Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g, which the company announced on March 1, scours and indexes enterprise data cubbies, including internal and external Web sites, databases, file servers, document repositories, enterprise content management systems, portals, e-mail systems and business applications.
It tiptoes around that data, though, mindful of corporate security policies.
For example, it wont let users peek at search results if theyre not authorized to see the material.
It does that by direct integration with multiple user authentication systems, a hardened repository for storing the search index and a secure programming interface used to customize the search capabilities.
Greg Crider, a senior director of product marketing for Oracle, said there are two major forces driving the need for brawny but well-behaved enterprise search.
First, users are now very accustomed to using search tools on the Internet, and theyre accustomed to getting very fast results with an easy-to-use interface.
Their employers, however, have to deal with other expectations—from the government, which enforces legislation to protect sensitive information, for example.
"For example, public companies have to protect any information during their quiet periods," Crider said.
As far as the health care industry goes, companies have to deal with HIPAA and its strictures on handling patient information. Higher education, for its part, has to guard student records from misuse or exposure.
"Theres pressure for companies to control who has access to the information," Crider said. "Yet users on the Internet hit search" and get results in seconds.
Oracles press release quoted beta testers who gave the engine a thumbs-up.
"We have been testing Oracles Search products for a number of months, and are very satisfied to see Oracle Secure Enterprise Search enter the market," Thomas Fuerle, director of Web operations, at Austrian National Bank, is quoted as saying.
"We find that the Search quality is very compelling and our users can at last find all the information they want from a single search."
Rita Knox, an analyst at Gartner, said to bear in mind that Oracle has to throw its hat into the enterprise search ring, given the push into the space on the part of both Microsoft and IBM. "Its something they had to have," she said.
She pointed to Microsoft Vistas search capabilities as one offering that Oracle will have to keep pace with when it arrives. Bigger than these players, of course, is Google.
Google has its enterprise-facing Google Mini search appliance, for one thing.
While Google is the darling of search engines, making it a potentially serious competitor to Oracle, it lacks some of the finesse that enterprises need in search—or "information access," as Gartner calls it, Knox said, including the ability to categorize and classify data.
"Thats not Google," Knox said. "Some of it is precision, [as well]. Now, relevancy is based on what people are looking for rather than being able to analyze what content is about."
Oracle is sitting pretty when it comes to search, Knox said, with its databases and business applications forming a huge content resource that people build their businesses on top of. "That becomes important: being able to get to it and make sure all confidentiality and all that information is secure," she said.
"Their naming [of the product] is all about that: This is robust infrastructure you can trust here."