The Structured Information Manager (SIM)


The Structured Information Manager (DBMS) is designed to manage multi-gigabyte collections of documents containing text, images and other kinds of data. Unlike a conventional database, SIM allows a very flexible definition of the possible structure of the records in a table. A grammar is used to describe the structure of the record, so that individual records may vary widely in both size and structure. This makes SIM ideal for storing documents such as bibliographic records, company reports, newspaper articles, office memoranda and legal statutes.

SIM provides a large number of concurrent users with full-text access to the entire document collection. SIM supports emerging open systems standards, thus enabling it to provide networked solutions for organisations with large scale document management needs.


Standards Based

Central to the design of the SIM DBMS is the ANSI Z39.50 standard - "Information and Documentation - Search and Retrieve Application Protocol Specification for Open System Interconnection." (This standard is closely related to the ISO standard ISO 10162/10163, and these two standards are continuing to move closer together.)

This standard specifies the protocol that an application should use to query the SIM database kernel. By conforming with this standard, the SIM system can be distributed over a network, with a true client-server separation between its front and back ends.

SIM was built with recent international (ISO) document and networking standards in order to support gateways to other database systems conforming to these standards.

ISO 8879 "Standard Generalised Markup Language" (SGML) is another standard that is integral to the SIM architecture. SGML is a widely used standard for document interchange. By directly supporting the import and export of documents marked up in SGML, SIM automatically has access to a large range of text processing tools such as text editors, and translators that can convert text between a variety of word processing standards. Storing text in SGML format also means that the SIM retrieval engine has access to the structure of the documents as well as their contents. This structural information can be used to improve the processing of user queries and to determine the best ways to display a document.

The SIM database query language is a full implementation of the ISO 8777 standard "Commands for Interactive Text Searching" This standard query language is sometimes known as CCL, the Common Command Language, and is very similar to the ANSI Z39.58 query language standard. This gives the user a comprehensive range of familiar text retrieval functions.

SIM is committed to the open systems philosophy. SIM uses OSI network services to carry out the communication of data from the user to the database. This means that SIM is compliant with the Australian Governments GOSIP standards, and that a large variety of networking hardware can be supported. SIM is written in the `C' language under the UNIX operating system, and is therefore highly portable.

Built on Australian Research

The underlying technology for the SIM database has been developed at The University of Melbourne and RMIT(Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) over many years. Research and development is now continuing at CITRI - the Collaborative Information Technology Research Institute, a joint venture between the two universities. CITRI's Hypermedia group is actively involved in the international information retrieval community, and is conducting leading edge research in many related areas such as hypertext systems, multimedia systems, electronic libraries and text and image compression. All this experience is now being used to build a document retrieval database that can meet the needs of a wide community of information providers and users.

Commercially Supported

The SIM system is being built in cooperation with Ferntree Computer Corporation. Ferntree is one of Australia's leading computer services company, with a long history as an information provider with the AUSINET information service. Ferntree's experience in providing a large text database service has been vital in ensuring that SIM meets the needs of existing information service users, and in determining the requirements that must be met for the next generation of text retrieval systems.

Demonstration Server

If you have a Z39.50V2 client, you might like to try connecting to our server. See here for more details.


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Last Updated: 1/9/93