On Monday, IBM (NYSE: IBM) is expected to announce an upgrade to its OmniFind Enterprise search software, Big Blue’s claim stake in a fiercely competitive market. The battle pits top Web search companies against business software powerhouses such as SAP (NYSE: SAP) and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), and leading niche players such as Autonomy and Endeca.
OmniFind Enterprise Edition 8.5 aims at improving the way that businesses access unstructured data with new graphical enhancements and support for the latest Lotus applications such as Quickr and Connections.
“By offering enterprise search to organizations of all sizes and embedding search capabilities across IBM’s software portfolio, we are unleashing search as a catalyst to change and improving the way people work,” Lee Roberts, IBM’s general manager of enterprise content management, said in a statement.
The enterprise edition of OmniFind is a counterpart to the entry-level Yahoo edition, introduced in December 2006 and available as a free download.
The partnership with Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) was seen as IBM’s thrust into the entry-level market then dominated by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).
In the time since the landscape has complicated considerably with Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) $1.2 billion acquisition of Norway’s Fast Search and Transfer (FAST), one of the world’s leading providers of enterprise search.
That purchase and the much larger and still-pending bid for Yahoo have sent the unmistakable signal that Microsoft is serious about improving its search business on all levels.
IBM’s latest also comes amid predictions that the enterprise search economy will continue its revitalization. In a study released last month, Gartner predicted that enterprise search would continue double-digit annual growth through 2010, reaching $1.2 billion in that year.
The core functionality of IBM’s OmniFind enterprise search tool is the ability to comb through massive amounts of data stored both within the enterprise’s systems and across the Web.
Part of IBM’s broad Information on Demand initiative, OmniFind search queries retrieve data from disparate file formats such as text, audio and video to create a holistic picture of a business’s operations.
Version 8.5 will offer language support for Japanese, Chinese and Korean, and compatibility with the most recent versions of Red Hat Linux and Microsoft’s Windows Server.
The Lotus plug-in will enable OmniFind to plumb numerous types of internal data, such as instant messages, blogs, presentations and spreadsheets directly through the Lotus Notes client search bar.
The new Top Results Analysis feature will use the metadata recognized through OmniFind’s semantic search to offer graphical analysis of search results. A navigation pane will display bar charts indicating the origin of the search results, so users can refine their search by looking only at items from the Web, the company’s intranet or other sources.
The results analysis is designed to quickly bring the most relevant content to the surface. To that end, IBM will also include a mechanism for users to create interactive dashboards to mine results for more-relevant content.
The overarching rationale behind IBM’s enterprise search strategy is that better results lead to better business decisions. Through its semantic search capabilities, for instance, IBM offers analytics that measure public perception, so companies can gauge the reaction to products, services or announcements.