Forrester has published its latest assessment of the enterprise search market. The study assesses twelve vendors, surprisingly none open-source, and finds the most popular players are getting more competition – especially in specialized capabilities.

The Shape of Enterprise Search

Although most people associate the emergence of search with the growth of the Internet and companies such as Lycos and Google, one of the earliest instances of search technology is much older and focused on a much smaller space than the web. IBM created one of the earliest search engines in the late 1960s to help it more quickly locate information when it was sued by the U.S. government.

Today, the impetus for search enterprise search is much the same as it was decades ago: Finding information quickly. We just have exponentially more information and often have to find it more quickly. Despite the age of search, according to Forrester, many organizations don’t see enterprise search as a fundamental service like email. However, as content sizes continue to grow, become more diverse and the workplace is filled with a generation of web-savvy workers who just expect search to work, enterprise search solutions that help staff quickly locate information in disparate and diverse sources is becoming more of a necessity.

In the report, Market Overview: Enterprise Search, Forrester segments enterprise search products into three spaces:

  • Specialized -- products that use search to address a need in a specific area like customer service or to supplement business intelligence platforms
  • Integrated -- products that merge search capabilities with other information management functions like content management, collaboration or analytics; the goal of these products is to become deeply ingrained in the technology portfolio so that the use of the tool becomes a ubiquitous part of the information workplace
  • Detached -- products like Google’s appliance focused on ease of deployment and flexibility

The Evaluation

Forrester evaluated twelve vendors/products in its Market Overview:

  • Autonomy IDOL 7
  • Attivio AIE 1.3
  • Coveo Platform 6.5
  • Endeca Latitude 2
  • Exalead CloudView 5.1
  • Fabsoft Mindbreeze 5.0
  • Google Search Appliance 6.8
  • IBM Content Analytics with Enterprise Search 2.2
  • ISYS Enterprise Server v9.7
  • Microsoft FAST Search for SharePoint Server 2010
  • Sinequa ES 7
  • Vivisimo Velocity 8.0

Enterprise search products from Oracle, OpenText and SAP were excluded because Forrester felt their solutions were only relevant for customers using the vendors’ portal or line-of-business applications. Popular open-source enterprise search engine Lucene/Solr was excluded due to “lack of track record and/or in-house deployment expertise” according to the report. However, Lucene is the underlying platform for IBM’s solution, which was included on the list. Given the size of the Lucene/Solr open source community, the complexity of applications supported by the software and the current number of deployments, it is surprising the lack of confidence Forrester has in the product.

Vendors were assessed on ten criteria:

  • Mobile support
  • Federation model
  • Indexing and connectivity
  • Social and collaborative features
  • Management and analysis
  • Security
  • Semantics/text analytics
  • Interface flexibility
  • Relevance model
  • Platform readiness

and rated as excellent, very good, good, fair or poor for each criterion. Forrester used vendor demos based on four scripted scenarios, customer feedback and the product’s features listed in documentation to evaluate the enterprise search tools.

The Results

Surprisingly, Vivisimo’s Velocity 8.0, a platform focused on enterprise customer experience, performed best of all the enterprise search products, scoring either an excellent or very good for each criterion. IBM’s new Content Analytics with Enterprise Search 2.2 fared worst; Forrester did not grant “Big Blue” an excellent for any criterion and criticized it as lagging behind other products’ social, relevance tuning and reporting features. Microsoft fared similarly to IBM, earning no excellent ratings on the evaluation criteria, but Forrester assessed several features such as federation, indexing, relevance models and interface flexibility as very good.

The other vendors scored similarly, but showed strength in diverse areas. For example, Coveo was the only vendor rated excellent for its mobile capabilities, and Sineqa’s ES 7 scored excellent for its semantic/text analytics features. Attivio and Google both received the study’s only poor rating, Attivio’s for its lack of management sophistication and Google for the weakness of its semantic functions.

Forrester goes on to predict the cost of enterprise search and level of vendor specification will continue to grow over the next few years as vendors continue to attempt to differentiate their products.

As with similar studies, everyone, including me, will have an opinion on whether Forrester’s evaluations are valid or why their preferred vendor was excluded. Because there is clearly a subjective/qualitative dimension, the study should be used an information point rather  than marching orders for enterprise platform selection.