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Enterprise Search: Microsoft, Google, Specialized Players Vie For Supremacy

Enterprise search assists in litigation, securing sensitive data, managing information, and building smarter applications. Oh, yeah, and finding that PowerPoint slide from 2006. But which vendor is best to partner with, and what are the technical challenges?

Enterprise search tools are evolving to meet significantly different business requirements. IT and legal may need to scoop up documents, files, and e-mail relevant to forthcoming litigation. Security and compliance officers want to search laptops to make sure credit card numbers aren't hitting the road. Meanwhile, lines of business are clamoring for better ways to extract value from reams of enterprise data. Cracking open different repositories could help salespeople better use information gathered about customers.

Companies approaching enterprise search must match their requirements to the capabilities of competing search platforms from Google, Microsoft, and a growing field of specialized vendors. Yet even if CIOs scope out requirements perfectly, they may find themselves running multiple search products for different business units to address diverse needs, and piling on the storage and server resources.

And that's OK.

Take National Instruments, a maker of computer-based measurement and automation products for manufacturers and scientists. The company has seen its search infrastructure--covering information from customers outside the firewall and employees inside it--grow from 10 servers to 25 in about three years. Eight of those are production servers, with the rest dedicated to testing and development, security, and processing. Of particular note is the wildfire growth of National Instruments employees' use of search. John Graff, VP of marketing and customer operations, says CPU requirements to index data and respond to employee queries are growing 152% year over year.

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But National doesn't begrudge the increase in resources. "As IT comes back to me to say 'We need more,' it's an easy sign-off because the value is so clear," Graff says.

In this business climate, what kind of technology draws that kind of support? One that solves problems. Still, purchasing decisions are complex. There's not only no clear market leader, but the category is diverging into two distinct paths.

While Google is synonymous with Web search, it's only one of many players in this market--and by no means dominant. Autonomy, Microsoft via its Fast Search & Transfer acquisition, Recommind, and others more than hold their own against the Big G. Endeca and IBM offer search products aimed at specific business problems. And companies such as Guidance Software, Kazeon, and StoredIQ Software are winning customers faced with e-discovery burdens.

Internet Evolution -- The Site for News, Analysis & Opinion About the Future of the Internet.
On the Web, it's a one-search-fits-all world. Startups say that could be changing.
InformationWeek separates the enterprise search market into two major categories: compliance search and business search. Vendors in the first category aim at IT and corporate officers, such as legal counsel, human resources professionals, or compliance officials. These constituencies aren't trying to find one relevant result out of a 1,000, but 5,000 relevant results out of 1 million. This category is dominated by e-discovery, and search products not only must find information, but also manage it, whether by moving it to a new repository or applying controls to ensure files aren't changed or deleted. Vendors in the second category aim at employees, whether a business unit looking to extract more value from the information in various repositories, or a broader audience that needs help finding mislaid documents.

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