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IBM's 'Serrano' to Spice Up Corporate Search

IBM has grand plans for its corporate search efforts, including new intelligent tools that can discover what information assets customers access from repositories and how they relate.

These are some of the fruits that will appear in the company's next version of Information Integrator, code-named Serrano, according to Nelson Mattos, distinguished engineer and vice president of information integration at IBM.

Serrano, named for a spicy chili pepper, has been rebranded as WebSphere from DB2. Mattos said IBM decided to rebrand based on feedback from customers who believed WebSphere was more closely associated with heterogeneous integration than DB2.

That is hardly the only change.

The first Information Integrator helps users connect to different repositories and databases, regardless of whether they include data or files stored on DB2, SQL Server or Oracle database systems.

Serrano will include new intelligent tools that can discover exactly what information assets customers can access from each repository and how they relate to each other. This new information will help customers better pinpoint data in large enterprise systems, where information retrieval is often a daunting task.

"This will significantly increase the return of investment for customers because they will be able to simplify the development of applications," Mattos said, noting that corporate employees spend an average of 30 percent of their time looking for data. "Information Integrator will automatically do the discovery of assets."

Serrano will also feature the opening of OmniFind, a search utility IBM wrote to help corporate customers zero in on unstructured information in seconds. The software will now provide text mining and text analytics in a pluggable framework for partners and customers, helping ISVs build software that extracts underlying meaning.

For example, pharmaceutical customers may use the new OmniFind features to analyze millions of patient health histories to determine dangerous drug interactions. Mattos said he also has financial institutions analyzing news feeds in real time to see if they will have a positive or negative impact on company stocks.

Lastly, Serrano will address customers who need to search across billions of archived documents to meet compliance and regulatory needs. This will make it easier for customers developing applications that extend across structured and unstructured data.

"Customers want actionable search: to find documents and act on those documents," Mattos said. In the case of the health care company and patients, OmniFind would be able to not only find case files, but also help users log annotations about patients and present that crucial information to doctors.

Such capabilities are a far cry from traditional Internet-based search software from Google, Yahoo or Microsoft. As far as Mattos is concerned, Internet search and enterprise search are two different markets.

Mattos said Information Integrator is blazing a trail in the nascent market for enterprise search, while search products from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft focus on helping consumers find a variety of information.

"Internet search products today cannot do this," Mattos said. "They are a read-only environment and they don't even have the requirement in the Internet so you don't own the document that you find."

IBM has several other search initiatives in the works, including Practical Intelligent Question Answering Technology (PIQUANT), which analyzes the semantic structure of a passage, culling information that wasn't overtly present on a database or file system and Web Fountain, which uses Web services to perform searches.