IBM and Yahoo! turned to a small Montreal company to help ensure its enterprise search tool was fit for release.
The search engine and Big Blue released OmniFind Yahoo! Edition on Tuesday, a free entry-level search service that can be downloaded by novice users. The technology is based on Lucene, an Apache project to create an open source text search engine library written entirely in Java. Yahoo! provided its trademark interface for the service, which is available at http://omnifind.ibm.yahoo.com.
Among the beta testers for the service was Nstein, a Montreal-based company which offers an intelligent content management product used by media companies such as Time magazine and the BBC, and a text mining tool called NServer. IBM started working with NStein about a year ago when it created a standard called unstructured information management architecture, or UIMA. Nstein has since developed its products based on UIMA and has worked with IBM to create a public image monitoring tool to search blogs and other Web content.
“It is not a desktop search product,” stressed Michel Lemay, Nstein’s vice-president of marketing. “It is really an enterprise search tool. It’s not something to index your e-mail. It’s more like something to index enterprise content in a very simple format to make available on a neat and cool user interface.”
Marc Andrews, program director for information management strategy at IBM, said OmniFind Yahoo! Edition is focused on simplicity and ease of use.
“We had been somewhat ignoring the low-end of the market,” he said. “The goal is to enable line of business owners in the department to take advantage of this technology. The challenge until now has always been the investment required to take advantage of enterprise search. There really was a requirement to get involvement from IT to get it integrated. This is something that they don’t necessarily need IT involvement from.”
Andrews said OmniFind Yahoo! Edition differs from enterprise search tools like GoogleBox (currenly offered by Cognos) because it is a free tool and includes significant telephone customer support resources. It also doesn’t require any proprietary hardware.
“This is something for departments within large organizations and SMBs who wanted a way to get quickly up and running with that phase one approach,” he said. “It’s an easy onramp or entry point to search.”
IBM is hoping those customers will eventually show an interest in the more advanced search features of its more advanced products, which could also seed the market for Nstein, which offers an Ntelligent Search application to connect with IBM WebSphere Information Integrator (WebSphere II) OmniFind Edition.
“I think it makes a lot of sense,” said LeMay. “The way the product is developed so far, it will be easy to extend the functionality from the basis that exists today. This version has limitations in terms of documents and file formats, but the comments from our search experts are that it’s very simple to manage, just enough of the features for companies that would want to install it on their intranet and make it the search for that.”
Spokespeople for Yahoo! did not respond to interview requests at press time.