IBM has produced entry-level versions of its search and content integration products, aimed at giving individual departments and smaller businesses a less expensive way to get started with the software.

At the high end, IBM's WebSphere Information Integrator OmniFind and WebSphere Information Integrator Content compete with the likes of FAST and Autonomy.

But smaller organisations have been showing an interest in offerings such as Google Search Appliance, which offer basic features at a lower price, and IBM is aiming to give these customers an alternative.

The Starter Editions of both Content and OmniFind products are priced from $30,000 - around half the price of their enterprise versions. The software is no different from the enterprise-grade offerings, but is limited to two CPUs.

The content integrator is also capped at integrating two content management systems. Features can be upgraded as needed, IBM said.

Both products allow users to connect to data sources and applications from vendors such as EMC, FileNet, Hummingbird, Microsoft, OpenText, Oracle, Stellent and various CRM applications, according to IBM.

OmniFind Starter Edition offers business-focused search, analysing and indexing information stored around an organisation and allowing users to search intranet portals, databases, public websites and file systems.

Users can plug in more advanced information extraction tools via the open-source Unstructured Information Management Architecture framework.

From within the OmniFind client, users can set up a dedicated crawler for Lotus Notes/Domino that uses native Domino interfaces, understands Notes database structure and supports Lotus QuickPlace and Domino.Doc databases, IBM said.

OmniFind Starter Edition also supports IBM Workplace Web Content Management.

WebSphere Information Integrator Content Starter Edition is based on Venetica technology (a company IBM acquired in 2004) and allows users to use one content management system to access several others as though they were an integrated system.

That means customer service reps can, for instance, access customer and product information from within a CRM system. It's also useful for federated records and SOA projects, IBM said.

The software comes with a library of connectors for accessing different systems, and a toolkit for building custom connectors.