IBM later this week will deliver its long-awaited DB2 Information Integrator, code-named Masala, which contains a sophisticated search engine that allows corporate users to dig out and analyze data across a wide range of IBM and non-IBM information data stores, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.
With the product's arrival, IBM is hoping to offer corporate IT shops a newer set of search capabilities than competitors such as Microsoft, Oracle, Yahoo, and Google by collecting unstructured data from a broad range of formats scattered both across and outside the walls of the enterprise, sources said.
"With a lot of companies starting to make noises about investing in Internet search capabilities, IBM has been working somewhat under the radar on enterprise search that can take in more than HTML documents. They are hoping to come at this from a different angle that gives them some distinction," said one source.
With Masala, IBM hopes to address three problem areas with enterprise-level searching with one fell swoop: managing a rapidly expanding universe of data; managing a growing variety of data, almost 90 percent of which is unstructured; and centrally managing information across a patchwork of databases and data stores.
Some analysts believe Masala is a step in the right direction to solving some of the thornier problems many users are facing with collecting and analyzing unstructured data.
"What IBM will be able to do (with Masala) is offer a federated data model that brings together a number of disparate sources in one place (to let users) search, index, and retrieve data without writing to individual data sources as you might have had to in the past," said Stephen O'Grady, senior analyst at Redmonk. "It is a fairly significant step up," he added.
Since early this year, IBM officials have been talking about what they see as the lavish opportunity in the area of business intelligence. IBM has redoubled its efforts to pursue that opportunity through a coordinated effort that spans all the divisions of its US$14 billion software division.
Masala has been at the heart of that effort to help "redefine" business intelligence. It is designed to allow corporate users to create a "virtual database" by collecting information seamlessly across the enterprise from things such as customer service records, e-mails, tables of numbers, photos, and other forms of information and view them all as if they were in one location.
With the new offering, IBM will also be able to compete against traditional enterprise information integration vendors such as Composite Software, MetaMatrix, and BEA's Liquid Data along with enterprise search vendors such as Verity, Endeca, and Autonomy.
"What IBM will be able to do is sell against either by leveraging the strengths of both (types of capabilities.)," O'Grady said. He added that this sort of functionality "really is a weakness among most major middleware vendors."
In terms of its analytical abilities, DB2 Information Integrator is capable of cross-referencing historical sales records in data warehouses with real-time sales information or unstructured content such as vendor contracts. Users can do things such as build a complete picture of product performance by data or supplier that can then be viewed on either a "data dashboard" or corporate portal.
IBM deployed an early version of this search technology on its own intranet, which the company claims is one of the largest corporate intranets in the world. DB2 Information Integrator immediately was able to handle 80,000 queries a day from among the 300,000 IBM employees, company officials said.