Oracle releases enterprise search engine

Our aim is to do for private data what Google does for public data, Larry Ellison says. by Martyn Williams and China Martens

Oracle has entered the stand-alone enterprise search market with a new product that it hopes will do for corporate data what Google has done for public data on the web.

Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g is a standalone search engine for use by companies seeking to ensure that only authorised staff are able to access sensitive business information.

"We're very excited about this product," Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison said at his keynote address at the Oracle OpenWorld Tokyo 2006 conference in Japan earlier this month. "It's one of our biggest announcements for many, many years. It's the result of years of innovation and hard work."

Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g will support the searching of a company's databases, applications, file servers, repositories, web portals and internal and external websites, says Sandeepan Banerjee, Oracle's director of product management for objects and extensibility. The search engine is integrated with multiple user authentication systems so that a particular user will only be able to see search results tied to the information they are authorised to view, Banerjee says.

That marks a key difference from Google, which doesn't do well searching private data, Ellison says.

"There is a reason why public search is available and popular but no one yet has done a good job on secure search," he says. "No one has done a good job yet searching private data, even though the private data is the most valuable data you have."

The system is built on an Oracle database, "a separate database that indexes all of your data," Ellison says.

"There are crawlers and in a sense it is very similar to what Google does, but you're not crawling the public internet. You're crawling and indexing all of your private databases, Microsoft Word files and all your data and building in a separate Oracle database all these indexes."

As different as Google and Oracle's new applications might be, there is one area where they are very similar: the interface. The web interface to Oracle's Secure Enterprise Search shown during the keynote was very similar to the minimalist public Google search engine, with search types above a centrally placed text box and an "advanced search" link to the right of the box.

Oracle has 15 years of experience in full-text search technologies incorporating such capabilities into its databases, data warehouse software and business intelligence tools, Banerjee says. However, the new software will be the company's first stab at a standalone enterprise product, he says. Previously, a customer wanting such stand-alone capabilities would need to do their own development work to build on top of the Oracle Text search technologies, he says.

At the conference, Ellison encouraged users to download the application and take it for a test drive before deciding whether to buy it or not.

"Just go ahead and download it from our site, it's very easy to try. Normally you buy an Oracle database product, your engineers work for a while, it's really a pretty substantial project before you start returning value to your company. This [Secure Enterprise Search 10g] is very unusual. Literally, within a day or two of installing this product you can start delivering this search capability to the people inside your organisation."

Recently, application vendors have begun to wake up to the potential of the enterprise search market, which has experienced double-digit growth over the last few years, says Sue Feldman, research vice president at analyst firm IDC.

IBM already has its OmniFind search engine, while Microsoft has its Index Server software. Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g is likely to shake up the enterprise search market still further, Feldman says. "They [Oracle] have such a great installed base, they can have a real effect," she says.

Oracle's main rival in the enterprise applications arena, SAP, has its Trex search technology, but has yet to release it as a standalone search engine, Feldman says. Last month SAP announced plans to extend its search capabilities with the next major release of its NetWeaver application development and integration software set to allow the searching of both structured and unstructured data.

Being able to find a particular piece of information is becoming more and more important to companies, with enterprise search becoming "their interface to life online," Feldman says.

Oracle is hoping its emphasis on simple installation and ease-of-use with a web interface for its search engine may prove attractive compared with the offerings from longstanding players in the enterprise search space such as Autonomy and Fast Search & Transfer. "Implementations can take from a day to six months depending on the complexity of the application," IDC's Feldman says, though she doubted that implementation issues were a problem for all customers. "Implementation has sometimes been a pain point [for customers] and sometimes not," she says.

Meanwhile, traditional lower-end internet search companies like are working hard at scaling up their offerings and adding in security features to appeal to enterprise users. "One of the main pain points for consumer search is security," Feldman says. "That's why Google recently teamed up with [consultancy and systems integrator] BearingPoint."

Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g will be available worldwide sometime between now and May. The cost per central processing unit (CPU) will be US$30,000 (NZ$45,000).

Management consulting firm AT Kearney started beta testing Oracle's stand-alone search engine in April 2005 and plans to go live with the software, according to an Oracle media release. Another early user is Austrian National Bank. The department of physics at the University of Tokyo is also using the Oracle search engine for its portal web site, which is under development.

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