This week, IBM will deliver its long awaited DB2 Information Integrator, codenamed Masala, whose sophisticated search engine will let corporate users dig out and analyse data across a heterogeneous range of information data stores.
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IBM hopes to offer corporate IT shops better search capabilities than competitors such as Microsoft, Oracle, Yahoo and Google by collecting unstructured data from a broad range of formats scattered across and outside the enterprise.
"With a lot of companies starting to make noises about investing in internet search capabilities, IBM has been working somewhat under the radar on enterprise search that can take in more than HTML documents," said one source. "The company is hoping to come at this from a different angle."
In one fell swoop Masala could solve three problem areas in managing enterprise-level searches: the rapidly expanding universe of data, the growing variety of mostly unstructured data, and the patchwork of databases and data stores.
Some analysts believe Masala is a step in the right direction to solving some of the thornier problems many users are facing in collecting and analysing unstructured data.
"What IBM will be able to do is offer a federated data model that brings together a number of disparate sources in one place so users can search, index and retrieve data without writing to individual data sources as they might have had to in the past," said Stephen O'Grady, senior analyst at Redmonk. "It is a fairly significant step up."
All this year IBM officials have been talking about what they see as a lush opportunity in the area of business intelligence. IBM has redoubled its efforts to pursue that opportunity through a co-ordinated effort that spans its $14bn (£770m) software division.
Masala has been at the heart of that effort to help redefine business intelligence. It is designed to let corporate users create a virtual database by collecting information seamlessly across the enterprise from customer service records, e-mails, tables of numbers, photos and other forms of information and view them all as if they were in one location.
It will also let IBM compete with traditional enterprise information integration suppliers such as Composite Software, MetaMatrix and BEA's Liquid Data as well as enterprise search suppliers such as Verity, Endeca and Autonomy.
"What IBM will be able to do is sell against either by leveraging the strengths of both types of capabilities," O'Grady said. "This sort of functionality really is a weakness among most major middleware suppliers."
DB2 Information Integrator can cross-reference historical sales records in data warehouses with real-time sales information or unstructured content such as supplier contracts. Users can build a complete picture of product performance by data or supplier that can then be viewed on a data dashboard or corporate portal.
An IBM official said the company had deployed an early version of DB2 Information Integrator on its own intranet spanning 300,000 staff and the program was immediately able to handle 80,000 queries a day.
Ed Scannell and Cathleen Moore write for InfoWorld