by Rob Karel.

Microsoft today announced the acquisition of Stratature — a small software company focused on the analytical side of master data management (MDM). This is a positive development for siloed Microsoft platform customers, but is an underwhelming announcement for information and knowledge management professionals looking for Microsoft to step up and recognize their need to support heterogeneous enterprise information environments where Microsoft only represents one piece of a larger puzzle.

Stratature’s +EDM product is data domain-agnostic, meaning it does not specialize on any specific data domain like Customer or Product, but what +EDM covers in breadth of data domains it lacks in depth of capabilities. +EDM focuses on the analytical side of MDM, providing business views of information primarily through version-controlled hierarchy management and dimensional modeling capabilities. Although Microsoft has not disclosed when the acquired technology will be available, they have stated that they expect it to support its Business Intelligence, SharePoint, PerformancePoint, and Microsoft Dynamics’ ERP and CRM customers. +EDM is built on a Microsoft technology platform so integration shouldn’t be overly complex.

Stratature does not attempt to solve the more complex operational MDM capabilities — creation of a single master version of truth and real-time bi-directional synchronization of the master data across heterogeneous information environments. Instead of taking on the operational MDM challenge, Microsoft will continue to rely on small partners in this space — specifically Riversand for Product Information Management (PIM) and VisionWare for Customer Data Integration (CDI). Not surprisingly, both of these vendors have also standardized on Microsoft technology and primarily target Microsoft customers.

Many of Microsoft’s largest software rivals including IBM, Oracle, and SAP have had significant operational MDM strategies for many years with mature offerings in both CDI and PIM — all with visions of creating a single data agnostic operational MDM platform. Microsoft has always been conspicuously absent from this market.

To be fair, since Microsoft had chosen to stay out of this market until now I agree with their strategy of starting small and within their comfort zone before venturing out into the wild, wild west of heterogeneous environment support. If with this acquisition, they can address some existing demand of their customer, then it’s a fine first move. That being said, Microsoft needs to decide pretty soon if they want to be part of a software market that has the potential to grow to over $2.2 billion by 2010.As of now, IBM and Oracle, and many other smaller ISV’s in the MDM space, are way ahead in developing the most important feature in winning the MDM software wars: credibility.