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Analysis: Kofax Steps Up the Competition to EMC/Captiva

The Ascent Capture 7.5 upgrade includes a new Enterprise bundle with features for high availability, remote administration, multiple-server instances and WebSphere-based deployment.

At its annual partner conference held early last month, Kofax Image Products likened its customer base to salmon and whales. In 2005, the document imaging capture vendor had about 7,000 deals involving less than $250,000 in software, and it had 25 projects that required more than $250,000 in software (at wholesale prices). A key goal for the Ascent Capture 7.5 upgrade, set to be announced next week, is to land more whales. To that end, the scanning, image indexing and data extraction software includes a new Enterprise bundle with features for high availability, remote administration, multiple-server instances and WebSphere-based deployment.

With $82.5 million in sales in 2005, Kofax is the market-share leader in the $1 billion capture business, according to market analyst Harvey Spencer Associates. But when long-time rival Captiva Software was acquired last year by $9.6 billion storage and software giant EMC, it put Kofax's status at the top of the market in perspective. Nonetheless, Kofax is challenging EMC/Captiva and its InputAccel software, which has been the leading product for large-scale capture deployments.

The Ascent Capture Enterprise Edition is aimed at organizations that will scan more than 300,000 pages per year, and the enhancements include allowances for running multiple instances of the software, ensuring high availability without punitive licensing costs. Support for Citrix Presentation Server and Microsoft Terminal Services has been added, providing remote access to Ascent modules deployed in distributed locations. Support for IBM WebSphere eases deployment of the Ascent Capture Internet Server on Unix/J2EE Web servers, reducing equipment and support costs in highly distributed capture deployments.

Upgrades to the core Ascent Capture 7.5 platform (and available to all customers) include built-in analytical reports on the time spent on each capture step, process bottlenecks and operator productivity. A new deployment utility speeds that process by letting users prototype, copy and redeploy client and server settings on new machines. Synchronization with Active Directory has been improved, easing group and user security as well as rights administration.

In addition, the Ascent upgrade supports single-page processing (a long-time competitive differentiator for Captiva's InputAccel), so documents can be routed and processed individually rather than waiting for batch operations to be completed. This capability also helped support a new "VRS QC Later" feature that works hand-in-hand with Kofax's VirtualReScan technology for automatic scan-time image deskew, cropping and exposure control. VRS typically halts the scanning process when it can't optimize a particularly poor-quality scan. The VRS QC Later feature flags these exceptions for processing in a separate queue without stopping scanning, thereby maximizing throughput and operator productivity.

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