A history of enterprise search 2010 – 2019
From 2010 to 2013 there was a rapid consolidation in the enterprise search business. Between 2010 and 2012 Exalead was acquired by Dassault (2010), Autonomy by Hewlett Packard (2011), Endeca by Oracle (2011), Vivisimo by IBM (2012) and ISYS Search by Lexmark (2012). Some of these vanished without trace, some notionally exist (Exalead) and of course Autonomy has now re-emerged following its acquisition by Micro Focus. Others emerged to fill the gaps. Funnelback was initially developed by CSIRO in Australia in 2001 but did not really move into the limelight until the establishment of a UK office in 2009 following its acquisition by Squiz. Lucid Imagination was set up in 2009 and was then renamed LucidWorks in 2012. BAInsight dates back to 2003 as a supplier of add-on modules to SharePoint but over the last few years has repositioned itself as more of a systems integration company. Mindbreeze, an Austrian company offering a search appliance, was founded in 2005 but as with the other companies mentioned above has flourished over the last few years. Mention should also be made to Google, which launched the GSA appliance in 2002. In 2016 it announced it was leaving the market and licences terminate in 2018.
Looking back at the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Information Access Technology in 2005 there were four companies in the Leader/Visionary Quadrant, and they were FAST, Autonomy, Verity and Endeca. The majority of the companies surveyed in 2005 were towards the lower end of the Ability to Execute axis, and that has always been a challenge for the enterprise search business. Many companies with very good technology could not generate sales and cash flow to finance the marketing and sales effort needed to get to a critical mass. Over the last decade the market has been dominated by Microsoft SharePoint in terms of an installed base of search functionality (perhaps close to 300,000 installations?) though Google built up a substantial installed base of appliance servers before leaving the stage. The Enterprise Search Summit was launched in New York in 2008 and the exhibition space was full with around 40 vendors. Those were the days. The Enterprise Search Europe event was launched in 2011 but 2015 marked its closure as there were just not enough sponsors to keep the delegate fee at a sensible level. Thanks to Findwise we do now know much more about the way in which enterprise search is being implemented and used through the Enterprise Findability Surveys that started in 2011 and continued to 2016.
The big talking point over the last few years has been the role of AI in enterprise search. Forrester has come up with the concept of ‘cognitive search’ and Gartner promotes the concept of ‘insight engines’. In both cases the idea is that AI and machine learning will enable a user to find information that is personalised to their very specific requirements, such as their location or membership of a team engaged on a particular topic. The possibilities offered by AI have been recognised for many years, with the first detailed assessment being published in 1976. There is no published research on just how effective AI is in enterprise search situations; at present it has become a de facto offering by virtually every search vendor.
There are probably around 60 enterprise-focused search applications on the market at the present time. A positive development has been the scale of investment in the sector, notably in the case of Lucidworks and Coveo. How many will survive and hopefully thrive over the next decade is very difficult to determine. The good news is that the advent of digital workplaces will put a premium on being able to find information within the multiple applications which will need to be integrated into these workplaces. The future for enterprise search over the next decade looks very promising