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  • December 11, 2000
  • News

Putting the I in EIP

In its just-announced SinglePoint solution, Northern Light makes its core technology available to individual enterprises. Rather than serving as an application integration portal, SinglePoint integrates content from disparate sources--internal, Web, third party syndicated research, etc.--and provide a single search and retrieval solution in an ASP model.

Northern Light’s VP of enterprise marketing, Joyce Ward says, “At the initial stage of the content integration process, we take the list of whatever the customer wants to search and get it from all the sources wherever it resides. We then pump it through our indexing and classification process to a common taxonomy and build a private, hosted index of whatever content we’re asked to assemble.” This involves building a specific filter that permits a single vendor’s content to be presented in a results list. She explains that each implementation is completely custom, but Northern Light is doing a lot of repeat business with individual content vendors.

Ward says, “If you’re a large company tracking 20 vendors that sell you an electronic key, you may have to invest a couple of your IT people just to monitor that key, which can be changed at will. That can be pretty costly. We’re building these filters, putting them on the shelf and reusing them. We’re able to provide good economies of scale by keeping these filters fresh.”

SinglePoint includes all the general search, relevance ranking, etc., that is part of Northern Light’s base technology. None of it is scaled back. Further, Ward says, behind the automatic classification capability is a taxonomy of about 20,000 subject terms, which are particularly rich in the areas of business and technology, which go about nine levels deep at the deepest point.

“One of the things that distinguishes us from other search engines used in portals is that customers sometimes have to create their own taxonomies and train the classifier. The SinglePoint outsourced solution comes with the taxonomy already trained. It may be too broad, in which case we give you a subset, say only the electronics industry because that’s all you care about. You can use it right out of the box.” Northern Light will also make the taxonomy more granular if the customer so decides by adding more terms, etc.

For customers concerned about protecting their content in an outsourced model, Ward explains that Northern Light takes in the content to build an index of every word on every page. It then throws the document away. “The search box goes from the user’s intranet site to the Northern Light hosted private index running a separate database in our data center. We look up the query in the index, formulate the results with past results back to the user’s intranet site. We can secure that transmission if the customer asks us to do that.”

So, let’s say the first document on the results list is a Gartner Group report. If the user clicks on that, SinglePoint takes whatever kind of authentication information it has gotten from the user when he or she logged in. SinglePoint taps into the ID for Gartner document, the user is transparently authenticated and Gartner actually serves the page. Northern Light doesn’t have the Gartner content on its Web site except in a disembodied, one-word-at-a-time index.

“Similarly,” Ward explains, “for internal content we’re typically giving it over a secure line, we’ll build an index of every word on the page, but the user clicks on a result that is from that company’s intranet, behind its firewall. The document is being served from behind the firewall, not from Northern Light." The only full-text content that we host and serve is the NL Special Collection.

In general, a SinglePoint implementation takes three months from start to finish and typically costs about $250,000.

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