September 2, 2003 10:35 AM PDT

IBM mixes search into Masala data tool

IBM plans to add the results of ongoing research in search technology to its software for connecting disparate data sources.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based company said it will draw on its research project, called WebFountain, to let people search corporate databases in the same way they might search the Web. The feature will appear in the second version of DB2 Information Integrator, code-named Masala. The upgrade is scheduled for release in the second half of next year, IBM executives said last week. Early previews and a testing program are expected later this year.

"We're really dealing with the frustration we see with customers trying to find information among the plethora of enterprise data and content," said Nelson Mattos, IBM's director of information integration. "Masala is using a series of advanced enterprise search technologies to give you free-form access to any data that you have."

DB2 Information Integrator, which IBM introduced earlier this year, is a database server that can collate information from a variety of sources, including corporate databases and PC-based applications such as spreadsheets. The software presents the results of such queries in a single display, obviating the need to build a large, single data "warehouse" for storing consolidated data.

The Masala upgrade will incorporate the "Web crawling," or data gathering, capabilities of WebFountain, which has been referred to by IBM executives as "Google on steroids." The feature promises to let a company's employees do text-based searches across corporate systems to find the most relevant information, according to Mattos. He said IBM is likely to use the advanced searching and data integration software in its portal product, WebSphere Portal, as well.

In addition, IBM is designing Masala to better analyze the information gathered from distributed data sources, Mattos said. The software will allow people to tap into a broader range of data types, including multimedia files and packaged applications, he said. Next year's release is also expected to introduce tools to make it easier to administer DB2 Information Integrator.

IBM is one of several companies investing in data integration, or enterprise information integration (EII), technology. Java server software provider BEA Systems has an XML-oriented product called Liquid Data, while MetaMatrix is a start-up focused on EII. In July, Actuate purchased another EII start-up called Nimble Technology.

Although it is relatively immature, EII software is appealing to corporate customers because it promises to save customers money, according to analysts. Instead of investing in building a new database, companies can use EII software to use existing data sources in new ways.

Pricing for the current version of DB2 Information Integrator starts at $5,000 per server processor and goes up to $40,000 per processor.

 

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