Converged networks: You can't use what you can't find

Moving voice, video and graphical data over a single IP network offers advantages in economy and manipulation. But using IP to move data is only half the job. You also must be able to find and access the data you need.

The Navy's Joint Technical Data Integration program was created to solve this problem by providing a Web-based system to deliver technical, supply and maintenance information to aviation organizations.

The Naval Air Systems Command maintains a wealth of digital data, but using it was a challenge, especially if it was in a nontraditional form. How does a worker at an air station onboard a ship locate a digital video, or a particular part of a video, that has instructions for replacing the rotor of a specific model of helicopter?

'It is very difficult to access,' said NAVAIR's JTDI program manager Paul Behrens. 'From a fleet perspective they have to connect to multiple IT systems to access the information they needed. It was being accomplished, but not as efficiently as it could be.'

The common interface for accessing this data needed to include the capability to search legacy information across multiple formats and platforms. JTDI identified Coveo Enterprise Search from Coveo Solutions Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., as a part of its baseline toolkit, pending approval for full-scale deployment.

Search plus audio mining

Coveo Enterprise Search is an internal search engine that integrates with network directories and access control functions to provide secure searches across an enterprise's file systems, e-mail servers, intranets, Web sites, databases and applications. The most recent release, version 4.0, incorporates audio mining technology from Nuance Communications Inc. to search audio files and the audio tracks of video files. It also includes optical character recognition to identify relevant text in graphic images.

Coveo Enterprise Search has been beta tested by several naval aviation squadrons as part of the data integration program, Behrens said. 'The product is meeting my expectations.'

JTDI began in 2000 as a demonstration by the Navy's logistics commanders group. The challenge was to present technical data from a growing number of sources, in a growing number of formats, through an integrated environment.

'Initial demonstrations within the carrier air wings and shore air stations proved it was possible to create an integrated electronic technical, supply and maintenance data environment with COTS technology,' the Navy concluded.

JTDI was established as a formal program in 2004 with the primary purpose of providing access and distribution of data supporting maintenance and operations for weapons platforms.

'We had looked at many products' to provide the search component, Behrens said. The office chose Coveo Enterprise Search for its ability to categorize results and ease user navigation.

The software crawls its environment to produce index files, and searches metadata as well as content. Coveo offers the product as an appliance and a hosted service, but most customers use it as a software tool, said Dan Bauhaus, director of technical sales. In addition, customers commonly use it for searching internal resources, although there are some implementations pointing at public Web sites. The tool works well in the Navy's Microsoft environment.

'On the Microsoft side we do everything great out of the box,' Bauhaus said. 'On non-Microsoft systems it requires more of a building block approach.'

Coveo enhances response time through its algorithms and by tweaking the index files used to find data. Results are returned within a quarter-second on most searches, Bauhaus said.

'We rarely go over one second on results,' he said.

Results contain summary data of the files identified and quick access to cached files. The tool performs a 'sounds like' search on video and audio files, identifying the most likely matches on a graph of the sound file so that the user can navigate to the relevant parts.

User access privileges are used to determine what results can be returned to each user in a search.

Coveo Enterprise Search is a highly scalable tool. Pricing begins at $5,000 for 50,000 documents and scales up from there.

The Navy has hundreds of gigabytes of data to be managed and searched, Behrens said, but the system being developed will not be installed all at once. The Navy describes JTDI as 'COTS intensive' and expects to deploy modular technology 'in three-year cycles driven by advances in commercial technology.'

JTDI also aims at providing data access for non-networked devices and Behrens is testing Coveo Desktop Search, a complementary product to the enterprise tool with a similar interface and features.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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