AltaVista offers corporate network searching apps

Enabling companies to easily find and use the vast digital information they already have is the idea behind new software unveiled Tuesday by search engine vendor AltaVista Co.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company announced its AV Enterprise Search application, designed to give workers access to a wider array of data within their company. The software will work inside corporate firewalls, allowing workers to get more information faster, according to AltaVista.

Also announced Tuesday was AV Personal Search software, which gives individual corporate users similar search capabilities on the hard drives of their desktop computers.

The idea is that while some of a company's data can be easily retrieved, most of the available information is stored in places that are difficult to access. That data could include reports, desktop PC hard drives, databases, intranet pages, workgroup archives, discussion forums and e-mails, few of which are easily compiled and searchable using existing systems.

With information unavailable, companies are losing vast opportunities to make their existing information work for them, AltaVista said.

AV Enterprise Search works with more than 200 different file formats and in 30 languages, allowing companies to construct a complete, searchable index of any corporate data it wants to include. Data can be excluded by administrators from the software's view to meet privacy and security concerns.

Phil Rugani, vice president of AltaVista's search software division, said, "There's a clear need in the marketplace" for these applications. "[Businesses] don't have an answer for how to find that information."

By using an open enterprise search architecture for both applications, with 100 percent Java application programming interfaces, AltaVista said it's ensuring the easy addition of future products as well as applications from third-party companies.

Dana Gardner, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, said the new software allows companies to create "a virtual database and all the benefits that a relational database brings.

"It gives organizations a catalyst to knowledge management, to get a handle on their information assets," Gardner said.

Because companies can decide what information can be searched, privacy issues are minimized, he said. "It's more like shining a flashlight on areas that were dark, rather than shining a floodlight on everything and exposing it," he said.

The new AltaVista applications fall between similar cataloguing and search offerings from England-based Autonomy Corp. and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Verity Inc., Gardner said. "It's less complex than Autonomy and more powerful than Verity," he said.

Pricing for AV Enterprise Search, which will be available by the end of the month, will depend on the number of documents, users and CPUs. But it should fall in a range of about US$15,000 for smaller companies to millions of dollars for large corporations, Rugani said. Pricing for a personal version, which will be available in August, will be about $100 per user.

AltaVista, owned by Internet investment company CMGI Inc., dropped its Web portal operations in February, as part of a strategy announced last year, to reach profitability this year.

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