Informatica Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Our Verdict

OK, so Informatica did pretty much everything we wanted it to do. It extracted our data from our systems, gave it a good clean, and loaded it into our warehouse without so much as a hiccup.

So why did we feel like we needed a Ph.D. to do it?

Informatica is a strange paradox: It's incredibly useful, but it's also astonishingly complex. If we struggled, the average enterprise will have a dizzyingly complicated experience, and that's putting it mildly. Here's Informatica in eight words: You need a data engineer to use it.

Yes, we found the system to be pretty ingenious. It bursts to the brim with features, and loading and extracting data was a pleasure. But then again, TopETL has lots of data engineering experience that the average small- or medium-sized business doesn't.

If you want ETL without the migraine, check out something like Fivetran or Xplenty. If you're lucky enough to have a team of data engineers, stick around for our full Informatica review.

Just a heads-up before we begin: We know Informatica has several products in its tech stack, but we're referring to Informatica PowerCenter, which handles the ETL side of data management.

Informatica Features
Trial length 30 days
User ratings on Capterra / G2 4.5/5 / 4.4/5
Data transformation ETL
Data source connectors 100+
Customization? Yes, you can create custom connectors.
Connects to data warehouses? Data lakes? Yes / Yes
Support SLAs? Yes
Developer tools Informatica Developer Tool, Connector Tool, REST API
Compliance/security certifications HIPAA, Privacy Shield, SOC 2, SOC 3
Informatica: What You Need to Know

Let's start with the good. Informatica is a pretty big deal in ETL. It's been around since 1993, and its clients include Comcast, Conde Nast, and — get this — the U.S. Air Force. So Informatica's doing something right. Looking at this impressive list, and it's probably safe to say that Informatica caters to large organizations with data engineering teams and not SMBs, which is the major problem with the entire platform. However, the company doesn't mention its demographics on its website.

Our experience with Informatica didn't start great. We went in thinking it was going to be like Fivetran, which automated ETL out-of-the-box. (Though Fivetran required SQL for data transformations, so it wasn't all plain sailing.)

We were wrong. So wrong.

Informatica has such a complicated workflow for data mapping that we spent a good few hours trying to figure everything out. Was it user-friendly? Nope. We think Informatica wanted us to establish a connection with our data source, and the system would then take care of the rest, but the user interface wasn't straightforward. Even though we've used nearly every ETL platform in the world, we admit we struggled.

It turns out we had to open the Designer application, establish different sources, then a target connection, then import that connection back into the app, and then open another application. There was something about data transformation mapping. Then we had to open another application.

Listen, it's complicated.

We persevered, and we are glad we did. However, we'd love to know how the medium-sized business owner who simply wants to move some legacy data to IBM Db2, SAP Data Warehouse, or Microsoft Azure is going to cope with all of this without data engineers and business analysts. Data warehousing doesn't have to be this confusing.

The internet agrees with us. We even came across an article with a headline that made us chuckle:

"Why Do My Informatica PowerCenter Projects Take So Long To Deploy?!?!"

We asked ourselves the same question that day. Many times.

Deployment on Informatica is one huge head-scratcher, but there's a payoff — the rainbow after a rainy day. We figured the complex data mapping setup (a bad thing) would result in less-complex data management (a good thing), and we were right. Informatica is an incredible tool for real-time analytics because, once it's (finally) up and running, it extracts and transforms data so seamlessly. There was no lag, no error messages, no data loss, and no loss of data quality. Like we said at the start, it did everything we wanted it to do.

Informatica: Data Source Connectors

Let's talk connectors. It's unclear how many connectors there are on Informatica because the data integration platform company doesn't make it clear if they apply to PowerCenter or another tool in the company's suite of products — why so secretive? — but we estimate there's at least 100, perhaps 150. We saw (and used) connectors for CRMs, ERPs, relational databases, and more.

You'll find the usual suspects like the Salesforces and Amazons of the world, but there were a few more obscure choices like Bloomberg Back Office, FileList, and Lotus Notes. We noticed a connector for something labeled "Email," with no reference to any email service provider, which intrigued us. Oh, and Informatica insists on calling its connectors PowerExchange connectors even though they work in much the same way as those on every other ETL platform.

Informatica: Support and Training

Informatica's pricing is just as complicated as its data mapping protocols, and we'll get onto that in the next section. For now, know that there are different levels of support depending on the user's pricing model, which furthers the confusion. It's a little silly and elitist: Customers on the cheapest plan can only phone the company from 9 to 5.30, but customers on more expensive plans can call anytime they like. That said, the consensus is that customer support is good, with experienced engineers always available to help. (But only from 9 to 5.30 if you're on the cheap plan.)

As for training, end users can enroll in Informatica University, which offers various certifications for master data management (MDM), data integration, data governance, data catalogs, data integrators, metadata, data validation, virtualization, data visualization, Informatica cloud services, and the like.

Informatica: Pricing

Informatica pricing is like the New York Times crossword: Cryptic and complicated. We're still looking for clues. As we said, there are various pricing models — three to be exact — that offer unique features. But, like its connectors, Informatica ties so much of PowerCenter into its other products, so it's difficult to know what ETL features you're paying for.

What we know for sure: Like Fivetran, Informatica uses a consumption-based model where you pay for the amount of data you use. For a few companies, this pricing structure might be a good deal, but in our experience, paying for each connector you use works out cheaper.

Something like Xplenty does this well, and it just makes ETL so much more affordable for organizations that don't have the budget of a Comcast or Conde Nast. We can't tell you the exact costs because Informatica doesn't make its prices public, so you'll have to contact the company directly. The general view, though, is that the platform is one of the more expensive on the ETL market.

In the meantime, we suggest you try the free trial, which, at 30 days, is more generous than nearly every other ETL platform out there. Let us know how you get on with the trial in the comments below.

What Informatica Says

"Informatica PowerCenter gives you a scalable, high-performance enterprise data integration solution that supports the entire data integration lifecycle."

Informatica Reviews: What Users Think

The Good

"This powerful tool facilitates data migration and the integration of different databases such as SQL Server and Oracle. All this under one interface intuitive and simple to implement." — Leah S.

The Bad

"Needs more tools and more transformations. It also needs performance tuning.." — An IT administrator for a small business.

The Ugly

"Didn't meet my expectations when tried to use it along with other cloud AWS services." — Raviteja P.

Informatica Review: The Bottom Line

We loved Informatica as a concept. It has a brilliant interface, amazing data management capabilities, and lots of connectors for us to devour. It was fast, flexible, and offered a pleasurable user experience with lots of flexibility, connectivity, synchronization, and super-advanced cloud services. We expected no less from a company that's been around for nearly 30 years and serves the Air Force.

Our problems came at the beginning of ETL — the data mapping process, to be exact. To say that deployment confused us is an understatement, and we don't think the platform suits organizations without a senior software engineer. Ease of use is not its strong point.

Is Informatica worth the initial stress? Perhaps. But we also have concerns about the complex pricing and customer service models, which might limit some users. Our complaints have nothing to do with the product itself but everything to do with how users set it up, pay for it, and engage with the team that runs it.