IBM Gets Ready to Google-ize the Enterprise

Big Blue is on a content management roll, announcing that the U.S. Army has plugged into its DB2 Content Management software. But Janet Perna told that the best is yet to come, as IBM quietly plugs away at what she called the first-ever hybrid d

Big Blue is on a content management roll, announcing Friday that none less than the U.S. Army has plugged into its DB2 Content Management software.

The customer win is a big one for IBM—as in, a multimillion-dollar deal—and it highlights much of the companys state-of-the-art search and content management technology: DB2 Content Manager, WebSphere, DB2 Information Integrator and Tivoli Monitoring. The technologies will be used to automate the Armys management of what has been a system of paper forms for the past 200 years.

But the best is yet to come, as IBM quietly plugs away at what Janet Perna told is the first-ever hybrid database—one that will store XML natively and that gives users the ability to search both structured and unstructured data tucked away in forms ranging from e-mail to images.

Of course, Oracle Corp. begs to differ when it comes to the "first-ever" bit. Bob Shimp, vice president of technology marketing at the company, noted that Oracle databases have supported a native XML data type for several years.

Document storage company Iron Mountain Inc., for one, is running a 15-terabyte XML database based on Oracle databases, Shimp said. In addition, Release 2 of Database 10g will feature XQuery, the native XML search format, as a standard feature.

"There are a lot of arcane architectural subtleties when you get into database format," Shimp said when attempting to explain the two database giants conflicting statements over who was first to feature native XML storage.

"In the end, those dont matter. The key test is, Can you put [data] in an XML format? Can you read it out in an XML format? Thats all the customers care about, and we can do that."

In the meantime, IBMs currently unnamed software is now in alpha mode with several customers, according to Perna, who is general manager of IBMs Information Management group. IBM will take the software into beta testing in the second half of next year.

The native XML support will allow DB2 to store XML documents in their native XML form, as opposed to taking that data and trying to make it look like relational data in columns and rows. "What weve been building into DB2 is more and more analytical capabilities, like data mining algorithms" to enable the new capabilities, Perna said.

Not only will that strategy increase the speed of querying, but IBMs emphasis on search ultimately will enable an enterprise search capability that approximates and expands on the power of a search engine such as Google.

With the future database technology, Perna said users will be able to search within a document that contains, for example, a picture of a widget, a technical specification for what the widget is, the number of widgets in inventory level, their cost and other information.

"Thats what native XML enables," Perna said. "Being able to search within the body, through XQuery or SQL. Users wont have to select [whether they search via XQuery or SQL], theyll be able to intermix those with either all XML or all XQuery. It will be invisible."

IBM has been putting its money where its mouth is. The company has more than 300 developers working on search and content management research and development.

Its also been on a search/content management buying spree: In August, the companys Information Management Division announced plans to buy its sixth company, unstructured data integration company Venetica Corp.

Before that, IBM purchased BI tools vendor Alphablox Corp. in July 2004, document management software vendor Green Pasture Software Inc. in December 2003, information integration company CrossAccess Corp. in October 2003, Tarian Softwares records management software in November 2002, and Informix Softwares database business in 2001.

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