Oracle Searches for Extra-Relational Data
Now that Oracle’s on board, all three market-leading database vendors have articulated enterprise search strategies.
Listen to some folks talk about enterprise search and you’ll want to cue the Einleitung to Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra.
It can’t be that game-changing, though, can it? Relational database vendors seem to think so. With Oracle Corp.’s announcement last week of its upcoming Oracle 10g Secure Enterprise Search software, the three market-leading database vendors have all articulated enterprise search strategies.
Although technically last to the dance, Oracle was at least courteous enough to telegraph its moves well in advance. After all, some of the technology assets it first acquired to flesh out its Project Fusion middleware initiative will see double use in its upcoming enterprise search tool. Last March, for example, Oracle acquired identity management specialist Oblix, which—along with a pair of content management-related acquisitions (TripleHop Technologies Inc., Context Media)—complement its traditional data management and query expertise with identity-based access and content management capabilities.
So does this mean Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g has been cobbled together from Project Fusion’s leftovers? Far from it, stresses Greg Crider, senior director of product marketing with Oracle. “Oracle has a rich heritage in terms of not only database but also search technologies, so this really plays to our strengths,” he argues. “Oracle’s database has its text feature, which allows a database to do sophisticated analysis of text content stored in the database, and Oracle has over a dozen patents on search-related technologies, too. So we’ve taken the technology we’ve acquired but then also added specifically to it to create a standalone solution with additional focus on the ease of user experience, ease of maintenance, as well as integration.”
Superficially, at least, enterprise search might sound like a job for the Googles and Yahoo!s of the world, but Oracle and its competitors disagree. Internet search engines don’t discriminate, after all: They’ll return any information that turns up in response to a query. That approach won’t wash in the enterprise, for a variety of reasons, Crider says.
“People are browsing the Web on their own, they just go to one of these Internet search sites and they get results. And they go back to their office and say, why can’t I have the same sort of experience?” he concedes. “On the other hand, if you look at the point of view of what big organizations are going through today, they have all of these concerns about securing their information, about meeting compliance requirements, about dealing with privacy laws, about dealing with intellectual property.”
This results in a classic dilemma for IT organizations, Crider claims. “[They’re] kind of in the middle here, where users are asking for superior ease of use and these new results, but you have the business people involved on the other end demanding ways to secure this information.”
By contrast, he maintains, Oracle’s new offering lets IT organizations have their search and secure it, too. “We secure the search index in the metadata. We secure it in the strongest level of security possible within in the Oracle database. We have a hardened Oracle database with all the settings set up for providing maximum security. We also have multiple layers of authentication, so at the time we actually go and crawl through the information at the different sources—be it a Web site, a portal, or a proprietary content management system—we actually store with the information in terms of what keywords might actually be found, we also store who’s authorized to see them.”
There’s also a Secure SDK that lets IT organizations extend Secure Enterprise Search to their own custom applications or data sources—including legacy or proprietary email and calendaring systems.
Oracle’s new search offering won’t be formally available until the end of May, but—when it does appear—it’ll be crashing an already crowded dance party. Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc., for starters, have both developed search tools for desktop systems (Microsoft has a SharePoint-based enterprise search strategy, too), and much of the “legwork” (so to speak) of enterprise search has also been tackled by enterprise information integration (EII) pure plays such as Composite Software, which market federated data access solutions.
And then there’s the 800 pound gorilla of enterprise search—viz., IBM—whose WebSphere Information Integrator more-or-less took EII mainstream when it debuted (as DB2 Information Integrator) three years ago. Big Blue last year released its WebSphere Information Integrator OmniFind Edition, which shipped with significantly improved enterprise search capabilities. (http://tdwi.org/Publications/display.aspx?id=7442&t=y)
What’s more, IBM last summer said it would make its Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA)—which underpins its WebSphere Information Integrator OmniFind Edition—available as open-source software. Big Blue positions UIMA as an über-search technology that can parse text within documents and other content sources to discover latent meanings, buried relationships, and relevant facts. (http://www.esj.com/business_intelligence/article.aspx?EditorialsID=7638)
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.