Big Data plus Enterprise Search equals Big Enterprise Disappointment?

This week, whilst I sat on one of London's First Capital Connect's delightful 1950's railway carriages commuting to the RSG UK office, I imagined a conversation a decade or so hence...

"So, Uncle Matt, what do you remember most about 2012? Was it the London Olympics?"

"Well my impertinent nephew, 2012 was in fact the year we learned about 'Big Data'."

" 'Big' Data? Wasn't there much data around before 2012?"

"Oh there was loads of it. It was just until then, we'd not been told to notice it. Not until an unholy alliance of analysts and software and storage companies like IBM and EMC began to point out that it was really, exciting. And coincidentally enough, it turns out they had all sorts of solutions to manage all this data."

"Wow that was lucky. So, did they work ?"

"No of course not. But then again they were the same tools we'd been using for ages, and they'd never worked then either."

This imagined interchange echoes some of the conversations we've been having within RSG about the Enterprise Search market. For much like "Big Data," Enterprise Search has been around a long while, but has never really fulfilled its promise. And Enterprise Search -- just like Big Data -- is due for a resurgence in the market, to get cast as something new and wonderful, disregarding the fact that it's not new and didn't work the first time around.

Consider the following:

  • The term "Search" itself provides a negative connotation as it tells you there is a problem, that stuff has been lost. Just as Big Data accurately describes a lot of "stuff" --  much of which we have no idea how it got there, and the bulk of which is likely junk.
  • A history of overpromising that Search will magically fix everything, when it patently won't. Just as slicing and dicing of data at ever more granular points will somehow give our businesses ever more accurate insights.
  • The myth that search engines can extract gold from junk has long since been debunked, just as anyone who has ever tried running data warehouses full of dirty data can attest: it just doesn't work.

  • Bundled search with business applications is "good enough" for most people (particularly as expectations are low), as is most basic BI (Business Intelligence) reporting more than enough for most business folk.
  • Web searching is a totally different challenge to enterprise searching, but few seem to understand that differentiation. Just as mining big data is a totally different paradigm from analyzing a specific local dataset.

From recent conversations with subscription customers, it's clear that the underlying business problems that led to so many big search projects are still there. Burned by their previous experiences with big search projects, however, organizations are learning to bite off ever smaller chunks of these issues. If anything the Enterprise Search market has stalled or even gone backwards these last few years.

Fortunately the crazy hype around Big Data has yet to infect the Enterprise Search market, but following Oracle's acquisition of Endeca and HP's crazy year in which they acquired Autonomy, there is undoubtedly a vacuum in the heart of the Enterprise Search market ready to be filled.

But is it going to be yet more hype and unfulfilled promises that flood into that gap, or will we move on and finally start to deliver on the promise?  What do you think?

Our customers say...

"I've seen a lot of basic vendor comparison guides, but none of them come close to the technical depth, real-life experience, and hard-hitting critiques that I found in the Search & Information Access Research. When I need the real scoop about vendors, I always turn to the Real Story Group."

Alexander T. Deligtisch, Co-founder & Vice President, Spliteye Multimedia
Spliteye Multimedia

Other Posts