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Mid-2011 Enterprise Search Market Analysis

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As of 2011, the search market has been dominated by three big names, Google, Microsoft, and Lucene. The Google Search Appliance continues to sell well at the departmental level within organizations, though clearly there is a greater understanding of the Appliance's limitations than there had been in previous years. Microsoft (via its dominance with Office and SharePoint) has become the de facto search application for many back-office needs, and Lucene has become ubiquitous as an embedded search engine in many products and applications. With these three very different -- yet equally dominant -- search engines on the market, it is challenging to be differentiated and marked as an independent, small search vendor today. We could add a fourth name to the list -- Autonomy, the UK search giant -- but over the last few years (although remaining a formidable force), Autonomy has become better known for acquiring a myriad of companies and essentially becoming a holding firm, with its various products linked together via the IDOL platform, rather than as a major enterprise search vendor.

Compounding all of this is the fact that the enterprise search market can be described (at best) as "slow moving." Although names may change over the years, the underlying technology remains much as it was a decade ago. On the one hand, this is a positive thing, because we have mature, scalable, and well-tested offerings that generally perform well. On the other hand, we have search engines that continue to fall short of end users' expectations, no matter how realistic those expectations are. Many expectations are set in large part by Internet search experiences (via the likes of Google and Bing), which is a very different search paradigm with few of the necessary restrictions or challenges of enterprise search.