SAP is planning an extension to its search capabilities with the next major release of NetWeaver.

The search enhancement will allow SAP users to blend searches across unstructured and structured data. SAP now offers search engine technology as part of NetWeaver. It will extend those capabilities for structured search, according to Lothar Schubert, director of SAP NetWeaver.

"Currently, [search] is used in knowledge management to search for unstructured data. We are extending search into the SAP repository to have a more holistic search," said Schubert.

Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, said that up until now the worlds of structured and unstructured data have been very separate and that there was little technology that links them at the analytical level. A single search across both domains will allow companies to maximize their information assets by giving them a more comprehensive picture.

"The inability to link structured and unstructured data is a huge loss to companies that are trying to figure out where they are going," said Greenbaum.

With a blended search, a user could submit a query that asks to find all the invoices that are 30 days late. The reply would include the receivables but also copies of the actual invoices from a document repository matched up to the line item.

While Google and other players have desktop search for unstructured data such as e-mails and IMs, now that information can be combined with customer address, sales history, and sales order information from a data warehouse, CRM and ERP systems, and customer data integration technologies, said Schubert.

"SAP owns the metadata and is in a strong position to deliver a strong search technology for that structured information as well as in unstructured," said Schubert.

The ability to deploy in-memory technology is one of the drivers behind the significant increase in interest in search. In the past users had to rely heavily on databases and file systems. Now indices can be compressed and the system can hold those indices in memory and run significantly faster searches, said Schubert.

While some competitors may have this kind of hybridized functionality, what is important is that this is coming from SAP where many companies may have a lot of information locked up, according to Greenbaum.

In its drive to create automated business processes driven by business intelligence, SAP is also expected to increase what Schubert called "event-driven business intelligence" and its business activity monitoring capabilities in the near future.