How Enterprise Search Changes Everything—Especially Expectations

Enterprise search is a market Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM—along with most business intelligence pure plays—can ill afford to ignore.

There’s a reason Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp., and IBM Corp. are falling all over themselves to get into enterprise search: it’s an emerging and potentially lucrative market segment.

Consider new market research from Gartner Inc., which predicts that the information access and search technology market will grow by as much as 10 percent this year. With up to $370 million in new license revenue up for grabs, that’s a burgeoning market Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM—along with most business intelligence (BI) pure plays—can ill afford to ignore.

According to Gartner, the information access market is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, sparked in part by new technologies that enable pervasive access to unstructured content—including e-mail, file servers, intranets, extranets, and the Web. This sets the stage for another renaissance—in enterprise search—that promises to tame Information Babel by applying more rigorous taxonomy and classification against unstructured content.

"Enterprise information access technologies are entering a new phase of deployment and use," said Gartner vice-president Tom Eid, in a statement. “Technologies are maturing and now offer improved indexing, querying, presentation and drilldown of results. However, by itself the search function has limited value. The real value of information access technologies is in the upfront and ongoing efforts needed to establish effective taxonomies, to index and classify content of all kinds in order to provide meaningful results.”

“Information access” as Gartner understands it encompasses a range of related technologies not limited to search—including content classification; categorization and clustering; fact and entity extraction; taxonomy creation and management; information presentation; and desktop or knowledge search.

Gartner predicts that information access (and search in particular) will be a hot segment (revenue-wise) for some time to come—or through 2009, at the very least. By then, with overall revenues in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars annually ($482.1 million, to be exact), revenue growth will begin to slow, thanks in part to downward pressure on pricing.

Wayne Eckerson, research and services director for TDWI, says much of the impetus for enterprise search comes from users, who—besotted by what he calls “the Google phenomenon”—are likewise requesting (and in some cases demanding) access to structured and unstructured content across the enterprise.

“The Google phenomenon is upping the ante for BI players,” says Eckerson. “People who use Google at home to query millions of Web servers all around the world and get responses back in less than a second wonder why they can't do the same thing at work when they want to query data housed in the local data center and still have to wait minutes or hours for results. Obviously, these are two different types of queries and expectations must be set, but the Google effect is real.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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