It's been a while since my last post so wanted to take some time and update folks on what's happening around Master Data Services.
A little history
To catch everyone up, I thought I'd start by giving a short history of the product and get everyone on the same page.
In June, 2007 Microsoft acquired a company called Stratature. It was a small but well run company that built an analytical master data management solution. At the time, we were looking for a good solution to augment the PerformancePoint offering as well as a way to pull together various master data management capabilities for Office servers such as CRM and SharePoint. The focus was on bringing the master data to the people who understood it best. Who knows the customers, products, vendors, parts and other key business data better than the business users? MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) seemed the logical ship vehicle and still makes a lot of sense for a business user perspective. Delivering the master data management stewardship experience throughout the enterprise by placing it in the hands of business users continues to be our strategy, however, after feedback from partners, customers and our field, we believed that the ship vehicle needed to change to better align with the sales motions, field expertise, R&D teams, marketing and underlying technologies. We weighed and considered different options and ultimately decided that SQL Server was a better fit. While delivering the master data experience to the business user continues to be a priority, the "master data" piece of MDM, the "management" piece is also important. What happens in the back end management experience is every bit as important as how the stewardship and governance experience is delivered to the business user. As purveyors of a master data platform, we have to provide both.
Project "Bulldog" was a codename for the overall master data management project leading up to shipping as part of SQL Server. When we acquired Stratature, there were a few minor issues with the product, we were a small team, and the number of customers relative to Microsoft's typical customer base was quite small. We made the difficult decision to remove the product from the market so that the small team could focus on shipping a Microsoft quality product. We shipped a technology preview that was picked up by nearly 200 customers and partners. The technology preview was, essentially, a hygiene build of the Stratature bits with a few libraries removed, some simple modifications to improve the product security, and some bug fixes.
The technology preview ran for over a year and was successful at building interest as well as providing an outlet for customers to use the product for initial evaluation purposes and building proofs of concept solutions. A few, we understand, have gone a little further with the product then we expected.
Throughout this time, we've been busy improving the product on multiple dimensions including performance, flexibility, extensibility, localization and feature/function. To date, master data management solutions have been risky, expensive and difficult to implement. Master data management isn't all about technology. In fact, the technology is really about enabling the processes that lead to authoritative master data. But, the technology is important and we believe that we will make master data management technology truly available to enterprise and mid-market companies both from an implementation and affordability perspective.
We're now closing in on the first Microsoft release of a master data solution. Master Data Management isn't a household name, but as companies struggle with managing one of their most important assets in a consistent way with ever increasing complexity of IT ecosystems, dynamic business environments and stringent regulations the need for a way to manage key business data is critical. There is a lot of information out there about master data management, the need and the solutions. Unfortunately, much of it is confusing, contradictory and unbounded by reality. The space is maturing however, and you'll begin to see more and more about this important problem and the ways to solve it in the coming years.
Here's what's happening with the product now:
For those of you unfamiliar with MDM and Microsoft's forthcoming solution, or if you just want to drill down some more, here's a few links to get you started.
http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/2008/en/us/MDS.aspx - This is the official SQL Server website.
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb190163.aspx - A brief introduction Roger Wolter and I wrote.
http://mdmbook.com/ - David Loshin's companion site for his excellent MDM book.