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Endeca Tackles Complex Interrelationships in New IAP Version
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Posted On April 30, 2007
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Endeca Technologies, Inc. (www.endeca.com) is a company that has differentiated its enterprise search offering with its Guided Navigation technology, where users can explore and discover content instead of just typing words in a search box. Now, Endeca has made architecture improvements that have allowed it to move to the next level of information discovery—it’s using a new data-driven approach with metarelational indexing that lets users navigate complex relationships between different types of information from different sources. The company claims these are the most significant enhancements to its Guided Navigation experience since it was introduced in 2001. The latest version of the Endeca Information Access Platform (IAP) also offers improved scalability and performance, simplified application development through the use of templates, and enhanced business control tools.

"The popularity of Guided Navigation is based largely on its ability to guide people through a discovery process—revealing both the information available and the next-step questions that a user can ask. Until now, most applications of Guided Navigation have focused on a single perspective specific to a central record type, like a product, a customer, a campaign, etc.," said Jason Purcell, vice president of product management at Endeca. "In this latest platform release, we have extended the Guided Navigation experience to multiple record types simultaneously, eliminating the ages old data modeling constraint of a single center of the universe. It is now possible for users to ask increasingly complex questions and switch between multiple perspectives to discover and analyze interrelated information."

Here’s a simplified description of how Endeca’s architecture works. Each document or record is a set of facets. Some facets are explicit, such as database fields or file metadata. In addition, the text itself can be transformed into explicit facets through entity and term extraction, classification, and other techniques. Finally, what the document is "about" from the user’s perspective is implicit, so Endeca keeps a full-text index of the document as another facet. Working with facets allows Endeca to adapt to disparate information types, to make connections and correlations, and to show the content interrelationships to users.

Endeca says that its radically new architecture reveals relationships—and relationships among relationships—in the content and data. The new Guided Navigation lets users explore and discover complex relationships among different information from different sources—like parts, suppliers, and vehicles; trades, securities, and accounts; or customers, orders, and products. For example, an automotive manufacturer could use Endeca IAP to create an application that exposes the interrelationships in the supply chain between suppliers, vehicles, and components to help engineers select parts to be used in new product designs.

See the screen examples that show the search filters by various attributes in the left pane—suppliers, orders, parts. Users can dynamically change the filters and views and create on-the-fly charts and graphs of data.

One Endeca client—the application service provider unit of a major telecom firm—has teamed with Endeca to provide advanced search services and user interfaces to its e-business clients, including ecommerce, enterprise hosting, and application hosting, as well as for its internal knowledge management efforts. The company’s CTO said that several clients had been successfully using Endeca for the back ends of their online catalogs and were looking for other ways to utilize the capabilities. At the same time, his company wanted to search and filter content from many diverse systems, internal applications, and databases to create an internal knowledge resource. The company worked with Endeca and now has a Knowledge Portal that integrates data from 12 sources, including its PeopleSoft CRM, a financial system, a wiki, a contracts database, and salesforce.com. "Speed is often a stumbling block in KM systems, but ours provides very fast searching through all this diverse data," he said. He is very impressed with the Guided Navigation ability to change to different facets on-the-fly. "It lets our users see relationships they don’t know about. The organic building of reports on-the-fly is very impressive. Most BI systems require IT to design reports and prespecify use cases."

The search-response speed is due to the IAP’s new native 64-bit platform support, which reportedly provides dramatic scale and performance improvements over the previous version.

Sue Feldman, IDC’s vice president for content technologies research, said: "IDC believes that unifying access to multiple sources of information, both unstructured and structured, across multiple applications and data stores, is an absolute requirement. The technologies to support information access must be in place to provide consistent access to any and all information. These technologies include search, browse (Guided Navigation), text analytics, data mining, and information visualization. By unifying what [have] been traditionally two separate platforms (BI and search/browse) into a single information-access platform, it’s finally possible to find all the interrelationships across repositories in order to get a complete view of the enterprise. That’s worth time and money, and it mitigates risk as well."

Dan Vesset, IDC’s research director for Analytics and Data Warehousing, added, "The bottom line is that some of the search and discovery vendors such as Endeca are adding functionality to their platforms that will make them more effective in being considered as alternatives for traditional business intelligence platforms."

For a closer look at the new platform’s interface and features, see the demo screens at http://endeca.com/_assets/pdf/pressreleasepdfs/Endeca_demo.pdf.

Last October, Endeca released version 5.0 of its IAP (see the NewsBreak by search expert Avi Rappoport: http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=18424). While Endeca isn’t using a version number for this latest release, technically it is 5.1. And, according to company representatives, the internal name used when discussing it with customers was Longitude. An earlier product offering from Endeca—before introducing its unified IAP platform—was called Latitude (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16238).

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., Endeca is a privately held company with worldwide operations. Its customers include organizations such as ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Boeing, Cox Newspapers, Dice, The (U.S.) Defense Intelligence Agency, The Home Depot, Hyatt, IBM, John Deere, the Library of Congress, Nike, and Wal-Mart. Endeca’s competitors include some much larger players, such as Fast Search & Transfer, Autonomy, Google, IBM, and others, but Endeca has shown impressive growth in recent years and has had a strong influence on shaping the market.


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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