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Search Portals

Many Web portals and other services need a search portal for searching across databases and other Internet resources. With GILS as a common search interface to individual sources, "search portal" products are available for searching across multiple sources.

A search portal should handle various classes of data and information resources throughout a typical organization and its partner organizations:

In addition to search of multiple sources, search portal products may provide information facilities such as a Web crawler, filters for transforming various information formats, and various tools for administering the search gateway. Web crawlers with GILS-compliant interfaces, such as AltaVista, the Advanced Search Facility, Fulcrum/DOCS, Isite, MetaStar, Ultraseek, and others, can typically handle the data and information resources accessible via HTTP and FTP. These or other tools can also handle files within office systems such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft Office. 

Information sources that have the search characteristics of databases are often made accessible to Z39.50 through a Z39.50/ODBC Gateway. If the search portal product does not directly handle other search mechanisms such as LDAP, and WAIS, these can also be searched by inserting a gateway that puts a GILS interface on these sources. In cases where a Z39.50/GILS gateway must be adapted to an unusual interface for a particular information resource, the search portal software should provide mechanisms for customization.

Features

The search portal software should operate as a "servlet" in its HTTP interactions so as to operate on multiple operating systems (e.g., Windows NT, Linux, Solaris) and HTTP server platforms (e.g., MS IIS, Apache). Because the search portal will interact with multiple servers distributed across the Internet, consideration should be given to resource management on the gateway platform and periodic progress reporting to the searcher. Configuration parameters should be able to be separately specified for the various servers.

In light of the Americans with Disabilities Act, client (e.g., Web browser) interaction should be implemented substantially in HTML. The HTML forms and gateway capabilities should allow searchers to specify multiple search fields ("Use Attributes"), with Boolean operators ("and", "or", "and not"), and also to search by time period. 

With the increasing importance of location-based information, a desirable feature is to support search by latitude/longitude coordinates ("bounding box"). Such a coordinate search ought to be able to be performed though selection from a world map with zoom down to the city level. 

Search Portal Products

Blue Angel  / Gateway - This search gateway product meets the stated features and handles multiple sources with Z39.50 Bib-1 and the GILS and GEO Profiles. It comes with the JRun servlet host software.

CEONet / search - This search gateway is based on Compusult and their FGDC toolkit product. It meets the stated features and handles multiple sources with Z39.50 GILS and GEO Profiles.  

CERES - This product addresses some important terminology and result presentation aspects but does not seem to support search across multiple databases on different servers. Also, it is not apparent how it might support a bounding box coordinate search.

CIESIN /  Charlotte [demo] -  This freeware search gateway product meets the stated features and handles multiple sources with Z39.50 Bib-1 and the GILS and GEO Profiles. It does not provide search progress updating.

Compusult / Meta Manager Clearinghouse - This search gateway product meets the stated features and handles multiple sources with Z39.50 GILS and GEO Profiles. 

ESRI / Geography Network - Per note from Doug Nebert, the ESRI Geopgraphy Network is  not a Z39.50 client yet. It merely does an ODBC search on a single database at ESRI headquarters in Redlands.

Fretwell-Downing / ZPortal - Support for multi-database search is seen in the "Seamless" application.

IndexData / ZAP - The ZAP freeware search gateway product meets the stated features and handles multiple sources with Z39.50 Bib-1 and the GILS and GEO Profiles. It is not yet implemented as a servlet but as an Apache module or CGI script. It does not provide search progress updating nor the ability to specify a search coordinate box from a map. 

Inktomi / Ultraseek - Although this product can search multiple servers, it does so with a vendor-specific protocol (Inktomi Data Protocol) rather than acting as a Z39.50 client. The geospatial search capability under development by Indexdata should make it much easier to use Z39.50 with native Ultraseek, working through the Ultraseek Java API.  

Joint Research Commission (JRC) / INFEO - This search gateway product meets the stated features and handles multiple sources with Z39.50 Bib-1 and the GILS and GEO Profiles. 

Master Environmental Library (MEL) / Java Query - This product is designed as client-side Java. Don't know if it can run as a servlet and whether it can support Z39.50/Bib-1. 

OCLC / WebZ - This product is not yet implemented as a servlet, nor does it mention support for geospatial search. It does require a specific extension to be installed in the HTTP server.

Oxford / Matthew Dovey has a client JavaBean for use in Java code or Java server pages. He also constructed a Z39.50 server with a pluggable architecture. In the backend of this server, Java objects handle various data sources. Matthew has built Java objects for JDBC and LDAP sources so far. In his prototype multi-database search gateway, Matthew plugs the JavaBean into the Z39.50 server front end to make what he calls a "distributor". The distributor "takes a search listing a number of databases in the SearchRequest and maps these onto individual Z39.50 targets via the client JavaBean, i.e. it makes a number of distinct Z targets look like a single Z target supporting multiple databases". Matthew also explains that his demo "is running on TomCat, a java server from the Apache community which supports Java Server Pages. The Z39.50 connection is handled by a java bean which is accessed via the JSP pages. I'm also looking into whether I can use the ActiveX bridge to embed the bean as a ActiveX control for use in ASP pages."

WebClarity / This search gateway product meets the stated features and handles multiple sources with Z39.50 Bib-1 and the GILS and GEO Profiles. It should be easy to configure search of new sources, as the gateway would use the regular Bookwhere client for its administrative interface.

Z-gate [NBII Clearinghouse demo] - The zcon and zgate tools are part of the I-site distribution for the NSDI and NBII Clearinghouse networks. These use CGI technology rather than servlets.

Other Software

For more information on other software relevant to GILS, see </software.html


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