I had an opportunity to investigate first-hand the efforts at Endeca over the last six months after monitoring its activities over the last five years. I have completed a deep dive into the company, its products and its customers, which have been advancing nicely over the last decade since they started, and we now include it in our formal technology recommendations to our business and IT clients.

At the core of Endeca is a unique platform that provides simple access to and navigation of information with a dynamic search capability for providing relevant results to answer business questions and make information available. Endeca has been steadily building a diverse list of some 600 customers that includes Borders, IBM, Ford, John Deere, The Home Depot and Wal-Mart. I want to do a quick review of this technology, what it does and point out where it can help your organization.

Endeca specializes in making information available easily to business users and consumers. Their information discovery approach through search and navigation among disparate sources of information is part of the new class of information applications that I have set forth in 2009 (See: “Information Applications: New Focus on Information Availability“) and which they have been advancing in the market. I have been researching the large gap between application development and business intelligence technology and found that organizations need a faster way to provide the ability to search and navigate to the information they need for a range of specific needs. I am also not talking about just search where the results are like what you get when you go to Google and type in a word.

The Endeca platform is built upon the MDEX Engine, which provides a semi-structured database of crawler-accessible information that can be made available to the platform as part of an information application. Underneath this is what Endeca calls the Information Transformation Layer (ITL) that provides the ability to map and integrate a range of information across disparate sources. Endeca is also working with Informatica to make even more sources available to the platform more easily accessible, as they have announced. This technology partnership with them will expand further in 2010 by using Informatica to package integration and metadata dynamically; that will make it simpler for Endeca to access information. Informatica also plays a key role of making data in enterprise applications such as SAP available to Endeca, which has helped its business grow significantly.

Endeca provides for applications to be assembled in its Developer Studio that can support analysts as well application developers. Application development zealots will appreciate that Endeca can be accessed from within Microsoft Visual Studio or Eclipse-based environments. Endeca’s Workbench helps administrators manage access to and crawling of content to make Endeca work efficiently within the context of their environment and ensure that the information application has a custom interface that fits the needs of their users. The current release of the technology is Information Access Platform (IAP) version 6.1, and the company is working on the next major version (code-named Panama), which will improve performance and scalability for information processing and include analytics and visualization among many new capabilities. In addition advancements in the timely discovery and assembly of applications will make it even simpler for business to get these information applications available to anyone.

To support its technology, Endeca has built a set of tools for information publishing through a publishing workbench that helps build pages but integrates search engine marketing to increase speed of access and navigation of publishing information applications. The Endeca Publishing Suite is mirrored by the commerce suite, which has a dedicated workbench and similar search engine marketing but includes what Endeca calls social navigation, which integrates user-generated content from reviews and recommendations. Endeca has been advancing its presence in the commerce segment of the market and has a dedicated support organization to meet the specific needs of integrating the platform and tools into customer environments. In April, Endeca will expand support of XQuery for more sophisticated information search and also is adapting to other technologies through the Page Builder SDK that will help create a customized dynamic site based on interactions with users on the site.

Endeca also has a marketing and sales partnership with Hybris for product information management (PIM), which is known better in Europe than in United States. That partnership serves catalogue-centric businesses that use both electronic and print media and also addresses the specific commerce needs of retailers. Our benchmark research in product information management found that organizations want to improve PIM to promote operational efficiency and address the large issues of disparate product content and incomplete product attributes from commerce to the supply chain. Endeca has made some progress with Hybris but also works with other PIM providers such as Stibo Systems to help their joint customers take further steps in technology integration and make PIM more easily available.

In addition the Endeca Commerce Suite is available in an on-demand cloud computing environment through one of the company’s business partners. Endeca is also finding customers “spinning” up their software on the Amazon Elastic Computing 2 (EC2) cloud computing environment. This does not solve the issues of connectivity to information sources that reside within the enterprise or to Internet-based information sources. On its platform Endeca has developed solutions for specific industries and lines of business utilizing templates and content that can accelerate deployment for specific business needs. On another front, I see the demand for information availability growing significantly for governance, risk and compliance (GRC) and sustainability processes that need simple but immediate access to information across the enterprise and also in customer management, as my colleague has written (See: “Better Customer Management using Information Applications“).

I’m sorry if I have overloaded you with details, but it’s important to understand how Endeca is trying to provide a range of information applications from across the enterprise to the Internet and to support both business-to-customer commerce and business-to-business supply chain needs. There is no limit to where you can focus the technology for business to improve the confidence intervals; making information easily available in this way can improve business process efficiency and organizational effectiveness.

Again, Endeca is part of what I have introduced as a new category of technology called Information Applications that combines the best from business intelligence, application servers, content management and enterprise search with information access and management in one platform and set of tools. Endeca is bringing a new class of capabilities to business through its information discovery approach and information-focused set of applications. Endeca’s information applications are at the center of the industry transformation to solutions that are designed for business, easy to assemble and customized for the needs of particular business processes.

Mark also blogs at ventanaresearch.com/blogs.