SRA launches Internet, intranet search products

SRA International Inc. last month unveiled a pair of products designed to ease information searches on the Internet or within corporate intranets.

SRA's Intermezzo is a search tool that allows users to locate information in multiple databases using multiple search engines. The company's NetOwl search tool facilitates information retrieval by building an index of proper names on an organization's World Wide Web server. SRA, Arlington, Va., aims to place both products on the General Services Administration's Internet-oriented Schedule E.

"We are focusing on intranet search solutions," said Paul Jacobs, product marketing director with SRA. "We see the intranet as a boom area where search solutions are in demand." He said the company hopes to make search tools a $10 million business by the end of the company's 1997 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Intermezzo is scheduled for availability in July, while NetOwl is expected to ship next month, according to Jacobs. Intermezzo, which supports Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh and Windows clients and Unix servers, is $20,000, depending on the configuration. NetOwl's pricing starts at $4,995 per server and supports most Web browsers and desktop clients. The product runs on Unix servers, and SRA plans support for Windows NT servers.

The Smithsonian Institution's Office of Printing and Photography is beta testing Intermezzo. The office is using the product to search photograph databases. Each database record consists of a description of a given photograph and its negative number. Intermezzo allows the Smithsonian to "use the Web as an interface to search multiple databases," said Jim Wallace, director of the Office of Printing and Photography.

The next step of the Smithsonian's test will be to include thumbnail images of photographs along with the records so that both can be searched.

With Intermezzo, users can make natural language queries, which are translated into the native search formats of selected databases and distributed to search servers. The product also includes a Boolean language that permits users to make direct requests in the native modes of all supported search engines. Intermezzo currently supports the Verity Topic, Excalibur/Conquest, Fulcrum Search Server and Wide-Area Information Service text-search engines.

This multiple search engine support is the product's most powerful feature, according to Carl Frappaolo, executive vice president of Delphi Consulting Group, Boston. He said he was not aware of any other Internet search tool with that capability. "They took the [application programming interfaces] from the vendors and...created a gateway."

Intermezzo's ability to present search results as a single retrieval set of documents ranked by relevance is another key feature of the product, Frappaolo said.

NetOwl, meanwhile, offers information retrieval, automated indexing and automated hypertext authoring through a Hypertext Markup Language-based interface. NetOwl, using SRA's NameTag search engine, identifies proper names and key phrases in text and creates an index on an organization's Web server.

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