Technology -> Applications
By: Roger Whitehead, Associate Analyst - Collaboration, Bloor Research
Published: 27th November 2007
Copyright Bloor Research © 2007
Despite its modest market size, enterprise search is important as an enabler of other information-handling activities. These include the obvious, such as electronic document management, and the unexpected, such as product quality monitoring. Some forecasters even see the day when search software is part of every corporate systems infrastructure.
That day is some distance off, if it ever arrives. All the same, the makers of search software are these days aiming their products at a wider range of organizational needs than used to be the case.
The Australian company, ISYS Search Software, shows what is possible (see our previous profile here). In version 8 of its range of products, released in September 2006, ISYS added new features and improved old ones. Its aim was to help its customers go beyond the simple ‘query-response' approach to search.
These features included:
ISYS promotes its software as a system for ‘search, navigation and discovery’. Further, the company is looking at what search software can contribute to the supply of business intelligence (BI). Like several other forward-thinking suppliers, ISYS feels that search can do for unstructured information what BI is doing for structured data.
To describe this ability, the company has borrowed the term, "content intelligence", from suppliers of electronic content management (ECM) systems. These sellers use it to refer to a way of easing the search, navigation and reuse of objects in a database of unstructured information. ECM software does this by first automatically adding metadata tags to those documents, files and other objects. ISYS believes this is the way forward for search software, too.
Organizations are investing much money in software to help them to learn more and to make smarter decisions about their businesses. The ISYS view is that if managers base those decisions only on numerical data, typically gathered from a BI system, they will be working on a narrower range of information than is healthy.
A deeper and broader pool of information resides in the unstructured content that every organization has stockpiled and is accumulating at an increasing rate. Instead of letting that resource lie unused, organisations increasingly want to make use of it. ISYS wants to help them do so.
Since releasing version 8, ISYS has extended the software's links to information-handling products from other suppliers. For example, integration with Microsoft's Office SharePoint Server 2007 is now possible. This lets employees use ISYS:web's search abilities without having to leave the SharePoint interface.
Although Microsoft has strengthened the searching in SharePoint, ISYS 8 extends these capabilities, offering results filtering and refinement, for example. Also, it gives ISYS Search Software an entrée to systems integration companies. These had previously seen no opportunity to ‘add value' to the ISYS products. (This is SI-speak for charging for consultancy work.)
A Linux version of the software should further broaden its appeal. The company plans to launch this in the fourth quarter of 2007.
The current release of the software can link to enterprise systems from Documentum and Interwoven, something it has lacked for too long. ISYS also offers a connector to the Documentum ECI Services engine, allowing federated results from a variety of other search engines.
Version 9 of the ISYS software, expected in the first quarter of 2008, will allow central searching of indexes held on multiple and disparate desktop computers. This will enable organisations, especially law firms, to conduct discovery (as opposed to recovery) as needed. In addition, people working on ‘e-discovery' will be able to identify to move, copy or delete items from a results list.
There will be connectors to business intelligence software from Clarabridge and from Business Objects (the new owners of the Inxight search products and themselves now owned by SAP, subject to regulatory approval).
Keeping an eye on the ball
Despite its drive to broader applicability, ISYS is not neglecting its customers' need for ordinary, ‘tactical' search abilities at competitive prices. David Haucke, the company's marketing manager, describes the company as "a mid-market search player that offers out of the box functionality but whose products have capabilities found only in big players".
The company's main competitors, at least in the USA, are Google, Coveo and, diminishingly, Verity (now Autonomy) Ultraseek. Existing Verity customers are increasingly a target, especially in the legal market.
ISYS has been rethinking its marketing. The three things it feels it does best are:
Desktop search does not bring in large amounts of money and risks typecasting the company. However, it pays its way and can be a door opener to other, larger sales. For instance, the US Department of Agriculture recently added two ISYS Web search servers to its existing 6,000 licences for desktop search.
ISYS will, in future, place a greater emphasis on its expertise in its main markets, which are the legal and government sectors and OEMs. Geographically, it will concentrate more marketing attention on the USA and Britain. The company continues to license its software by the number of users, not, as many of competitors do, by the number of searchable documents.
The Bloor view
As last time, the ISYS software impresses with its straightforward, customer-led approach to the task of finding and delivering information. Product engineering follows—and increasingly anticipates—the customers' expressed needs, rather than adopting what seems ‘sexy' at any particular moment.
Despite Google's successes with its search appliance, ISYS software maintains its position as a reliable, well-made product for the middle market. Its affordability, adaptability, speed and scalability continue to be major selling factors.
Potential users, especially in the ISYS main markets, would do well to put its products on their organisation's long list, at the least. Although, as it says, it is a relatively small player, the company delivers abilities beyond the norm.
An ontology is an hierarchical (tree-like) arrangement of words, terms and topics grouped by their relationship to one another. One branch of the tree might, for instance, be about self-powered land vehicles. Its top level might therefore be “automobile”, with omnibus, coach, lorry, car, motorcycle and motor scooter below that. In turn, omnibus might divide into double-deck and single-deck buses. Below single-deck buses might be the categories “solid” and “articulated”.
Ontologies not only list the sets of synonyms within each branch of the ‘tree’ (this is what a taxonomy does) but also link these synonyms to related items in other branches. For example, articulated double-decker buses would probably link to articulated single-deckers. Ontologies can be compiled for particular industries or sectors and are saleable products.
A synonym ring saves making multiple queries or using the “AND” operator to find related and relevant material. For example, intelligence analysts in law enforcement would use a synonym ring to link a suspect’s name with his or her known aliases.
Posted: 27th November 2007 | By Yegor Kuznetsov, Brainware :
Great story on ISYS! Seems to be a very promising technolopgy.
As far as I understand, its engine is still based on keyword recognition (like solutions of other players – Google, FAST or Endeca).
But what if the keyword is misspelled? Will the engine work in this case? Or if you do not know exactly what you are looking for, just have a vague notion?
There are other solutions out there that deal with this problem imitating the work of human brain (we don’t look for keywords, we look for patterns). For example, Brainware possesses a unique, patent-protected technology that sets it apart from other data capture and enterprise search solutions providers.
Its products are powered by the world's only engine that does not rely on exact definitions to rapidly sift through mountains of unstructured data. Brainware's technology allows it to recognize and find data through inexact definitions, patterns and context, mimicking the way the human brain processes and sorts information.
That is why a relatively young company already has such customers as IRS, Shell Oil and KPMG. Here’s a case study showing Brainware in action:
Fulbright & Jaworski: Leading Law Firm Searches And Shares Knowledge Base Smarter, More Accurately
Posted: 29th November 2007 | By Dave Haucke :
In response to questions raised in the comments, yes ISYS does recognize misspellings and makes suggestions of terms that exist in the index. ISYS also gives administrators the ability to build custom synonyms, and the engine will even make recommendations of synonyms based on data collected via the ISYS SearchTrends analytics function.
If you don't know what you're looking for precisely, ISYS offers a couple of other options for context search. First is the ability to plug third-party ontologies into the ISYS engine. Secondly, the On-The-Fly Categorization lends additional context to your results and enables the user to drill down and refine. Finally, ISYS Entities detection capability presents additional context by helping users discover new connections and associations between their search terms and commonly recurring entities in the content, which are displayed alongside results.
There are other functions as well, such as Best Bets and the ability to conduct "Starts With" and "Sounds Like" searches, all of which give users the tools they need to pinpoint the right information when little is known or the exact terms aren't producing results.
I think you'll agree that, as with keyword search, something like latent semantic analysis is not an exact science. No matter which approach you take, context search is an iterative process that requires the user to go beyond the Google.com mindset.
The bottom line is there's no one-size-fits-all engine out there, and without question, prospective customers should ask a lot of questions and test drive the technology before they commit to a purchase. At the end of the day, we feel pretty good about the nearly 20 years of experience we've injected into our solution.
The messages above were all contributed by IT-Director.com readers. Whilst we take care to remove any posts deemed inappropriate, we can take no responsibility for these comments. If you would like a comment removed please contact our editorial team.
We automatically stop accepting comments 180 days after a post is published. If you would like to know more about this subject, please contact us and we'll try to help.
Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
T: +44 (0)190 888 0760 | F: +44 (0)190 888 0761