Companies Seek Tools to Ferret Out Scattered Data

FRAMINGHAM (08/10/2000) - As companies add bigger hard drives and place servers for different departments in different locations, information technology managers are looking for ways to make the content that hardware contains searchable and easy to display on user desktops.

The challenge, say some corporate users, is finding one way to access both content located in the labeled fields of structured databases in central repositories and data that's stored as documents across hundreds of servers.

Paul Rolich, the multimedia manager at The National Underwriter Co. in Erlanger, Ky., said that several months ago, he was about ready to write his own XML code to create a content indexing and management system, when he came across NextPage LLC, a start-up firm in Provo, Utah.

XML lets users write tags that describe data, making it possible to display and manipulate virtually any type of information on a Web page.

NextPage was formed in July of last year when a group of investors purchased the Folio content management technology from Open Market Inc. in Burlington, Mass., according to a company spokesman.

Electronic Paper Trail

Rolich uses NextPage's software to index and manage individual and sets of documents that insurance companies use for reference. His department converted thousands of paper documents that were created and changed each month to an HTML format, which employs the predefined headings used to build Web pages that can be read with a browser, he said.

The documents were then "sucked into the NextPage server," Rolich said, and published to The National Underwriter's intranet as HTML pages.

Rolich said insurance companies that purchase the documents his company publishes could search the NextPage index of those documents from a Web browser and display the document that meets the search criteria. Insurance company customers could in turn distribute the same documents out of The National Underwriter's database to insurance wholesalers and retail agents.

Mike Maziarka, an analyst at CAP Ventures Inc. in Norwell, Mass., said NextPage's technology is based on Folio but the company has added new components using XML.

The Folio products, Maziarka said, focused on publishing searchable databases of documents on CD-ROMs. He said NextPage has taken the concept of syndication - the ability to either distribute or receive content from different sources - and applied it to the enterprise.

He acknowledged that NextPage's early adopters like The National Underwriter and another user, Thomson Learning in Stamford, Conn., are mostly in publishing-related businesses, which he said was a function of NextPage's Folio roots.

Challenges Ahead

Before NextPage considers markets other than publishing, it may have to make an effort to mend relationships with old Folio customers, said Andy Warzecha, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. "Open Market killed credibility for Folio users [when Open Market owned Folio]," Warzecha said.

Josh Walker, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said that what NextPage is doing is part of a larger and growing trend and that the idea isn't particularly new. Other companies, such as Brio Technology Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., and Hummingbird Ltd. in New York, Ontario, are aggressively pursuing the same markets and have competing technologies.

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