Enterprise search

Analysis of enterprise-specific search technology (as opposed to general web search). Related subjects include:

January 14, 2008

19 bullet points about the difference between enterprise and web search

Eric Lai wrote in this week’s Computerworld about “Why is enterprise search harder than Google Web search?” Highlights included: Read more

January 8, 2008

More on Microsoft in enterprise search

Following up on my prior posts about Microsoft’s impending acquisition of FAST, they’ve now had the conference call. By custom and indeed antitrust law, such calls are very light on content. But here are a few tidbits and takeaways, all from Jeff Raikes of Microsoft:

  1. Jeff talked solely about FAST as adding to enterprise search, and rightly contrasted that with web search.
  2. However, he deflected questions about web search with “We aren’t talking about that much detail right now” rather than with a firm “Well, we aren’t allowed to use FAST that way.”
  3. Specifically, enterprise search is all about integration with SharePoint (portal).
  4. Jeff said Microsoft’s current search could handle millions or maybe tens of millions of documents, but thought there was demand for FAST’s ability to handle billions.
  5. He positioned FAST as an application development platform, giving an example of structured search (the actual word was “pivot”) in consumer electronics. … Well, at least he’s looking in the right direction.
January 8, 2008

Microsoft in enterprise search

Microsoft has certainly had a number of false starts in search. At the 1997 Verity user conference, a Microsoft employee told me of his confidence Microsoft would surpass Verity in enterprise search the next year. Yeah, right.

In September, 2003, a nice woman wrote me to tell me she had joined Microsoft and would personally write the ranking engine for MSN search. That worked out great too.

Now Microsoft has a multi-faceted enterprise search strategy. Guy Creese seems mightily impressed. Should we, for once, be impressed too?

Frankly, yes. So far as I can tell, most traditional text search products have atrophied, including Verity before it was bought by Autonomy. And I’m skeptical about Autonomy’s Bayesian-everything approach. Oracle and Google, in different ways, consistently fail to round out their products. So if FAST’s technology can ever be fleshed out and stabilized, it indeed could be a market leader or even dominator. Read more

January 8, 2008

Microsoft is buying FAST; what about FAST’s contractual prohibition?

As you’ve probably heard by now, Microsoft is buying enterprise search vendor FAST (Fast Search & Transfer). FAST wasn’t always focused on enterprise search; in fact, FAST built alltheweb.com. And when FAST sold alltheweb.com to Inktomi, it agreed not to reenter the web search business itself. Inktomi was subsequently bought by Yahoo, a company not much inclined to do Microsoft any favors in the web search arena.

I look forward to hearing why this won’t be a problem.

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August 3, 2007

The case for Inxight Awareness Server

I’ve been pretty skeptical about Inxight’s Awareness Server. My theory is that ordinary enterprise search engines can index remotely anyway, and they offer much better search functionality. Inxight’s Ian Hersey was kind enough to write in and offer two counter-arguments.

First, Ian points out that there are circumstances when, due to security and permissions, you can’t really index everything via one search engine. Specifically, he offers the government as an example. OK, I can see that in the government, with its classified and/or regulated silos. However, I have trouble thinking of many more examples. While there certainly are plenty of instances where a variety of organizations share information on a somewhat arms-length basis, it’s tough to think of such cases where federated text search would come into play.

Second, Ian in essence disputes my claim of inferior functionality. While implicitly conceding — as well he should! — that Inxight’s Awareness Server doesn’t do some things full-featured search engines do, he points out analytic features that may not be found in conventional search engine offering. The big one he calls out is faceted search — which of course was the core of Intelliseek, the acquisition Awareness Server came from. Hmm. Faceted search has a checkered history, with Excite and Northern Light being perhaps the most visible among many failures. On the other hand, it’s a great idea that keeps being tried, and some versions — notably Endeca’s — have turned out well.

I guess I’ll have to reserve judgment on that part until I look at Inxight’s product and see what they do and don’t actually have.

July 26, 2007

Event stream processors active in text filtering

OK. I secured permission to actually quote the details on something I’d previously dropped a small hint about — stream processing for text messages. Traditionally, that’s been the province of enterprise search companies. A decade ago, Verity had a kernel group of 6-7 engineers under Phil Nelson. They managed to produce not only a decent search engine, but a search engine “turned on its side” as well. I.e., instead of running one query against a corpus, they could run many queries each against documents as they arrived, one document at a time. Subsequently, the same idea has been implemented by most enterprise search providers, at least those that are serious about the intelligence market.

Well, the event-processing guys are active in that market too. At least StreamBase is. Read more

July 14, 2007

BOBJ Inxight insights

When a company announces an acquisition, it usually does a round of limited-content briefings, in no small part because the antitrust lawyers won’t let them do anything else. Once the deal closes, antitrust restrictions are lifted, and they do another round of briefings. These, typically, are vague and platitudinous.

Business Objects/Inxight have now reached that point. Even so, my briefing yesterday had some aspects worth writing up. Read more

May 23, 2007

(A little) more on Business Objects/Inxight

After missing what seems to have been an uninformative press conference anyway, I hooked up later with the Business Objects folks on the phone. I say that it was probably uninformative because in the short call, it was pointed out to me that they really weren’t at liberty to say much anyway. Here are a couple of tidbits I picked up even so.

April 1, 2007

Orlowski is back to his old tricks

Andrew Orlowski thinks he’s figured out the Apple/Google/Oracle partnership. But he has it all wrong.

February 28, 2007

SAP’s “search” strategy isn’t about search

I caught up with Dennis Moore today to talk about SAP’s search strategy. And the biggest thing I learned was – it’s not about the search. Rather, it’s about a general interface, of which search and natural language just happen to be major parts.

Dennis didn’t actually give me a lot of details, at least not ones he’s eager to see published at this time. That said, SAP has long had a bare-bones search engine TREX. (TREX was also adapted to create the columnar relational data manager BI Accelerator.) But we didn’t talk about TREX enhancements at all, and I’m guessing there haven’t really been many. Rather, SAP’s focus seems to be on:

A. Finding business objects.

B. Helping users do things with them.

Read more

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