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Enterprise Search Problems: Why NGIA Systems Push Beyond Traditional Information Access Methods

Enterprise search has been useful. However, the online access methods have changed. Unfortunately, most enterprise search systems and the enterprise applications based on keyword and category access have lagged behind user needs.

The information highway is littered with the wrecks of enterprise search vendors who promised a solution to findability challenges and failed to deliver. Some of the vendors have been forgotten by today’s keyword and category access vendors. Do you know about the business problems that disappointed licensees and cost investors millions of dollars? Are you familiar with Convera, Delphes, Entopia, Fulcrum Technologies, Hakia, Siderean Software, and many other companies.

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A handful of enterprise search vendors dodged implosion by selling out. Artificial Linguistics, Autonomy, Brainware, Endeca, Exalead, Fast Search, InQuira, iPhrase, ISYS Search Software, and Triple Hop were sold. Thus, their investors received their money back and in some cases received a premium. The $11 billion paid for Autonomy dwarfed the billion dollar purchase prices of Endeca and Fast Search and Transfer. But most of the companies able to sell their information retrieval systems sold for much less. IBM acquired Vivisimo for about $20 million and promptly justified the deal by describing Vivisimo’s metasearch system as a Big Data solution. Okay.

Today a number of enterprise search vendors walk a knife edge. A loss of a major account or a misstep that spooks investors can push a company over the financial edge in the blink of an eye. Recently I noticed that Dieselpoint has not updated its Web site for a while. Antidot seems to have faded from the US market. Funnelback has turned down the volume. Hakia went offline.

A few firms generate considerable public relations noise. Attivio, BA Insight, Coveo, and IBM Watson appear to be competing to become the leaders in today’s enterprise search sector. But today’s market is very different from the world of 2003-2004 when I wrote the first of three editions of the 400 page Enterprise Search Report. Each of these companies is asserting that their system provides business intelligence,  customer support, and traditional enterprise search. Will any of these companies be able to match Autonomy’s 2008 revenues of $600 million. I doubt it.

The reason is not the availability of open source search. Elasticsearch, in fact, is arguably better than any of the for fee keyword and concept centric information retrieval systems. The problems of the enterprise search sector are deeper.

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Interviews

Interview with Dave Hawking Offers Insight into Bing, FunnelBack and Enterprise Search

The article titled To Bing and Beyond on IDM provides an interview with Dave Hawking, an award-winner in the field of information retrieval and currently a Partner Architect for Bing. In the somewhat lengthy interview, Hawking answers questions on his own history, his work at Bing, natural language search, Watson, and Enterprise Search, among other things. At one point he describes how he arrived in the field of information retrieval after studying computer science at the Australian National University, where he the first search engine he encountered was the library’s card catalogue. He says,

“I worked in a number of computer infrastructure support roles at ANU and by 1991 I was in charge of a couple of supercomputers…In order to do a good job of managing a large-scale parallel machine I thought I needed to write a parallel program so I built a kind of parallel grep… I wrote some papers about parallelising text retrieval on supercomputers but I pretty soon decided that text retrieval was more interesting.”

When asked about the challenges of Enterprise Search, Hawking went into detail about the complications that arise due to the “diversity of repositories” as well as issues with access controls. Hawking’s work in search technology can’t be overstated, from his contributions to the Text Retrieval Conferences, CSIRO, FunnelBack in addition to his academic achievements.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 09, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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