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Ascential to dive into data quality with Vality buyout

Information asset provider Ascential, formerly Informix, plans to acquire data quality vendor Vality for $92 million in cash. Along with the deal come Vality's 500 customers.

Data integration software maker Ascential Software Corp., Westboro, Mass., will broaden its focus to include data quality through the $92 million acquisition of Vality Technology Inc., Boston.

Ascential will pay cash for the company with the deal expected to close in April 2002, subject to approval of Vality's shareholders.

Acsential, formerly Informix, identifies itself as an "information asset" provider and the addition of Vality's Integrity data quality offering brings the company closer to fulfilling that role. By adding the Vality system to its existing extract, transform and load (ETL) platform, DataStage Connectivity, Ascential widens its data management and integration capabilities.

"A key part of data integration is ensuring that the data you are integrating is very high quality," said Jeff Boehm, executive director of product marketing for Ascential. "Being able to embed data quality as a part of the platform is a great new function for us."

Boehm said the added technology will benefit companies by ensuring they have accurate customer information when integrating data from back-office systems into their CRM platform. The matching technology Vality brings to the table will help companies get a single view of their customers.

Ascential made a similar move in acquiring Torrent Systems Inc., a specialist in parallel processing infrastructure software for data warehousing, business intelligence and analytical applications, last November.

Vality's bailiwick is in enterprise data quality management, a vital link in the chain of data intensive applications like CRM, supply chain management, ERP, analytics and data warehousing. The company had 2001 revenues of $21.2 million and currently lists roughly 500 customers in the financial services, manufacturing and telecommunications markets.

Some market analysts are predicting a boom in the worldwide market for data integration over the next few years. Researchers Meta Group, Stamford, Conn., estimate that the sector will grow from $900 million in 2001 to $1.3 billion in 2004. Including the market of customers that create their own solutions, the market expands to $4 billion in 2004, Meta said.

At least one industry expert thinks the Vality acquisition will serve Ascential well.

"It's a good move," said Bob Blumstein, research director at researcher IDC, Framingham, Mass. "Companies that are using one piece of [Ascential's] data solution are likely to let them handle another piece of it now. Companies have previously been on their own to figure out the points of data quality and the packaged approach is an advantage."

Blumstein agrees that there is a rising awareness of the need for data quality to power enterprise applications to their fullest.

"Being able to bring disparate information together and raise quality of that data before it hits the analytics is a priority that people are sensing," he said.

Among the companies Blumstein identifies as leading in the data integration space is Trillium Software, a division of CRM vendor Harte-Hanks, Billerica, Mass. Officials at Trillium were quick to respond to the Ascential deal, seeing it as a validation for the market overall.

"We think it's an absolutely wonderful thing for the data quality space with a company of Ascential's stature investing in the market," said Len DuBois, vice president of marketing at Trillium. "From our perspective it increases awareness about the importance of data quality and helps to further differentiate the ETL space from the data quality space. There's been a perception that ETL could handle the data quality piece of the equation as well. This acquisition illustrates that there is indeed a difference."

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