Put to the Test: Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management

Put to the Test: Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g

Security features help set SES 10g apart, but dependence on the vendor's infrastructure makes this 'standalone' offering best suited to Oracle shops.

• Performs federated searches across non-Oracle systems and repositories.
• Broad functionality and administrative controls.
• Robust and flexible security controls

Ample linguistic features inherited from Oracle Text.

• More expensive than previous Oracle search products
• Requires ongoing administrative expertise for maximum value.
• Advanced features, such as metadata extraction, aren't as robust as competing best-of-breed alternativesl.

Oracle has offered an enterprise search product for almost 15 years. In the 1990s, it rolled out search solutions that stirred PL/SQL queries with dollops of linguistics. Enterprise search products that emerged from this work include ConText, InterMedia, Ultra Search and, perhaps the most well-known, Oracle Text. Now the company has come out with yet another product: Secure Enterprise Search (SES) 10g.

Two features help set SES 10g apart. First, it is a standalone system, which makes the product more interesting to non-Oracle shops. The catch--and there usually is one in any enterprise search license--is that some features require the licensee to embrace other Oracle software. For security, the product leans on Oracle Internet Directory and Single Sign-On; these are components of Oracle Application Server, and the latter must be licensed and installed independently from SES 10g.

The second feature that sets SES 10g apart is security. When properly configured, most enterprise search systems can take advantage of security settings over LDAP or third-party add-ons. But SES 10g expands security from safeguarding the search index to Oracle's organizationwide model for managing access to specific items of content in Oracle databases as well as third-party applications. This model lets SES 10g process a query across multiple content repositories that may contain identically named files with different owners, yet the product "knows" who has permission to access each file. When properly set up, SES 10g can ensure that authorized users see only results to which each has access.

Cut To The Source

Oracle's latest offering is functionally similar to other major enterprise search products, including those from Autonomy and Fast Search & Transfer. SES 10g spiders content, indexes it, processes queries and displays results. Oracle's document processing is language-aware and provides support for English, major European languages, Arabic and Chinese, among others.

Like other vendors, Oracle emphasizes its ability to generate metadata (information about a document). In processing queries, SES 10g uses the words and phrases in the document plus metadata--on the creator of the document, file type, date and time stamps, security information, creator's schedule information and hyperlinks to determine relevancy. A user can look at a document, see the creator's calendar and generate a list of links in a relevant document with a mouse click.

The standard SES 10g results display looks a great deal like those of Google's OneBox or Microsoft's SharePoint Search Server (see screen at right), but you can customize the look and feel with style sheets. Unlike the Google Appliance, but like other high-end search products, the SES 10g administrator has access to a bevy of knobs and dials to tune relevancy, determine results weighting ("hit boosting") and set options for creating cached instances of source documents to eliminate 404 errors and speed document rendering.

Federation can reduce costs. If an application already implements some kind of search, many organizations do not want to reindex that application's content. Duplicate search systems, which abound in Fortune 1000 companies, can double or triple index storage and leave users baffled about which search system to use. SES 10g APIs let energetic developers hook SES 10g into non-Oracle applications, third-party search index files and mainframe legacy repositories. A federated search can then retrieve documents from multiple sources including a Web site, an Oracle database, a PeopleSoft folder, the Internet or a third-party application repository, such as a Documentum content store.

To work its federating magic, SES 10g requires that each source implement a Web service using the query API. Documentation provides information and sample scripts, but as with other enterprise search systems, you'll need experienced staff to tweak the system to ensure that bottlenecks do not develop that could slow index updating or query processing.

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