. So it’s an important step.”

Take for instance custom applications, which are today more informational applications than transactional applications. Say your system brings together some public data and mashes it together with data on some enterprise platform. Mr. Krishnamurthy explains that in such a scenario, using Vibe, a data integration developer need not worry about how to connect to this.

“What we feel is that application developers too should also be able to do this in a platform-agnostic way. So now he can write custom application that embed Vibe inside it. So we provided APIs and made it more lightweight and embeddable.