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Is Ab Initio Worth Evaluating?

Ab Initio has been around for long enough to make a name for themselves in the ETL space. Their marketing approach appears to be one of mystique: maintain secrecy around the product while allowing some information out about the high-end customers, creating interest because of the tantalizing tidbits they provide. Their web site is more typical of an advertising firm with nothing meaningful to say than a technology company.

I've seen other software comparnies do this and it works up to a point. Once the company has been around long enough, the approach stops working so well. Enough people have used the product that it becomes easier to find out the good and bad points about the product. Ab Initio uses non-disclosure agreements to try and stifle public discussion as much as possible, maintaining secrecy.

Another reason the secretive approach becomes less effective is that it doesn't scale. There's a point at which the market is aware of the company and interested, but the secrecy limits further exposure. It also limits the market supporters (analysts and consulting firms) from working with the company. If I have to sign an NDA just to see a presentation about the product, and there are seveal other companies clamoring for attention, I probably won't bother. As an analyst or consultant, what good is seeing the product and company if you can't talk about it?

In Ab Initio's case, the market perception is of a high-performance ETL product for large data volumes, similar to Torrent (acquired by Ascential). With both Ascential and Informatica releasing product versions that can scale to large data volumes across a workgroup of servers, the question is one of relative performance and cost. In Ab Initio's case this is hard to judge, because they won't say how much it costs, and the only word is that it is high-cost relative to other vendors.

The lack of information about product features also means that it is difficult to see what you trade in ETL features for that performance, and whether the performance is really that much better than the other vendors. Smart when you are small and can't afford a marketing budget. Maybe not so smart when you have more market exposure. Eventually people begin to think that maybe you are simply protecting margins and the product is ok, but not so much better than the competition that it rates the exorbitant cost.

In a discussion forum I read a consultant's story of trying to get training on the product. Ab Initio would not provide training because they only allow training for companies that already own the product (exception: Knightsbridge, from what I have learned). That person was unable to work on the data warehouse project because they wouldn't allow him to get training, so they've created a critic.

I believe Ab Initio is reaching the point of maximum returns, and it is starting to hurt them. I was asked if I would be adding them to my ETL evaluation course, and the answe is "no" because I can't get enough information to make it useful, at least not without more work than it's worth. My talks with other analysts have turned up the same thing. In some cases there is outright hostility, and both analysts and consultants are telling their customers that they should not consider the company because they are hard to work with and only provide content-free marketing unless you go through a ridiculous NDA process.

That's why Ab Initio is not included in any evaluations I've been doing. I can only offer an opinion based on what I've seen, which is a typical ETL tool, not as easy to develop with as many others, but with an apparent edge in performance at the very high end. That leads me to conclude that if you aren't trying to process a billion rows a day, it's probably not going to be worth the trouble or expense of including them.

I just enabled blogger's comments because the old comment service was acting funny. There weren't a lot of comments so I didn't save the old posts. It's a fresh start. Critique my critique of Ab Initio!
Will really appreciate if you could answer the following queries I have about Ab Initio
* Does it have a separate Reporting tool of its own?
* If yes, then is it integrated to Excel? As in, can i do an export and a formatted export(retaining all the formatting info) from the reports generated to
Excel sheets easily or not?
*Metadata Analysis in AbInitio
* In case of absence of a reporting tool, is it compatible with any other BI tool
such as Cognos Impromptu/Hyperion/Microstrategy?
* Data transfer possible both from and to Mainframes?
* Data transfer possible both from and to Databases like Oracle, DB2, MS Sql server, etc??
Nice info
I have used Ab Initio at a large firm. Nothing great about it. Informatica or Talend do equally well or better in some cases.
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