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Search, Integration in the 'Masala' Mix For IBM

IBM is bringing real-time enterprise information to customers with an open beta of its software that lets users pull information from multiple data types from one location.

Launched Monday, DB2 Information Integrator software known internally as "Masala" (an Indian word meaning a "mixture of spices") is now ready for developers to test.

Masala promises a single view of information assets, independent of data type and location. This also means it will be able to grab data from products of such vendors as Oracle, Microsoft, Documentum and others.

According to Laura Haas, senior manager of information integration at IBM, Masala represents the vendor's latest effort to bridge the gap between software in distinct product lines. In this case, the software works with the company's WebSphere MQ messaging middleware to let a customer's infrastructure link data with business processes.

This is crucial because customers are increasingly taking on large integration projects in order to drive down costs. But integration software used for one project can only rarely be used for another; IBM decided to rectify that by reworking Masala to connects data changes with business processes by publishing changes to messaging middleware, such as WebSphere MQ.

This means a manufacturer can trigger delivery of price updates to its sales force, retailers and Web channels -- all based on the single change to the corporate price table and using the existing messaging infrastructure.

Haas told internetnews.com the effort is a key piece of IBM's services-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy, which ties directly to the company's broader e-business on-demand movement to pipe information faster than ever.

IDC analyst Carl Olofson said the key to Masala lies in its ability to manipulate metadata , or data about data.

"There is value in being able to provide an environment where you can say: 'this is where this is kind of information is kept, this is the format it is kept in and how it needs to be accessed and transformed' in a coherent way instead of just wiring a bunch of disparate elements together," Olofson said. "As a user, you should just be able to ask a question and get and answer, but also an answer that is correct."

Masala also features more than 100 new automation, integration and speed perks from previous iterations.

For example, Haas said Masala helps businesses get results from queries up to 10 times faster than the previous iteration and reduces tedious hand-coding, a bugbear for time-crunched programmers. The product also draws from IBM's deep autonomic computing software pool, alerting users of changes in the system on the fly.

Haas also said the beta boasts unheard of enterprise search features that allow users to tap into 85 percent of data stored in unstructured form, including documents, Web sites, and video and graphic files with sub-second response time.

Making the so-called real-time enterprise a reality to customers is imperative for integration software vendors such as IBM, BEA Systems, TIBCO and webMethods, among others. This is because customer companies are increasingly charged with managing multiple information sources, from unstructured data such as e-mail to structured forms like XML content.

But because businesses are often using different systems, data types are often different, making communication and information integration among partners, suppliers and customers a chore.

With products like Masala, IBM is hoping to cut a bigger wedge of the business integration software pie, which Dataquest pegs at $10 billion by 2006.

Written over the past two years at 11 IBM research and development labs around the world, Masala appeared last September and has been adopted by customers such as Merrill Lynch and Quad Graphics. The next version of DB2 Information Integrator should appear later this year.