“We constantly strive to build the world’s best software that can solve the toughest data processing and data management challenges that large organizations encounter.”

Ab Initio

Maybe you have heard the name Ab Initio before – the software company that sells a powerful ETL (extract, transform, load) tool. Maybe you know they specialise in high-volume data processing applications and enterprise application integration. But who are they? And what makes them different?

Who Are They?

The first thing I learnt about Ab Initio as a company, is that they are very private. Finding information about Ab Initio from secondary sources was difficult – which is honestly quite impressive in the digital age. But then, the primary source on all things Ab Initio, is Ab Initio themselves.

There are of course the basic facts. The company was founded in 1995 by former employees of the Thinking Machines Corporation. Among them was the Thinking Machines co-founder, and now Ab Initio CEO, Sheryl Handler. While she too remains a mystery, having a female CEO on board from the beginning is a rarity in the tech sector, even more so back in the 90s. The company has its headquarters in Lexington, MA and has twelve offices around the globe, including the UK, Germany, Japan, and Singapore.

Technically speaking, Ab Initio has several products all built to handle different aspects of data processing. But at their core, they are all engineered to process large amounts of data in an efficient way. In fact, they describe it as “the most powerful data processing platform available”, which runs four to five times faster than hand-coded tools, due to how it harnesses processing power.

On their website they present many case studies. While these are anonymised to omit the names of their customers, they contain a lot of information regardless. For example, their customers come from all over the globe and a variety of different industries, among them banking, financial services, retail, and insurance. What is great about these case studies too, is that they are categorised by “capability”. Written in a way which even allows those not fluent in the language of ETL tools to understand them, these blurbs highlight exactly how Ab Initio solved their customers unique problems – whether through cloud migration, data analysis, or automation.

The Ab Initio Principle

But what makes them different from every ETL tool out there? In my mind it’s their guiding philosophy, which is exactly what it says on the proverbial tin – ab initio. The phrase means “from the beginning” or “from first principle”, which structures their entire business approach. From the technical construction of their software tools, to how they develop customer relationships, their focus is on getting it right, from the beginning.

Technology moves at sometimes breath-taking speed, where it can feel like todays tech is already obsolete tomorrow. But Ab Initio is based on the architectural principle of shared-nothing, which means that it will function and behave the same on any platform it is implemented on. Because of this, it can run on legacy hardware and will likely be compatible with new hardware and platforms for years to come. It also means that Ab Initio solutions can easily be migrated onto different platforms, if necessary, unlike an open-source tool which would have to be re-implemented with each migration.


There also is a clear intent behind making the tools look and function the same on all platforms: users won’t have to reacquaint themselves and can get to work directly. While this seems minor, it makes the technology more user-friendly and means you save time on re-training people for essentially the same software.

Not only are these tools inherently futureproof and user friendly, but they were also built with robustness in mind. There are many kinds of problems you can encounter – from bad data to server crashes and stalled networks. To protect their software against these kinds of failures, the tools have a patented checkpointing system. This system tracks all ongoing computations, can restore the system to its last checkpoint if there is any issue – “as if the failure never even occurred”.

Being The Best

“Our mantra is to make our customers successful using Ab Initio. And that’s all we have to do every day.”

Nicholas Di Fiori, Technical Consultant at Ab Initio

Ab Initio have committed themselves to being “the best company (their) customers have ever worked with”. Part of that comes in the form of wanting to let their customers see what they can do, and how they can solve their problems. Because of that you cannot purchase their tools without Proof of Concept (POC), which they will do for free. This conviction is what helps them build strong, trusting relationships with their customer, and certainty that they are the right people and software for the job.

What sets them apart uniquely, is their ideology of ab initio – to get it right from the beginning.


Ab Initio Software – Wikipedia

Enterprise Data Platform | Ab Initio

Interview with Nicholas Di Fiori via Ann Dempsey | LinkedIn