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 free search package 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 stressed that 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, he said. “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 a lot of organizations that wanted access to enterprise search technology but “didnt necessarily want to make the significant investment required” to get access to it, he said.
The result is OmniFind, which gives organizations to access to a search package that supports a maximum of 500,000 documents, 200 file types and documents in about 30 languages. Potential users can download OmniFind Yahoo Edition from omnifind.ibm.yahoo.com.
OmniFind users can instantly send queries to Yahoo Web, audio, video, image, directory, local and news search services. IBM also designed OmniFind so it would be easy to set up, Andrews said. “We have made it very easy so somebody could get it installed and configured in three clicks and in less that five minutes,” he said.
The OmniFind partnership with IBM is valuable because it 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 recourses 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 noted. Working with IBM was a natural fit, because Yahoo has worked with the computer industry giant on a number of 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 based 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, or 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.
It 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 actually 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 it 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, he said.
The company serves about 400 health care organizations that employ about 400,000 health care professionals, all of whom are potential users of the OmniFind search technology that works with Decision Criticals applications, Dion said.
Getting access to OmniFind for free is an important factor in the health care industry, he said, because while health care consumes a significant part of the gross domestic product, some health care organizations are operating on margins as low as 2 or 3 percent, said Dion.