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Qlik on Wednesday unveiled Connector Factory, a new strategy to develop hundreds of connectors between Qlik Cloud Data Integration and SaaS applications.
In addition, the analytics vendor plans to provide a hub within Cloud Data Integration where the connectors can be easily found and deployed by customers.
Based in King of Prussia, Pa., Qlik over the past five years has developed a data integration platform through a series of acquisitions.
The vendor first expanded into data integration with the purchases of Podium Data in 2018 and Attunity in 2019. That continued in 2020 with the purchase of Blendr.io. Most recently, Qlik reached an agreement to acquire Talend in January 2023. The deal is still awaiting regulatory approval and the completion of other due diligence steps.
Shortly before agreeing to acquire Talend, Qlik launched Cloud Data Integration in November 2022. The integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a first for Qlik and combines all the data integration capabilities the vendor has acquired through the years in a single cloud-based platform.
Now, the vendor plans to add hundreds of connectors to the iPaaS so that customers can easily ingest and integrate data from any of the myriad SaaS applications they use as part of their operations.
When Qlik first launched Cloud Data Integration, the platform came with connectors to about 40 SaaS data sources and five output targets. That includes major cloud data storage providers AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft, Databricks and Snowflake.
However, the number of data sources and the both the volume and complexity of data produced by those sources is growing exponentially. So is the number of repositories where organizations can choose to store their data.
There are now more than 400 databases that organizations can choose and thousands of other applications that might be part of their workflows. All of them are constantly evolving with changing application programming interfaces that require constant tinkering to connect to databases.
To address the growing complexity of data ingestion and integration, Qlik is launching Connector Factory and dedicating an entire research and development team to building and maintaining connectors.
That is important for the vendor's customers, according to David Menninger, an analyst at Ventana Research. He noted that connectors aren't revolutionary in the same way as advances in augmented intelligence, but they're the foundation for the entire analytics process.
"Connectors are important," Menninger said. "It's probably not earth-shattering news, but it's the bread and butter of analytics. Data access and data preparation continue to be the bane of analytics processes. And the problem of accessing data has been exacerbated by the proliferation of SaaS applications."
He added that while Qlik won't be able to provide connectors to every SaaS application -- a virtual impossibility -- the vendor's commitment to creating a larger ecosystem for data by connecting to substantially more sources than it already does will be beneficial to its users.
"That's part of the battleground today in analytics," Menninger said. "There are a many analytics vendors in the market. By offering hundreds of connectors -- with support -- they can provide enterprises easier access to their data and more peace of mind than custom or third-party connectors."
David MenningerAnalyst, Ventana Research
As part of the launch of Connector Factory, Qlik said it plans to add 30 new connectors to Cloud Data Integration by the end of June and about 70 more during the second half of 2023.
Among those targeted for development in the coming months are new connectors to NetSuite, Workday, SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Ariba, Salesforce, Epic, Oracle Cerner, OSIsoft, ADP and HubSpot.
Most vendors offer integrations and connectors between their platform and tools from other vendors to develop an ecosystem for data. Qlik, however, hopes to separate itself from data integration competitors such as Informatica and Fivetran by simply providing more, according to Dan Potter, vice president of product marketing at Qlik.
Beyond differentiation, Qlik is attempting to address a need. With so many specialty databases and applications being developed, organizations are challenged to keep up and build their own connectors.
Potter noted that vendors like DuckDB are developing specialty databases while the number of SaaS companies building applications now exceeds 30,000.
Qlik's aim with the launch of Connector Factory, therefore, is to ease the burden its customers now face with respect to keeping up with all the new databases and applications, according to Potter.
He noted that Qlik has the technology to access any standard API to map its data and the relationships between that data, load the data into a data storage repository or BI platform, and respond to changes in the APIs as they evolve.
"The technology that we're using is going to jumpstart API access," Potter said. "Being able to crank out connectors in weeks rather than months is where we need to be. These are big challenges for customers. The number of data sources is only getting bigger."
While Potter said Qlik hopes Connector Factory will be a differentiator, Donald Farmer, founder and principal of TreeHive Strategy, noted that other vendors offer hordes of connectors.
For example, Domo, which in 2022 launched significant integrations with Microsoft's office suite, provides more than 1,000 connectors.
Connector Factory, therefore, has the potential to set Qlik apart from some its competitors but is a catch-up move compared to others.
"Savvy vendors have been building more and more connectors rather than leaving customers to roll their own or requiring analysts to use clunky generic connectivity," Farmer said. "This connectivity enables business analysts to build endless mashups of corporate data and decision processes [that] are no longer centralized but, rather, distributed across numerous cloud apps."
Despite Connector Factory representing a catch-up move compared to some data management and analytics vendors -- and despite Qlik being relatively new to data integration -- Farmer added that Qlik's data integration platform compares well to its peers.
"[Qlik] is looking good," he said. "They have a broad range of capabilities with excellent performance and manageability. And they are very strong in their SAP integration, which serves them well in their core [Europe, Middle East and Africa] customer base."
With Qlik now making connectivity a focal point -- something the vendor hinted at in January when it unveiled its 2023 roadmap -- Menninger said that other areas where the vendor might turn its attention include data orchestration and data observability.
In addition, though Qlik is already addressing the integration of analytics with applications and other data sources -- what some have termed reverse ETL (extract, transform and load) -- he noted that it's an area where the vendor is only getting started.
"Qlik has already begun tackling the next big challenge, which is closing the loop by integrating results of analytics with applications and data sources," Menninger said. "I'm not sure reverse ETL is the best label. But I like it because it communicates an entirely different process than existing data integration activities."
Potter, meanwhile, noted that the most significant piece of Qlik's roadmap is adding Talend.
Talend Data Fabric is the vendor's main platform, and its latest update includes a new data observability feature and enhanced data ingestion capabilities.
Once the acquisition is complete, Talend will complement Qlik's existing data integration capabilities by adding a data fabric approach to architecture and governance. Data fabric is aimed at creating a unified view of data, irrespective of its location, to enable organizations to more easily find and discover relevant information.
"Once we get through regulatory approval, we're going to have an interesting breadth of capabilities on the data integration side," Potter said. "We will hit the market with an interesting roadmap and set of capabilities."
Eric Avidon is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial and is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He covers analytics and data management.