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IBM looks to 'master' unruly data

Big Blue describes pieces it has compiled to take on master data management market.

Eyeing a potentially high-growth area in business software, IBM said Monday that it has dedicated 1,000 employees to software that sews together disparate strands of related information.

Over the past two years, the computing giant has acquired five companies that created specialized data-integration technologies. At a conference for its information management customers in Las Vegas, IBM executives described its efforts to combine those different products to address "master data management" and detailed the upcoming product enhancements.

Master data management is an application that allows businesses to aggregate information on a specific audience, such as customers, suppliers or partners.

By consolidating information from different sources into one place, business people will make more informed decisions, according to IBM executives. For example, an accurate record of customer interactions would avoid two separate divisions of the same company sending marketing offers to the same customer.

IBM said it has released a rebranded product for tracking customer data, called WebSphere Customer Center 6.0, which IBM gained through the acquisition of DWL. It also released WebSphere Product Center, which is better integrated with Web portals. That product came from IBM's acquisition of Trigo Technologies.

In the spring of next year, IBM intends to introduce a master data management product from its Ascential line. The product is designed simplify management of metadata (descriptive information about customers, products or suppliers).

Dan Druker, IBM's director of enterprise master data solutions, said the combination of these data-integration products represents a three-year effort to take on the master data management market, which IDC estimates will grow 13 percent per year to $10 billion.

"The reason companies haven't fixed problems (associated with master data management) for the last 30 years, is because it's just hard to do. It's only today that the technologies have matured," said Druker. "IBM has spent enormous amounts of time and money buying companies and integrating these technologies."

IBM competes with Oracle, SAP and Tibco Software, which have initiatives in master data management.