Lotus Launches Discovery Server



Lotus Development Inc. has started shipping its Discovery Server, a sophisticated search-and-taxonomy tool that the company calls the cornerstone of the knowledge-management project formerly known as Raven. It marks Lotus' second major product release in this area in recent months (the first, released last fall, was portal-building software called K-station).

Taxonomy is the current watchword in knowledge management, and while Lotus owes its taxonomy to the heritage of the parent-child structure familiar to object-oriented programmers, the Discovery Server takes it to a far more sophisticated level, integrating content, experts, and collaborative online workspaces.

To run a search, a user selects information in Notes, Domino, or Microsoft Office. Using linguistic tools, the server automatically generates a taxonomy of related documents, experts, and online "places" where people may collaborate. At least, that's the idea: Early reports from users are that the content searches are pretty good, but the profiling of people who create the documents is still slightly off from how people would characterize their own expertise, says Daniel Rasmus, a Giga Group analyst. Lotus is supposed to have corrected the glitch, which prevented it from shipping the product sooner, he says.

Lotus doesn't have any customers yet, though the company says 200 companies are testing a release now. "It remains to be seen how many clients will take it," Rasmus says. "We still see companies that don't use Lotus Notes well. For them, it's a tougher sell: They don't get it yet."

And even for sophisticated workgroup collaborators, it still might not be right. "It's good for those companies that are already committed to Lotus, or that want a single-vendor solution," says competitor Andrew Feit, executive VP of Quiver. "But it's not for you if you want something that has a more open [architecture], with alternative vendors."

While companies initially will use the Discovery Server for internal use, Lotus expects it won't be long before companies roll it out to partners, customers, and their supply chains. Says Lotus VP of knowledge management Scott Cooper, "Eventually it'll go outside the firewall."

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