IBM in the News: OmniFind Yahoo Edition, UIMA

I saw mention in the press recently about a joint announce from IBM and Yahoo partnership/offering. As both an IBMer and Yahoo user I was curious to see what was going on. I just did a bit of checking and learned it’s about an IBM technology called OmniFind; see IBM and Yahoo team up on corporate search. Though I haven’t deal directly with OmniFind, I understand it comes in part from IBM Research’s Almaden Lab in Silicon Valley, and it’s the search engine used to power IBM’s inside-the-firewall web site.

I did a little more investigating and see that Redmonk’s Cote' has just written an extensive and very informative post about it, Search 500,000 Documents for Free. I also located a blog by an IBMer named Marc Andrews, Marc Andrews Observations On Demand, that focuses on IBM’s Information Management (IM) Division, what we old-timers think of as the “database folks.” Marc is part of the IM team and has written several posts about OmniFind.

Marc’s blog also mentions IBM’s UIMA, something I’ve been meaning to write about. So here a few thoughts about UIMA.

UIMA stands for Unstructured Information Management Architecture. It comes from IBM Research, mainly from a team at IBM’s lab Hawthorne, NY. (I spent 15 years there — it’s a great place to work.) I first learned of it well over a year ago when I still played a role in Research’s open-source activities. I had a meeting with the chief architect, Dave Ferrucci. UIMA represents years of work at Research and is very, very good software, according to the judgment of several folks whose judgment I trust.There were then some plans to take UIMA open-source. I recall suggesting Apache was the best place to be, but then lost track of what was going on when I moved to another part of IBM.

I learned a few weeks back that UIMA finally made it to Apache. It’s now one of the incubator projects, Apache UIMA Project Incubation Status.

You can learn more about UIMA from Marc Andrews’s blog and at the IBM Research web site, An Open, Industrial-Strength Platform for Unstructured Information Analysis and Search.

Though UIMA is great software, I agree with Redmonk’s James Governor that the name leaves much to be desired. As he put it, “UIMA sounds like a body part.” It’s also a bit odd to pronounce: think “You, He, Ma!” with a silent “H.” UIMA is also an acronym; in particular an FLA, Four Letter Acronym. I’m not fond of acronyms; see Geekspeak and TLA’s.

I do know that a number of universities are interested in UIMA, and I was told a while back that someone from a major foundation was very interested in. I later confirmed that he managed to engage with IBM and even had spoken to the UIMA team in Hawthorne. It’s also used quite a bit in government, as best I understand.

So if you have an interest in this area, it’s well worth investigating.


  1. Posted December 19, 2006 at 04:56 | Permalink | Reply

    why in god’s name don’t they go with the alternative – Maui…. how much more evocative???

    “used in government”- in projects we’ll never see, or be able to judge the effectiveness of.

    The yahoo deal is v interesting. maybe Maui is more than a science experiment…

  2. Posted December 19, 2006 at 10:10 | Permalink | Reply

    Hmm, a field trip to Hawaii to review naming possibilites is not a bad idea, especially in these cold winter months. Other options include “poi” and “pfui”.

    Re government, see

    UIMA work has in part been funded by DARPA and I believe there are groups in the U.S. government closely following this work.

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