INRA Uses Talend Open Source Integration Solutions to Optimize its Research Projects

The French National Institute for Agricultural Research deployed Talend Open Studio for Data Integration and Talend Data Integration for several research and management projects
Among the main gains achieved using the Talend solution is that we have attained greater scalability and manageability of data integration processes, better transferring of internal developer skills (permanent and temporary employees) and improved collaboration and sharing of experiences both internally and externally.
Delphine Steinbach, Vice-Head Scientist and Coordinator of the URGI platform for INRA

The French National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA, http://www.inra.fr) is a public agricultural research institute (ranked first in Europe and number two in the world) that carries out mission-oriented research for healthy and high-quality foods, competitive and sustainable agriculture, and a protected and valued environment. With more than 8,500 employees in 14 scientific departments, 19 centers and 213 research units, INRA has supported changes in the agricultural world, food subsidiaries and territories for 60 years, with the goal of meeting the expectations of society, such as food sufficiency of the country.

With 266 research contracts signed with the private sector in 2011, a steadily increasing number of scientific publications (+10% in 10 years), increasing patent filings, academic partnerships with over 100 doctoral schools, more than 6,000 international cooperation missions and participation in more than 20 competitive clusters, the role of information technology in INRA’s activities is crucial. In fact, according to Marion Guillou, its President and CEO, “Feeding 10 billion men and women requires a lot of innovation.”¹

Talend: an informed choice with added value for INRA

“For processing several types of data from multiple sources, both in the management and scientific research fields, the implementation of a data integration platform became necessary in recent years within the context of a number of Institute projects and teams,” explains Hubert Pampouille, Project Manager for the Information Systems Department at INRA. “Talend’s open source data integration platform has several advantages: its rich functionality, and also how easy it is to implement its community version.”

A free download offering an easy-to-use graphical development environment, this solution (Talend Open Studio for Data Integration), then the “Enterprise” version (Talend Data Integration) which offers more collaborative development features and high-level support services, quickly enriched applications developed in very different environments, as evidenced by the following examples.

In the field of institutional management, the Talend solution has been used in several projects with high added value:

  • INRA chose Talend Data Integration to load the reporting and indicator production system for INRA research activities.
  • Staff and payroll tracking and the completion of multi-year simulations use multiple sources and require many features: data transformation, data quality, generation of interface contracts to load the simulation module, etc. which were developed with Talend’s open source data integration solution. The deployment of Talend Data Integration enabled the industrialization of monthly processes.

However, Talend also appeals to the heads of scientific projects, as illustrated by the testimonial of URGI -€“ the Genomic Info Research Unit.

Located in Versailles, URGI is a genomics and bioinformatics research unit of the INRA, dedicated to plant genomics and their pathogens. It hosts the “URGI” bioinformatics platform, recognized and labeled by INRA and on the national level as well.

“URGI offers its users software development services, data integration and the availability of these tools and data. The data collected and processed by the platform comes from plant genetics and genomics and the genomics of their bioagressors (fungi),” explains Delphine Steinbach, Vice-Head Scientist and Coordinator of the URGI platform for INRA. “URGI develops and maintains an information system - €““GnpIS” - made up of different interconnected databases and user query interfaces developed, for the most part, in J2EE. The users of this information system are scientists (researchers, engineers) from its supervisory department at INRA, but more broadly, the national and international scientific communities with which it collaborates.”

For 2 years, Talend Data Integration has been at the heart of the platform's development chain. The solution carries out the transformation of the data collected into a format that is compatible with the frameworks of its databases.

“Among the main gains achieved using the Talend solution is that we have attained greater scalability and manageability of data integration processes, better transferring of internal developer skills (permanent and temporary employees) and improved collaboration and sharing of experiences both internally and externally,” comments Delphine Steinbach. “Overall, the URGI platform is very satisfied with this tool, which is used on a daily basis: it improves data integration lead times and as a result, speeds up software implementations. Consequently, we are able to more effectively support the recurrent appearance of new types of data and the increased diversity of sources and collection formats. The solution also helps us manage increasingly large data volumes.”

Conclusion

Choosing Talend for these projects enabled INRA to overcome the limitations imposed by former disparate data integration solutions (including scripts that were increasingly complex to manage and maintain) that had been developed in a piecemeal fashion for specific projects. The institute unified and homogenized its data integration processes, while industrializing processes to improve efficiency.

“These examples illustrate how the need for data integration was satisfied using Talend’s tools,” concludes Hubert Pampouille. “To support these technological choices, we implemented training for these tools starting in 2009, which in the medium term could take the form of a structured course, starting from beginner and leading to expert levels.”

¹ Edito du rapport d’activité 2010 de l’INRA : http://www.inra.fr/l_institut/l_inra_en_bref/l_essentiel_en_documents/rapports_d_activite