OpenText Charts AI Course with Magellan Launch

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OpenText is building on its history in enterprise information management with the launch Tuesday of an artificial intelligence platform called Magellan that will compete with the likes of IBM’s Watson.

Magellan, which was announced at the company’s Enterprise World conference in Toronto, will combine OpenText Analytics, a text mining and auto classification tool it acquired called Nstein and Apache Spark, an open source framework for building clusters of computers. OpenText said Magellan will draw upon content stored across its enterprise information management (EIM) architecture to pull insights about customer intent, employee behaviour and more.

In his opening keynote, OpenText CEO and CTO Mark Barrenechea took direct aim at IBM’s Watson, pointing to the open hardware options in Magellan compared to what he described as the cost and complexity of the gear necessary to run Big Blue’s AI platform.

“You don’t need a mainframe, proprietary cloud. You don’t need to hand your algorithms over to IBM,” he said, showing off a rack OpenText built to demonstrate Magellan in action. “This is one-sixth the cost of IBM  . . . instead of spending $1 million on hardware, this is about $100,000.”

OpenText executives used a fictitious, Uber-like ride-sharing company it called “DryV” to show how Magellan could be used to see whether a marketing campaign to drive interest in a certain location was performing. Algorithms could then make sure there were enough cars available in that area to fulfill the potential demand, for example.

Magellan can also be embedded in other OpenText tools such as People Center, an application to manage human resources content that was also launched Tuesday. People Center is designed to integrate with traditional HR tools such as SAP’s SuccessFactors and manage unstructured data such as C.V.s. Using Magellan, however, executives demonstrated how organizations could use past employee performance data to try and predict key staff who might be at risk of leaving a company.

The shift to AI comes at a time when OpenText is evolving, according to Barrenechea,  from being “the information platform for humans” to one that services both humans and machines. While he said he didn’t see robots taking over anytime soon, Barrenechea said the convergence of increased connectivity, automation and computing power was driving the need for greater sophistication in how content is managed.

“We’re built to store things in our brains. We’re not necessarily built to process them this quickly,” he said.

Besides Magellan, Barrenechea took time to walk through some of the major updates to Release 16 of OpenText’s Information Platform, which he said would continue to focus on the “brilliant basics” of storing, managing, securing, scanning, capturing and translating content. Customers include Toronto-based Bruce Power, whose CIO Sarah Shortreed joined Barrenechea on stage.

Bruce Power, which supplies approximately 30 percent of Ontario’s power and operates Canada’s first private nuclear generator, is in the process of a $13 billion refurbishment of six reactors, Shortreed said. The project is just one reason why Bruce Power recently re-signed a its contract with OpenText, she added.

“We have incredible amounts of documents and data, from engineering and legal firms, for example,” she said. “We have incredibly large data transmissions. We also have to know when they were transmitted and how they were received.”

OpenText also used Enterprise World to debut a new logo design. The conference, which is hosting approximately 5,000 attendees, runs through Thursday.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.