Well, Dassault Systems may be arrogant, but they’ve certainly got the cash. Yesterday, they completed the acquisition of enterprise search company Exalead for a cool €135 million (US $162 million).

You probably haven’t heard of them, but Exalead has been called the ‘French Google’ and are best know for their CloudView platform which can be integrated anywhere to search for anything. Yes, even your skull or perhaps a muffin, but their focus is primarily on enterprise infrastructure, web search markets and helping companies develop search-based applications (SBAs) for web-based information access. We asked a couple questions to the Dassault (DS) team involved in the process. Here’s their explanation and their plans to bring it into 3D product development.

How deep is Dassault planning to search within the data structure?
Exalead SBAs work by collecting data from any source, in any format and in any volume, and using semantic technologies to reconcile and enrich this data to transform it into a single, meaningfully structured resource (an index). This index supports data access that is 100s of times faster than relational database technologies yet sufficiently complex to meet 95% of user information search, reporting and access needs.

CloudView provides a fully unified platform for information search, access and reporting, and is the leading infrastructure platform for search-based applications (SBAs). Exalead is the only search platform on the market designed from the ground up for both the Web and the enterprise, with the same technology platform powering the world’s third largest public Web search engine (16 billion pages).

For DS, Exalead search technologies will enable it to evolve its PLM offering by resolving information access challenges with significant volumes of heterogeneous data and high level of semantic complexity. It also provides the technical foundation required to fulfill DS’s vision of Consumer-to-Business applications, which require opening internal information resources and processes to customers. The Web-born SBA model is the only one that can support this type of fundamental, large-scale opening, overcoming the issues that have so far impeded C2B development.

When will we start seeing the search technology integrated into the Dassault family of products?
Exalead is being embedded now within the ENOVIA V6 platform, with a first rollout focused on DS Automotive PLM solutions. The target is 6 months. The next targets will be determined based on the industry sectors representing the highest synergies between the two companies’ technologies and experience.

What this means for 3D product development

Sadly, the first marketing phrase mash-up doesn’t tell much about the depth of which they plan to search within your pristine data structure. If the current search functions within DS products are any sign, my guess is, you’ll be able to search down to the feature, face and file property within 3D data with interrelational results across document, context, virtual or physical environment and process. That’s some fancy searching.

As Oleg Shilovitsky over at PLM ThinkTank points out, this isn’t the first time product dev companies have teamed up with search providers, nor is it the first time that search for intranets has been available. Google Search Appliance (GSA) is Google’s equivalent and Microsoft has Windows Search, both with the same idea of searching everything. The difference, and in particular what is going to create the most impact from a semantic search stand-point, is are the speed and accuracy of real-time results and the depth of content and data they are able to index.

Right now, you probably use a PLM, PDM or other database harnessed program to search for files. If you’re a SolidWorks user, you currently have the option of using SolidWorks search or an ‘enhanced’ search if you choose to install Windows Search. That will likely end. With SolidWorks shifting toward the ENOVIA V6 platform, which powers CATIA, the entire gamut of search possibility within SolidWorks, their PDM and Product Data Sharing (PDS) solutions will use the same search embedded within ENOVIA.

On one hand, this is good, deeper search capabilities for your 3D data and all related files within those systems. On the other, it’s quite bad, because now your search capabilities are limited to use within those products, even if you use other programs to create 3D data. But that would be calling Dassault short-sighted. Most likely, they’ll have a complete enterprise search solution which affords you deeper search within the CAD data and your other data source across your entire organization.

You can try out Exalead Desktop Search to get an idea of what it’s like.

Read more on the acquisition:
3D Perspectives
PLM ThinkTank


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.