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12/15/2006
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IBM-Yahoo Pairing Should Spark Price And Feature War In Enterprise Search

From Google To SAP, big vendors have their eyes on this market.

It's a whine that resonates in the cubicles of businesses everywhere: "Why can I get football stats, migraine remedies, and celebrity DUI stories from the Web in 0.37 seconds, but I can't find last month's sales report on the company intranet?"

IT executives are getting used to this clamor for business technology to live up to the zip and simplicity of consumer technology, and they know to tune it out when there's little value. With enterprise search, though, saying no is getting harder to justify.

For one, cost has become less of a barrier with products like Google's search appliances. And get ready, because last week's introduction of the free IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition will light another fire under enterprise search. The result will be more for less from every vendor in that market. Soon, the question will change from "Why don't we have enterprise search capabilities?" to "What took so long?"

"Today, you can't run a company without E-mail, and in the next few years search will gain that level of prominence," says Matthew Glotzbach, head of products at Google Enterprise. Google has 6,000 search appliance customers and is adding 1,000 a month; sales for the division doubled this year.

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Competition's growing in every segment. Microsoft's recently announced Office SharePoint Server for Search and IBM OmniFind Yahoo will take on the Google Mini at the low end of the market. In the midtier, where companies might spend $20,000 to $80,000, there's Google's Search appliance, Oracle's Secure Enterprise Search 10G, introduced earlier this year, IBM OmniFind, and SAP's Enterprise Search software, which is in beta. Vendors that get the big bucks--typically $350,000 to $450,000--for the best capabilities and scalability include Autonomy, Endeca, Fast, and Vivisimo, though they'll feel the pressure from better-performing midrange products.

Which way should your company go? That depends on your priorities. For Decision Critical, an online health information service, it was cost. "Free is a great price point from our perspective," says CTO Eric Brierley, who has been testing the IBM-Yahoo offering. The company provides online services to 400 hospitals for planning and tracking educational courses. This content comes from many sources and in many forms, from PowerPoint to documents to PDFs. Decision Critical is using the IBM-Yahoo search tool to index that information and let users search for information on a topic or course, depending on what content a hospital subscribes to. It took about 30 minutes to install the software and another four or five hours to customize it, Brierley says.

For others, security and access control features will dictate their search decisions. Security and access control often are addressed at the application and data repository levels, and that creates the same kinds of problems as trying to implement single sign-on systems. For companies that have single sign-on, Google's appliance has APIs so they can integrate their security systems and use the access privileges therein. But it's not plug-and-play for big companies trying to access information in many legacy applications and databases.

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