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Autonomy Upgrades Core Product and Introduces Desktop Search Module
Posted On December 13, 2004
Enterprise software vendor Autonomy Corp. has upgraded its core enterprise information server platform and introduced a new desktop search module. Autonomy provides a full platform—the Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL)—that integrates structured, semi-structured, and unstructured content from multiple repositories. The new IDOL 5.0 features a brand new search algorithm, a new sentient architecture that obviates the need for an administrator, improved installation via a wizard, and many enhanced functions and features. IDOL Enterprise Desktop Search is a new module from Autonomy that runs on any PC in order to make the corporate desktop searchable. It must be used with the IDOL backend search platform. The Desktop Search tool uses "implicit querying," which monitors what users are working on and automatically alerts them to relevant content.

Mike Lynch, Autonomy's CEO, commented on the new platform: "This release of IDOL Server 5.0 represents a major new development in Autonomy's core technology and [is] the result of our sustained investment in research and development of 32 percent year on year." He stressed the difference between the page-ranking technology used by Internet search engines and the sophisticated new search algorithm used by IDOL called Automatic Query Guidance (AQG). "IDOL 5.0 uses highly sophisticated AQG technology in order to deliver highly accurate, relevant information to users in the enterprise entirely automatically. The inclusion of advanced structured data-handling capabilities extends Autonomy's unique offering by bringing the power of IDOL to all corporate assets and allowing enterprises to maximize their investment in both internal and external information sources."

Automatic Query Guidance uses easy navigation to guide unskilled users to the results they require. AQG uses conceptual clustering to determine the context of a user's search and present the most appropriate results along with other suggestions, even from few- or single-word queries.

Autonomy uses statistical techniques originally based on Bayesian statistics. Autonomy representative Ian Black said that Autonomy's technology is a level beyond other search technologies. It uses "pure pattern matching" and thus is not reliant on thesauri or previous manual operations on data. IDOL is agnostic to forms of information (text, audio, and video), formats (Word, HTML, PDF, e-mail, etc.), languages, and even human language itself, such as digital voice traffic.

The new IDOL 5.0 includes Autonomy Retina as a standard component. It was formerly sold as a separate add-on module. Retina is Autonomy's out-of-the-box Web-interface solution, which provides a full range of retrieval methods using easy navigation. Installation has also been greatly simplified, with a single point wizard for more than 300 functions and automatic installation modes. The product now offers better scalability, additional data storage, and easier administration.

The improved architecture offers what's called "global predictive self-management," which means the system will automatically adjust itself for any bandwidth or network issues. The company says this ability to support distributed architectures; identify potential problems; and prompt a real-time, dynamic substitution enables companies to keep systems entirely operational for users at all times. Thus it is able to support large, geographically dispersed, multinational enterprises.

Alan Lawson, from independent analyst Butler Group, said: "With this release, Autonomy has combined a number of separate servers into one, making deployment and administration much easier than was previously practical. Autonomy is continuing to deliver the right functionality, with enterprise attributes of scalability and integration, at very much the right time, and Butler Group would expect the product to continue developing from strength to strength."

Desktop Search

A secure, enterprise version of desktop search, the new IDOL Enterprise Desktop Search integrates with all other Autonomy modules to make content readily and easily accessible from sources such as secure corporate networks, intranets, local data sources, and the Web, as well as information on the desktop (such as e-mail and office documents).

IDOL Enterprise Desktop Search uses implicit query to form an understanding of the information on a user's screen and to proactively link users to related information on their secured corporate network, on the Web, or their local machine, entirely automatically. According to Black, the value of the new product thus goes beyond the users' need for "search." People really need to be connected to information that they don't know is there or don't look for.

A handy feature that works similarly to a "more like this" function is called Active Folders, which manages and organizes content proactively without the need for any manual intervention. Using contextual matching, Active Folders understands the themes within any set of data and then automatically populates the folder with related information, regardless of its storage location, as soon as it becomes available. Users can create Active Folders implicitly or explicitly either by clicking on a document they are currently viewing or assigning keywords or phrases.

Lynch commented on its benefits: "IDOL Enterprise Desktop Search represents a fundamental change in the way users find and use information. By bringing together all the information at the heart of the enterprise, corporate networks, local information, and critical external sources such as the Web, which users need to consult every day, we're providing a unique, intelligent tool that works intuitively the way users do."

Desktop search has become a hotbed of activity, with many of the search engines offering free consumer products. Google introduced its Desktop Search 2 months ago, and InfoWorld recently reported that Google is currently working on an enterprise version. Yahoo! has announced that it will soon launch a beta version of a new Yahoo! Desktop Search tool based on technology from X1 Technologies. Ask Jeeves and Microsoft are expected to make announcements any day. However, the need for secure enterprise products remains, and enterprise software providers are quickly stepping up to provide integrated desktop search products within their product platforms.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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