Enterprise Search Europe 2012 (for which I am Conference Chair) takes place at the Hilton Olympia, London, on 30-31 May. Most conferences have a keynote speaker – we have three.  Paul Doscher (CEO Lucid Imagination) opens the conference by looking at the future of search with an open-source software perspective and at the end of the first day Matt Eichner (General Manager, Global Enterprise Search, Google) will take about re-conceiving enterprise search. Then at the end of the conference Stephen Arnold, without doubt the leading independent observer of the search business, will reflect on the opportunities and issues that have arisen in the course of the conference. Paul was formerly at Exalead and Matt was at Endeca and so are are two very experienced search professionals.

At the conference Kristian Norling (Findwise) will be presenting the results of a global enterprise search survey that Findwise have developed. So far the team have only had time to crunch through the first 100 replies.  From these initial results 38% report that there is no budget for search and 48% that there is less than one person supporting the search application.  The survey is open to the end of April so it is not too late to complete the survey if you have not yet done so. There is so little reliable information about search implementation that any input you can provide will be invaluable to the search community worldwide and to you personally. At least you will be able to benchmark your own situation, and that could help you in developing a business case to gain more resources.

The enterprise search business is going through an interesting period. Last year HP acquired Autonomy and Oracle acquired Endeca. Oracle seemed to have moved much more quickly than HP in integrating Endeca into its product suite. Then a month ago Lexmark (formerly the printer division of IBM) announced the acquisition of Isys-Search, the Australian-based enterprise search business. I like the commentary on the Lexmark acquisition by Miles Kehoe at New Idea Engineering.  I think it’s a good move for Isys-Search provided Lexmark don’t kill the business with corporate overheads and take a long term view. In my experience many IT managers are worried about whether small but good search vendors will survive. They want to know that the company is going to be around for a few years. The Lexmark ownership of Isys-Search should reassure them.

What is not going to be around is Microsoft FAST ESP 5.3.  Mainstream support for this product ceases in July 2013, and remember that there has been no development on the product since around 2008. It is invisible on Microsoft corporate web sites and my understanding is that you now cannot buy it. Among the many impressive features of FAST ESP was its scalability and that is a difficult act to match. Many organisations are considering a migration to Apache Lucene and TNR Global have published a good briefing paper on upgrade options using open-source software.

I’m sure that these and many more topics will be the subject of presentations, panel sessions and quiet conversations with exhibitors at Enterprise Search Europe, and also at the Enterprise Search Summit in New York earlier in May. For an in-depth analysis of the main search applications do read the recently-updated Real Story Group report on enterprise search

Martin White