A year spent studying, analyzing and summarizing search and information access technology can make anyone dizzy. Yet the folks at CMSWatch never tire of such work. Their Search & Information Access Report 2009 provides a comprehensive overview of 23 search technology products and identifies current best practices.

According to the study, customers who, in the past have had to struggle with the volatility of both vendors and technology can now enjoy a more stable market.

Like other CMS Watch offerings, the report does not rank "best" vendors, but instead details the strengths and weaknesses of the various players, identifies their suitability for different use cases and isolates vendor tendencies that may influence long term product roadmaps.

A Stable Market for Search

A stable market in such an unstable economic climate?

Consider the following:

  • Microsoft spent much of the past year honing and recently debuting a new strategy for its multiple search offerings, including Microsoft Office SharePoint Search and FAST ESP, while the products themselves changed little.
  • Many companies added new features that had actually been subjected to testing and licensing.
  • The debut of far fewer releases by search vendors within the last six months, indicating a focus on refining existing offerings and improving marketing.
  • More easy-to-install solutions offer convenience yet their technologies still offer a "wealth of choices -- in some cases, several from the same vendor."

The volatility of the economy seems to have made vendors more apt at improving the products they have, rather than introducing new products that may not be as good. Perhaps this is an unintended, but acceptable benefit of such dire straits.

The CMS Watch Cross-Check

CMS Watch Search Cross-Check

CMSWire has covered a number of the vendors in the Cross-Check chart above. What we see is that the smaller vendors can deliver new features must faster than the bigger ones. Of course, most of the search vendors considered large do not have search as their primary offering, but actually a component of their enterprise content management solutions.

In the case of Recommind, they have a strong focus on ediscovery solutions, which makes them an in-demand search/information management vendor by both enterprises and enterprise content management vendors alike. For instance, Open Text has a partnership with Recommind that offers an ediscovery solution for their own customers.

Exalead, another search vendor who is evolving quickly, is doing so by a solution that provides unified information access and search across the enter organization, including sources both inside and outside the firewall. This type of capability is critical at a time when most organizations with global relationships need to share information securely.

We also see Autonomy as a leader in terms of rapid product development, but also evolving at a fast enough rate to concern some. With their recent acquisition of Interwoven primarily for its legal clients and the number of new capabilities coming out related to ediscovery, it's clear Autonomy is going after a market that is in high demand. But are they moving so fast in that direction, that their base solution is suffering?

In today's world of compliance and ediscovery requirements, search and information access vendors should be in high demand. Solutions need to cross organizational and partnership boundaries to ensure all information is secure and easily within reach.

This may not be a year that new capabilities are the highlight, but it may be the year that more partnerships with enterprise content management vendors start to emerge. Because really, you can't have one without the other.

Read more about the CMS Watch report on their website.