Oracle has entered the standalone enterprise search market with Secure Enterprise Search 10g. The company hopes that the new product will do for corporate data what Google has done for public data on the web.

"We're very excited about this product," said Larry Ellison, Oracle's chief executive officer, speaking at the Oracle OpenWorld Tokyo 2006. "It's one of our biggest announcements for many, many years. It's the result of years of innovation and hard work."

Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g will support the searching of a company's databases, applications, file servers, repositories, portals and internal and external webites, according to Sandeepan Banerjee, director of product management for objects and extensibility with Oracle. The search engine is integrated with multiple user authentication systems so that a particular user will only be able to see search results tied to the information they are authorised to view, he said.

"Our search tool understands which information goes to which user," said Greg Crider, senior director for technology marketing with Oracle.

Ellison had indicated that this was a key difference from Google, which doesn't do well searching private data.

"There is a reason why public search is available and popular but no one yet has done a good job on secure search," he said. "No one has done a good job yet searching private data, even though the private data is the most valuable data you have."

"It's a separate database that indexes all of your data," he said. "There are crawlers, in a sense it is very similar to what Google does, but you're not crawling the public Internet. You're crawling and indexing all of your private databases, Microsoft Word files and all your data and building in a separate Oracle database all these indexes."

As different as Google and Oracle's new applications might be, there is one are where they are very similar: the interface. The Web interface to Oracle's Secure Enterprise Search shown during the keynote was very similar to the minimalist public Google search engine, with search types above a centrally placed text box and an "advanced search" link to the right of the box.

Oracle has 15 years of experience in full-text search technologies incorporating such capabilities into its databases, data warehouse software and business intelligence tools, according to Banerjee. However, the new software will be the company's first stab at a stand-alone enterprise product, he said. Previously, a customer wanting such stand-alone capabilities would need to do their own development work to build on top of the Oracle Text search technologies, Banerjee added.

Ellison encouraged users to download the application and take it for a test drive before deciding whether to buy it or not.

"Just go ahead and download it from our site, it's very easy to try," he said. "Normally you buy an Oracle database product, your engineers work for a while, it's really a pretty substantial project before you start returning value to your company. This is very unusual. Literally, within a day or two of installing this product you can start delivering this search capability to the people inside your organization."

Recently, application vendors have begun to wake up to the potential of the enterprise search market which has experienced double-digit growth over the last few years, according to Sue Feldman, research vice president with IDC.

IBM already has its OmniFind search engine, while Microsoft has its Index Server software. Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g is likely to shake up the enterprise search market still further, Feldman said. "They [Oracle] have such a great installed base, they can have a real effect," she added.

Oracle's main rival in the enterprise applications arena, SAP, has its Trex search technology, but has yet to release it as a standalone search engine, she added. Last month, SAP announced plans to extend its search capabilities with the next major release of its NetWeaver application development and integration software set to allow the searching of both structured and unstructured data.

Being able to find a particular piece of information is becoming more and more important to companies, with enterprise search becoming "their interface to life online," Feldman said.

Meanwhile, traditional lower-end Internet search companies like Google are working hard at scaling up their offerings and adding in security features to appeal to enterprise users. "One of the main pain points for consumer search is security," Feldman said. "That's why Google recently teamed up with [consultancy and systems integrator] BearingPoint Inc."

Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g will be available worldwide sometime between now and May, according to Oracle's Crider. User-based pricing is still being finalised and should be announced Monday, he said. The cost per central processing unit (CPU) will be US$30,000, Crider added.