Supercharged Search Coming in Updated IBM EII Tool

Improved search capabilities will make finding corporate information a lot like searching for information on the Web

When IBM Corp. delivered the first version of its Information Integrator product several years ago, Big Blue helped to effectively kick-start the market for enterprise information integration (EII) products and services.

Since then, IBM hasn’t rested on its laurels. Late last year, for example, Big Blue shipped version 2.0 (“Masala”) of DB2 Information Integrator, which (in keeping with IBM’s WebSphere-centric middleware strategy) it has since rechristened WebSphere Information Integrator. Also this past year, IBM picked up unstructured content and document-management specialist Venetica to help shore up its Information Integrator and DB2 Content Manager products.

Nelson Mattos, distinguished engineer and vice-president of IBM’s Information Integration product group, says IBM has a lot more in store for Information Integrator—with a late-2005 release anticipated for “Serrano,” the follow-up to Masala. Serrano—which Mattos, a self-described cooking enthusiast, says derives its name from a spicy pepper used in the preparation of salsa—will boast improved search capabilities that make finding corporate information about as easy as searching for information on the Web.

Mattos is quick to discourage further comparisons with Google, Yahoo, or even Microsoft on the Internet and desktop search fronts. “IBM is different from the Internet search vendors. From a business perspective, we are not really focusing on the consumer market. Our focus is on the enterprise; this is where the real problem is,” he observes. “Customers spend 30 percent of their time today searching for relevant information to get their jobs done. Within their enterprise, within their desktops, within their corporate e-mail systems, within their documents. That’s what we are focusing on.”

Mattos says the “Serrano” version of Information Integrator will focus on three things: Providing intelligent tools that make it easier for customers to understand the information assets they already have; extending the Information Integrator portfolio to include many different kinds of structured, semi-structured, or unstructured data; and—of course—drastically improving the search and retrieval capabilities of the Information Integrator product.

“This is a major effort to leapfrog or even expand even further our leadership in the unstructured world,” Mattos explains. “We’ve got Omnifind today [in Masala], but Serrano will be able to virtually search or query any number of documents, and you know there are lots of companies out there struggling with billions of e-mails that they have to maintain for regulatory compliance reasons.”

He uses the example of a pharmacy that could deploy Serrano to search across patient records and exams and discover potentially lethal combinations of drugs. “The expansion of the kinds of applications that we can deal with, such as analyzing patient records to discover drugs that may have problems give the end user a quite different experience when dealing with these enterprise search engines,” he says. Another example, says Mattos, might involve—for instance—a knowledge worker searching for the name of the president of Brazil: Even if there isn’t a single document anywhere in the organization which explicitly states that Lula Da Silva is the president of Brazil, Serrano’s search capabilities will be able to connect the dots based on fragments of information.

What’s more, he says, IBM plans to expose these capabilities to business partners and other ISVs: “We will be opening up that infrastructure in Information Integrator so that partners who have expertise can plug in their industry knowledge into that to build sophisticated solutions for a given industry.”

Currently, about 1,700 customers are using the Information Integrator product. Of these, Mattos says, fully 40 percent aren’t using that product in conjunction with IBM’s DB2 Universal Database. “In 2004 alone, I had between 350 and 400 brand new [non-DB2] customers using this technology, and these are customers that have never had the DB2 technology in their shop. Oracle customers, SQL Server customers, Teradata customers,” he explains.

Mattos expects that the Information Integrator product base will continue to grow, fueled by data-consolidation efforts, mergers and acquisitions, “paperless” initiatives, and other trends. “Anybody who is going through a merger and acquisition, for example, has the need for something like this, to provide that integrated view across two different infrastructures, too different systems,” he argues. “Anybody that is doing data consolidation, any customer that is trying to conform to regulatory compliance—and there’s the big effort in health care to have an integrated view of patients, and that requires you to have the ability to get content out of content repositories after they have digitized all of that and stored it in a content management system.”

Mattos says Big Blue plans to deliver future Information Integrator updates about once every twelve months. In Serrano’s case, he adds, customers should look for the first beta sometime this summer—that should confirm that Serrano is on schedule. “Serrano is likely to come out this year, I would say fourth quarter. It is right now in alpha, and sometime in the summer we’ll be going out in an open beta. Then after that, we’ll release the final [gold code].”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.