Search Providers Are Focusing On The U.S. Government Market

The U.S. federal government search market, already hotly competitive, appears in danger of becoming cutthroat as search providers zero in on government sites using popular RetrievalWare search technology.
FAST gained control of RetrievalWare last month when it acquired the business segment from Convera. Since then, competing search engines -- smelling an opportunity as federal users review their accounts -- have launched sales efforts aimed at luring RetrievalWare users away from Fast.

Last week, Endeca Technologies announced a Convera RetrievalWare Upgrade program "designed to address uncertainties caused by the planned acquisition of Convera's RetrievalWare assets by the Norwegian enterprise search company, Fast Search & Transfer." Endeca, based in Cambridge, Mass., said it is offering a 50% discount on its Endeca Information Access Platform for a limited period.

In the latest development, Fast Search & Transfer moved to beef up its hold on RetrievalWare by forging a partnership with Criterion Systems, an IT consulting firm with many government and commercial clients, according to an announcement Tuesday. With search engines serving several U.S. defense and intelligence agencies, some of the firms, like Endeca, are noting their American pedigrees. Fast, with headquarters in Oslo and Needham, Mass., observed that Criterion is headquartered in Virginia and has a "nationally recognized management team with deep understanding of the U.S. defense and intelligence communities, civilian government, and commercial sector"

Endeca CEO Steve Papa has trumpeted his firm's "discovery" search platform as "especially appealing to the intelligence community -- our largest beachhead in the federal government." He added in a statement, "We're offering technology that reveals the previously unknown relationships criss-crossing human, signal, and other kinds of intelligence."

In a rejoinder to Endeca, Mike Dillard, Criterion's senior VP and COO, said: "It makes no sense for this community to displace something they already own and like to take on the risks of implementing something new, which requires time consuming and expensive services engagements, disruptions in productivity and the effort to re-train users."

Earlier, U.K.-based Autonomy Corp. laid down the gauntlet to Fast by hiring away top sales executives specializing in RetrievalWare from Convera before they could join Fast. Last month, Autonomy said it had signed an agreement with IBM for it to use Autonomy products. At the time of the Autonomy-IBM deal, there was no note of any connection to RetrievalWare or U.S. government sales efforts.

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