Enterprise Search: Still Floundering after All These Years

October 11, 2017

Enterprise search conferences once had pride of place. Enterprise search or “search” was the Big Data, artificial intelligence, and cyber intelligence solution from 1998 to 2007.

But by 2007, the fanciful claims of enterprise search vendors were perceived as “big hat, no cattle” posturing. Unable to generate sustainable revenues, the high profile enterprise search systems began looking for a buyer. Those who failed disappeared. Do you know where Convera, Delphes, Entopia, and Siderean are today? What’s the impact of Exalead on Dassault? Autonomy on Hewlett Packard Enterprise? Vivisimo on IBM?

Easy questions to ignore. Time marches on. Proprietary search cost a bundle to keep working. The “fix” to the development, enhancement, and bug fix problems was open source.

A solution emerged. Lucene. That brings us to the title of this blog post: “Enterprise Search: Still Floundering after All These Years.”

The money from license fees is insufficient to make enterprise search work in a good enough way. Open source search, which seems to be largely free of license fees, allows vendors to offer search and highly profitable services to the organizations who want or need an “enterprise search system.”

This means that a vendor who makes more money offering search services can be perceived as a problem to an venture funded company built on promises and tens of millions in venture capital.

The truth of this observation was revealed in an article written by or for Search Technologies, a unit of a Fancy Dan consulting firm. If I understand the Search Technologies’ write up, Lucidworks (né Lucid Words) told Search Technologies that it was not welcome at a conference designed to promote Solr.

Here’s what Search Technologies said in “Why Wasn’t Search Technologies at Lucene/Solr Revolution 2017?”

Lucene/Solr Revolution’s organizer, Lucidworks, informed us that we were no longer welcome to exhibit or speak at the event. Lucidworks considered us a company that:

  • Competes with their professional services group (maybe)
  • Is not likely to resell Lucidworks’ platform exclusively (we are vendor-agnostic, after all), and,
  • Has technology assets that compete with their Fusion platform (partially true)

I don’t care too much about venture funded outfits running conferences to make their “one true way” evident to the attendees. I don’t worry about a blue chip consulting firm’s ability to generate sales leads.

No.

I find that some of enterprise search’s most problematic weaknesses have not been solved after 50 years of flailing. Examples include:

  • The cost of moving beyond “good enough” information access
  • Revealing that enterprise search systems are expensive to tune and shape to the needs of an organization
  • Developing solutions which keep indexes current and searches responsive
  • Seamless handling different types of content, including video, engineering drawings, and data tucked inside legacy systems
  • Keeping the majority of the users happy so bootleg search systems are not installed to meet departmental or operating unit needs.

The “search” problem is an illustration of innovation running out of gas. I have zero stake in Lucidworks, Search Technologies, or enterprise search. I am content to be an observer who points out that search vendors, their marketing, the consultants, and the conference organizers are their own worst enemy.

That’s why enterprise search imploded about a decade ago. Search today is pretty much “good enough.” Antidot, Lucene, Solr, dtSearch, X1, Fabasoft, Funnelback, et al. Each does “good enough” search in my opinion.

To make any system better takes consulting and engineering services. These deliver high margins. Users? Well, users want enterprise search to answer questions and work like Google. After 50 years of effort, no company has been able to meet the users’ needs.

That says more than two consulting firms trading digital jabs. What’s at stake is consulting revenue and proprietary fixes. Users? Yes, what about the users?

Stephen E Arnold, October 10, 2017

Comments

One Response to “Enterprise Search: Still Floundering after All These Years”

  1. Anonymous on October 11th, 2017 11:48 am

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    Enterprise Search: Still Floundering after All These Years : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search

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