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Still Eyeing Google, IBM Refreshes Enterprise Search

IBM today released a refreshed version of its free OmniFind Yahoo Edition enterprise search software, designed to better enable companies to quickly find information stored within their organizations and across the Web.

In connection with online search player Yahoo, Big Blue launched the first version of the product in December 2006, aiming to give Google a run for its money in the entry-level enterprise search market.

Ironically, the relaunch comes the same day that Google formalized a major reseller agreement with PC giant Dell.

In spite of the deeply entrenched competition, IBM has high hopes for the new offering, which, like its last edition, still supports a maximum index of up to 500,000 documents and more than 200 file types,

Where the newest version of the product shines is in allowing users to easily separate content into different searchable document collections and provides a more intuitive administration console to simplify setup and management.

OmniFind Yahoo Edition also offers search support based on the latest open source Lucene indexing library and other enhancements to improve the software's performance, indexing and custom search field capabilities.

The product also allows users to define custom fields in the index so that field values can be mapped from HTML meta tags, extracted from the document's own metadata or pushed in from an external application programming interface (API).

Perhaps most important for the small- and mid-sized business (SMB) crowd, the search platform can still be installed in three clicks.

During the past 11 months, more than 25,000 companies have downloaded the free software from IBM's Web site. The company claims many independent software vendors (ISVs) and businesses have developed additional applications that integrate with or support IBM's search platform.

"We worked closely with our community of users, trying to make sure basic enterprise search capability is ubiquitous and free," Aaron Brown, IBM's director of content discovery and search, said in an interview with InternetNews.com. "Our goal is to help organizations more quickly get control of all their unstructured data."

An additional goal might be to take down the space's reigning champ. Since 2003, Google has dominated the basic enterprise search arena, first offering the Google Search Appliance then the low-cost Mini, making it easy for small companies to implement search.

IBM's free OmniFind Yahoo Edition is designed to offer the same simplicity and power of Google's Mini and Search Appliance, which cost about $2,000 and $30,000, respectively.

In January, Google responded to the threat from IBM by adding a bunch of advanced features to its low-end Mini search appliance without bumping up its prices.

Google also retaliated by adding enterprise-level security and bundled its OneBox for Enterprise feature into the Mini. OneBox provides search results that include data contained in corporate customer relationship management and human resources applications. It also souped up the Mini's ability to search a company's public Web site and provide analytics on customer behavior patterns.

Google today also took another step toward cementing its dominance in the space, signing a reseller agreement with Dell.

According to the companies, Dell will begin selling the Google Search Appliance and Google Mini through its direct corporate and public sales channels.

"Expanding our channel presence will help meet the growing demand and interest in Google Enterprise solutions worldwide," said Darci Dutton-Reimund, head of North America channels for Google Enterprise. "Dell's partnership is critical to helping us deliver the best of Google business innovation to our rapidly growing customer base

Dell and Google have been working together on search since 2006, when Google tapped the PC maker's OEM Industry Solutions Group to use Dell's PowerEdge 2950 as the basis for the Google Search Appliance.

Despite the aggressive moves by the space's incumbent, IBM's Brown remains optimistic.

"This is a big market and there's plenty of room for multiple vendors in this space to bring multiple perspectives to it," Brown said. "We certainly have seen a lot of traction for our offering and, for us, that's a great jumping-off point to bring larger customers to show companies of all sizes the benefits of the full information management portfolio we offer."