Cognos adds link to IBM-Yahoo search engine

Aims to provide its BI users with free access to unstructured data

Cognos Inc. added a link between its BI search engine and a new joint IBM-Yahoo Inc. search tool that it says will let users gather structured and unstructured data simultaneously. IT executives say that such combined searches can help users more quickly gather the key data needed to make business decisions.

The IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition, a free entry-level search tool introduced by IBM and Yahoo Inc. on Dec. 13, can index up to 500,000 documents from more than 200 file types, including Adobe Systems Inc.'s PDF and Microsoft Corp.'s Word and Excel, the companies said.

The Cognos 8 Go Search engine, unveiled last spring, can be used to quickly find BI data housed in reports, scorecards and dashboards, the company said.

A new interface in the Cognos tool will allow both engines to be used to conduct a single search.

Joel Silverman, a programming analyst at Alston & Bird LLP, an Atlanta-based law firm and a user of Cognos BI tools, said that support for the free IBM-Yahoo enterprise search tool will help users at the company more quickly gather data from multiple sources.

"The ability to search different sources, such as documents, spreadsheets and intranet sites, would add real value," Silverman said. "If the [new] tool works as simply as an Internet search engine that allows users to scan for data in a multitude of sources and click on links to view the data, that would make our users' work experience more efficient."

Andy Wojewodka, director of business systems and decision support at Del Monte Foods Co. in San Francisco, said the combination of the search engines would also improve the decision making process at his company, which has standardized on Cognos BI tools.

Wojewodka said Del Monte now uses more traditional methods of gathering unstructured data into a package for users. "We try to address this by -- guess what -- more spreadsheets and Word documents," he said. Updating those documents presents significant challenges, he said. Using a search engine to access the now unavailable information would be a "huge win" for the company, he added.

Cognos last April started offering a link between its search tool and the Google Search Appliance that can also search through unstructured data. That link, however, requires users to purchase the Google appliance, which is priced from about $30,000 for capabilities similar to the IBM-Yahoo tool, according to the Google Web site.

Other BI vendors, including Hyperion Solutions Corp., Business Objects SA and Information Builders Inc., have also added support for the Google appliances.

Henry Morris, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., noted that the increasingly common linkage of BI and search tools stems from a corporate eagerness to expand the reach of BI.

"The whole idea is [that] you have many more people in an organization who know how to use search ... than how to use a BI tool," Morris said. "[The combination] is giving people the ability to have a single point of access to a wider selection of information. I call this bridging the gap between structured and unstructured data."

The interface to the IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition is available immediately for free for users of Cognos' search tool.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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