IBM and Yahoo are partnering on a free, entry-level search engine that will allow small and midsize companies as well as departments within large enterprises to access data hidden away on corporate file servers and available on the public Web.
Called IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition, the search package, unveiled Dec. 13, is designed for organizations that want to develop internal search applications but are either unable or unwilling to spend thousands of dollars to deploy commercial search engines, said Marc Andrews, IBM program director of information management strategies, in Armonk, N.Y.
Andrews said OmniFind is not designed as a simple desktop search engine—it can search across corporate file servers, internal business Web sites and public-facing Web sites. "We wanted to provide for seamless access to enterprise search technology and make it ubiquitous across organizations and enable more companies to take advantage of this technology," Andrews said.
Before the development of OmniFind, IBM had focused on developing the search technology that is built into enterprise products such as WebSphere Portal, Lotus Notes and the DB2 database, Andrews said. Since then, IBM has heard from organizations that want access to enterprise search technology but "didnt necessarily want to make the significant investment required" to get it, he said.
The result is OmniFind, which gives organizations access to a search package that supports a maximum of 500,000 documents, 200 file types and documents in about 30 languages.
OmniFind users can instantly send queries to Yahoos Web, audio, video, image, directory, local and news search services. IBM also designed OmniFind so it would be easy to set up in three clicks and in less than 5 minutes, Andrews said.
Yahoos OmniFind partnership with IBM will allow organizations to combine enterprise search of internal file servers and databases with the Yahoo Web search capabilities that most knowledge workers are already familiar with, said Eckart Walther, vice president of products for Yahoo Search, in Sunnyvale, Calif. "Having the ability to toggle back and forth between the internal resources they have behind their firewall and the external resources that exist on the public Web, I think is a great convenience" for business users, Walther said.
Many business users are already familiar with Yahoo Search, Mail and Messenger, as well as Yahoo Small Business, Walther said. Working with IBM was a natural fit because Yahoo has worked with the computer industry giant on several projects over the years, and a number of Yahoo search technologists used to work in IBMs research labs, Walther said.
OmniFind is being used by Decision Critical, a software company in Austin, Texas, that provides applications to help health care organizations track the education and competency credentials of medical professionals.
With OmniFind, health care organizations can search the professional portfolios of their employees to find out their medical specialties, what training and certifications they have received, and which research programs they have participated in, said Ken Dion, founder and CEO of Decision Critical. Without some kind of search engine, such data "is usually very difficult for a health care organization to aggregate," Dion said.
OmniFind can also allow health care professionals to search for training courses, continuing education programs or research opportunities that would help augment their professional credentials, Dion said.
IBM approached Decision Critical about using OmniFind because the two companies had worked together on other data management projects, Dion said. IBM "knew that we had some very unique requirements as far as searching goes" and wanted to try OmniFind at a company like Decision Critical to see if it could be easily implemented at a midsize organization with limited IT resources, Dion said. The company serves about 400 health care organizations that employ about 400,000 professionals, all of whom are potential users of OmniFind, he said.
Getting access to OmniFind for free is an important factor in the health care industry, Dion said, because while health care consumes a significant part of the gross domestic product, some organizations are operating on margins as low as 2 or 3 percent.
Search for the Little Guy
IBM and Yahoo are teaming up to create an entry-level search engine that:
* Supports up to 500,000 documents, 200 file types and documents in 30 languages
* Lets enterprises search across file servers, internal Web sites and public Web sites
* Enables a user to send instant queries to Yahoos multiple search services
* Sets up in three clicks and in about 5 minutes
Source: IBM, Yahoo