Dun and Bradstreet have fired the open salvo in the pending Data-as-a-Service war, with their D&B 360 product. D&B 360 is an open API which allows customers to access the full breadth of D&;B data to power a customer's applications. Integrated with Salesforce.com, D&B 360 enables a customer to pull in data over 160 million companies stored in the D&B databases for sales and marketing.
This is a big step, as it suggests that D&B is drawing some clear lines for customers, partners and potentially competitors as well, to where D&B is investing and considers its core value to customers. As I noted in my previous post (The Next Great Information Company), information providers need to make some choices as to where they will specialize and consider their core business. For D&B, leadership in financial risk management applications as well as sales and marketing solutions marks the extent of the application business potentially. However, for their data and information, there is an opportunity to grow revenues significantly as other ISVs learn to leverage the D&B data for other business purposes.
At Dreamforce next week, the Salesforce.com signature event, D&B plans to announce additional details and explore with prospective customers and ISVs how D&B 360 can help them. It will be interesting to see where they take this innovative solution.
On another front, I hear there is a ground-swell of start-ups to deliver a 'data cloud' much like the solution D&B and offers. This is a good thing. Much like Salesforce.com's push to SaaS CRM solutions and the subsequent embrace of the cloud by Microsoft and others, having a healthy vibrant stable of data-as-a-service providers offers customers choice and keeps costs down.
In a conversation with a couple old friends the other night, we discussed if the data cloud truly is viable. Some of the issues they raised were primarily around what traditional providers have stated as their core value - we link all the data bits together and 'normalize' the data. True, but it is still a valid point?
There have been a series of very interesting articles from the A-Team Insight group that highlight to me that the answer is no.
Just this week there were 3 separate pieces that demonstrate that customers are actively looking to work around the vendor data structure, thus paving the way to a seamless data cloud. From this week's A-Team Insight (A-Team Group.com) there were articles from Deutsche Bank, Northern Trust and Goldman Sachs, which indicated each are: a) breaking down internal data silos; b) taking a more enterprise-wide approach to data management; and c) (in the case of Goldman) establishing their own centralized symbology service. Although this in itself isn't news, (larger firms have always had individual identifiers), what is news is that there seems to be more open talk of ending vendor identifiers - or at least their complexity.
This was clearly drawn in the same A-Team report, where David Berry, member of the Information Providers User Group and head of market data sourcing and strategy at UBS, clearly states customers are, to paraphrase from Howard Beale in Network, 'mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore'. As Berry is quoted in the piece: "Vendors introduce complexity into the market by attempting to differentiate themselves on the basis of instrument identification and this should be eliminated". A clearer line in a sand has never been drawn.
To me, the initial lines of breaking the large vendor monopoly are starting to appear. It will be interesting to see where we are in 12 months time.....