What Has Happened to Enterprise Search?

June 28, 2018

I read “Enterprise Search in 2018: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been.” I found the information presented interesting. The thesis is that enterprise search has been on a journey almost like a “Wizard of Oz” experience.

The idea of consolidation, from my point of view, boils down to executives who want to cash in, get out, and move on. The reasons are not far to seek: Over promising and under delivering, financial manipulations, and positioning a nuts and bolts utility as something that solves information problems.

lava flow fixed

Some, maybe many, licensees of proprietary enterprise search systems may have viewed their investment as an opportunity that delivered an unexpected but inevitable outcome. Where is that lush scenery? Where’s the beach?

The reality is that enterprise search vendors were aced by Shay Banon. His Act II of Compass: A Finding Story was Elasticsearch and the company Elastic. Why not use free and open source software. At least the code gets some bugs fixed unlike old school proprietary enterprise search systems. Bug fixes? Yep, good luck with your Fast Search & Retrieval ESP platform idiosyncrasies.

The landscape today is a bit like the volcanic transformation of Hawaii’s Vacationland. Real estate agents will be explaining that the lava flows have created new beach views, promising that eruptions are a low probability event.

The write up does not highlight one simple fact: Enterprise search has given way to “roll up” services or what I call “meta-plays.” The idea is that search is tucked inside systems like Diffeo, Palantir Gotham, and other “intelligence” platforms.

Why aren’t these enterprise grade solutions sold as “enterprise search” or “enterprise business intelligence and discovery solutions”?

The answer is that the information retrieval nest has been marginalized by the actions of vendors stretching back to the Smart system and to the present with “proprietary” solutions which actually include open source technology. These systems are anchored in the past.

Consider Diffeo?

Why offer enterprise search when one can provide a solution that delivers information in context, provides collaboration tools, and displays information in different ways with a single mouse click?

The gulf between the vendors who are trying to deliver Palantir or Diffeo type functionality is significant.

Search is there. But it is a component, not the keystone of a system that is more in line with what users have been demanding for many years.

The difference is that old school vendors add a coat of polymer wax to a classic. The more forward looking vendors have engineered a higher performance solution.

Thus, the landscape of search is not what the real estate dealer in Hilo tells a possible buyer in Prague in a Facetime session.

Enterprise search faces its singularity. If the Elastic IPO is a home run, traditional vendors and pretenders will face yet another problem. No big deal for these outfits. Those who sell enterprise search have been trying to solve big problems for a long, long time.

Like the lava in Hawaii, some day palm trees will thrive. The burned margins and the lava rock will be lush and green.

Stephen E Arnold, June 28, 2018


One Response to “What Has Happened to Enterprise Search?”

  1. Clever Key ????????????2-12?????1???? on June 29th, 2018 3:19 am

    Clever Key ????????????2-12?????1????

    What Has Happened to Enterprise Search? : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search

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