Enterprise Search: Is a Golden Age Coming?

December 2, 2012

Let’s recap the enterprise search market. I am 68, so I remember the glory days of SDC Orbit, RECON, and SMART. If you are with me chronologically, think mainframes, batch processing, and the lousy bandwidth which was available within the computer room.

By 1982 even traditional publishers were trying to figure out what to do with digital information. Remember the original New York Times’ search system? Remember the original Dow Jones online system and its desktop search interface? Dow Jones used BRS Search, now part of the OpenText quiver of separate information retrieval arrows. IBM pushed STAIRS.

By the mid 1990s, there were university computing graduates who were on the search bandwagon, even though it was built on a Citroen Deux Chevaux. Think Personal Library Software and Backrub, the precursor of our beloved Google search appliance.


Most of today’s enterprise search systems are as modern as this Citroen Deux Chevaux. A happy quack to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Deux-chevaux-rose-pink-2CV-citroen.JPG for this image.

In the late 1990s, the enterprise search market was pulling together threads of different ideas which sort of worked. The first wave of “brand” name vendors date from the 1996 to 2000 period and include Autonomy, Convera, Endeca, Fast Search & Transfer, and Verity. Most of these companies survive either as units of larger firms or as genetic strands woven into various search consulting firms like Comperio and Search Technologies. Google, I want to point out, is using technology which dates from the mid 1990s. So much for the difference between PR and enhanced CLEVER-ness.

When we hit the mid 2000s, the landscape has become barren. There are plenty of innovations and there are entrepreneurs who have embraced the magic of search sub-disciplines like latent semantic indexing, natural language processing, goosed Bayesian, and mish-mashes of every possible indexing and retrieval method. The notable shift in search since 2005 has been the emergence of Lucene, Solr, and Xapian, among other open source information retrieval options.

Have we reached the end of the line?

Nope. The Golden Age is coming.

In 2013, Beyond Search will add coverage of next generation vendors poised to rework search. On Tuesday, December 5, you will be able to read an interview with the chief technology officer of a little known search and content processing vendor named Cybertap. You can dip into the archives of my Search Wizards Speak’s series and get more insight about where search is headed by reading the interviews with such experts as:

What these companies are doing is reinventing enterprise findability. The approaches taken by each company break new ground. Some firms are focused on cracking the problems of language. Yep, there are lots of people who prefer a language other than English no matter what the old school search vendors think. Others use fancy math, which is more recent than the centuries old algorithms that beat within the black boxes of such vendors as Autonomy and Recommind. Others rely on open source technology which in the 1970s would have given an IBM regional manager apoplexy. Today, however, IBM’s Watson takes advantage of what I call saucy open sourciness.

What’s this mean for Beyond Search? We will be expanding our coverage of the companies we track to move “beyond” the old dudes and dudettes. Enough of the hassles about Microsoft Fast and HP Autonomy. The expanded list of companies about which we will recycle information and offer critical and probably annoying commentary includes the companies list at our TRAX subsite.

Will you be familiar with these companies? Some, yes. Others, nope. You can read the rear view mirror analyses of marginalized systems in the reports from the azure chip consultants. Some of these pundits were apple pie makers, failed Web masters, or journalists who got the boot.

Beyond Search is adding coverage and focusing on what’s new. Watch for our analysis of one interesting company called Cybertap. So you haven’t heard of it? That’s why we are here.

Stephen E Arnold, December 2, 2012

Approaching 70 and just as feisty as ever. No wonder I sat in the hall during sophomore English class. For more news about surprising innovations from ArnoldIT in 2013 click here.


2 Responses to “Enterprise Search: Is a Golden Age Coming?”

  1. jwmathijssen on December 3rd, 2012 2:48 am

    RT @BeyondSearch: Future search. Enterprise Search: Is a Golden Age Coming?: http://t.co/Giir7pFy #search

  2. Martin White on December 4th, 2012 6:48 pm

    Absolutely agree with you. 2013 is going to be a fascinating year as the big guys, the little guys and the open guys all try to take advantage of market opportunities largely created by the Big Data PR Machine. It’s a good time to be a search consultant!

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta