If Google, Microsoft and Oracle are the only three vendors that made it into the Leaders Quadrant of this year’s Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Search, Gartner has identified many other vendors in the Challengers quadrant that are jostling for position next time round.

Enterprise Search Magic Quadrant

In fact, of all of the MQs that have been published over the year, this one describes a market that appears more balanced than others in terms of the functionality, and is well populated across all the four quadrants which include: Leaders, Challengers, Niche, Visionaries.

By this we mean that each of the Qandrants has a number of vendors that have been placed there for specific functionality reasons, while a large number of large and small vendors have been excluded because they failed to meet one or more of the inclusion criteria -- something that is also quite rare.

It should also be kept in mind that while this is the first Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Search, it is not a new field and has been covered previously by Gartner through Marketscope reports. In fact, enterprise search is one of the more mature markets in IT and the fact that there is such a spread of companies reflects that.

Also keep in mind, that Gartner has specifically excluded consusmer search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing from this report and sticks to tools that relate to users’ enterprise requests for relevant information, offering results and some light analysis of those results.

 

Quadrant Criteria

To be included in this Quadrant, vendors must be able to meet the following criteria:

  • Must offer a product marketed as "a search engine" or an "enterprise search" product
  • They must be available separately from all other products
  • Must have earned over US$ 5 million in revenue from enterprise search products in 2011
  • Must have identified at least three reference customers who acquired the product in 2011.

To get into the Leader’s Quadrant is even more difficult again. Vendors must demonstrate exceptional technological flexibaility and need to be aware of what significant segements of the market require to achieve their business goals.

 

Enterprise Search Market

So what is happening across the enterprise search market? According to this research the entire market is being re-shaped as the demand for better consumer experiences is forcing vendors to respond with new strategies and products.

Indicative of this is Microsoft’s decision to tie-up its search technology more closely with SharePoint -- although Microsoft has tied a lot of things into SharePoint, so no surprises here.

In all, Gartner has included 15 different vendors and compared their products to help IT professionals choose the best engine for their enterprise.

There are wide variations in the way the products are delivered and the way they are marketed with outside influences like social, mobile, cloud computing and information management impacting heavily on the market.

Since 2007, the market has grown at a compound rate of 11.7% annually and was worth in the region of US$ 1.7 billion last year,  with this year’s figure expected to be around US$ 1.9 billion despite economic conditions.

The products are sold as on-premises, as software-as-a-service or as installations on the infrascuture of cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services, while vendors are also being forced to provide connectors to traditional and unconventional data sources in order for their product to work effecitively.

Google, Microsoft

Again, as in previous Quadrants, Gartner recommends that potential customers look at all the different companies in every quadrants to see what is a good fit for their company, as they may find products more suitable for their needs outside the Leader's quadrant.

That said, according to Gartner, enterprise search is dominated by Microsoft and Google with potential customers asking about these two first before considering other possibilities, and then generally only in the context of platform-orientated or speciality-focused search.

Google is continuing to build-up its search offering and is currently deepening its product although it needs to find a balance between functional deployment and the core requirement of ease-of-use Gartner says.

Microsoft has tied its search efforts to SharePoint to such a degree that that it says it will not longer be providing licenses for search separate from SharePoint, which, depending on how you look at things, could be a way of promoting its SharePoint platform or its enterprise search platform.

However, even if you regard this as a bad thing, there is a silver lining here. According to Gartner, this has opened up the market for competing vendors both large and small that are still operating despite Microsoft’s growing ambitions in this market.

Enterprise Search Leaders

Again, to date only three vendors made it:

Google

Like all its other products, Google Search Appliance continues to gain new features and with it, a heightened market profile despite tough competition, especially from Microsoft.

  • Strengths: Its search appliance is easy to install with the vast majority of users reporting only brief waits to bring projects to production stages. It is low maintenance and does not require a large human resources investments. Google itself is also continuing to invest in its product while its transparent pricing makes costs predictable.
  • Cautions: Understanding why a particular set of results has been sent back is difficult but Google says that its relevancy calculation models is a competitive differentiator and is unlikely to make it easier any time soon. Administration reporting capabilities are not as strong as some of its competitors.

Microsoft

Its enterprise search engine continues to grow and has done better than many people expected in competition with Google. Microsoft’s decision to tie it in to SharePoint should also see it gaining larger market shares.

  • Strengths: It offers a transparent process for understanding why a set of results has been sent back to the user  while it also offers the possibility that the tie-in with SharePoint may also see SharePoint administrators also acting as search managers.
  • Cautions: Many customers have been disappointed by the decision to tie-it in to SharePoint and not sell search separately. Gartner says this may a drive-away developers that were looking to build exceptional applications. It also only offers Fast and SharePoint on Azure and in Office 365 and does not support other platforms.

Oracle

Oracle repurposed its Oracle Secure Enterprise Search as a tool that informs all its applications and, as such, has lifted itself into the Leaders Quadrant. The acquisition of Endeca has been instrumental in this, even if at Oracle, Endeca has featured more as a business intelligence product.

  • Strengths: Oracle’s design offers strong flexibility for the design of conversational search capabilities that reduce the ambiguity of results. It has a strong background in e-Commerce and has invested heavily in the search and analysis of structured data for hybrid structured/unstructured use cases.
  • Cautions: Oracle is moving Endeca away from its long standing model of pricing by data record and is instead starting to charge by process with some clients indicating that they are unhappy with this. It is also positioning Endeca as a search technology in the e-commerce arena, which could weaken it as a stand alone product.

And that’s this year’s leaders. Tomorrow we will look at the others that made it into the quadrant and, just as importantly, those that did not make it.