Dieselpoint Search Engine Optimized for OS/400
July 20, 2004 Alex Woodie
There are few Java-based search engines on the market, and even fewer targeting the OS/400 platform. However, one Java-based search engine developer, Dieselpoint, sees a potential niche in this space. The company’s Dieselpoint Search engine has been successfully deployed on British retailer HMV‘s iSeries-based Web site, and today the companies are developing a link to allow HMV clerks to access the search engine from their green-screen point-of-sale (POS) systems.
With the Christmas 2003 shopping rush nearing, HMV, the UK’s largest retailer of music, DVDs, videos, and computer games, needed to bolster the search capabilities of its www.hmv.co.uk Web site, or risk losing sales, says Chris Cleveland, chief executive and founder of Chicago-based Dieselpoint.
Searching for album names was a horrendously slow experience because each search hit the entire database of several hundred thousand titles. The company could have sped up these searches considerably by indexing its database with any of the major search engines from, for instance, Varity or Autonomy.
HMV tried several of the major providers but found that none of them performed as well as Dieselpoint in the OS/400 environment, Cleveland says. “The trouble is, very few of them write software for the IBM platforms specifically,” he says. “They’re mostly running on Intel, Solaris, or Windows. And none of them is 100% Pure Java, as we are.”
After some tweaking by IBM’s Rochester performance gurus, and an operating system patch to resolve a problem, the Dieselpoint search and navigation software was fully operational at HMV, and today visitors to its Web site enjoy a 200 millisecond average response time, Cleveland says. In addition to albums, HMV has added song titles to its music search and is considering adding song lyrics, too, which speaks notably of Dieselpoint’s prowess as a search engine.
What’s more, the companies are working to make the Dieselpoint search capabilities available to clerks in HMV stores. Today, users with Web browsers have better access to HMV’s music selection than clerks, who use an RPG-based POS system. By building an RPG-Java link into the greenscreen application, HMV clerks will be able to use the same Diesel-powered search capabilities as the typical home user.
NOT JUST WORDS
Dieselpoint is equipped with some pretty sophisticated linguistics, including word stemming, for English and other languages. Like Google, it suggests alternative search terms when there’s a spelling error.
But Dieselpoint isn’t just a search engine for keywords. It also packs “parametric” search capabilities and “assisted navigation” that can help users to learn about a company’s offerings, and to quickly get them to the item they’re looking for. Parametric search refers to sorting offerings by parameters, which could be located in fields in a database or an XML document.
Cleveland counts Dieselpoint’s guided navigation as one of the things that separates it from other search engines, in addition to its J2EE architecture. “It’s not just full text search,” he says. “We also take advantage of the structure, the metadata in a catalog, and use it to build navigational menus. We present the user with options in context.”
Take the cordless drill, for example. If the user searches for “drills,” Dieselpoint will show results for items containing both “drill” and “drills,” and it will also show a list of categories, such as cordless drills and hand drills, along with number of hits in each. The user can manually browse through these offerings, but where Dieselpoint really gets interesting is by encouraging users to narrow or broaden their search by certain attributes (or parameters) such as voltage or use. In one or two clicks, users can take any number of roads leading to the hallowed DeWalt 3/4-inch 18-volt cordless hammer drill.
The Dieselpoint search experience can be as sophisticated or as simple as people like. Based upon a user’s query, the software can rank products in specific categories, with “better” and “worse” rankings for multiple categories across multiple products, thus leading the user to a product that is “better” than the one they set out looking for in the first place. “It’s very intuitive for the users,” Cleveland says. “Some people like to search for keywords, and some like to browse. We accommodate both of those users.”
Dieselpoint was founded in 1999 and today has dozens of customers, mostly running on Intel and Solaris platforms, Cleveland says. HMV is the only live OS/400 shop, but several OS/400 shops are evaluating the software, he says.
Yesterday the company announced Dieselpoint Search 3.0, which has a new administrative interface that makes it easy to add, modify, and query indexes, the company says. There is also a new “forced rankings” feature, designed to make it easier to tweak relevance ranking to ensure that results are presented in the desired order. New crawler and scheduler features round out this release.
Dieselpoint 3.0 is available now. Pricing starts at $4,995 per processor. For more information go to www.dieselpoint.com.