search light beaming into a dark space
PHOTO: Paul Green

A recent spate of significant investments in the enterprise search space — specifically for Lucidworks, Algolia and Coveo — and the ServiceNow/Attivio deal prompted me to take a look at the state of enterprise search. During the course of preparing this column I spoke with CMSWire reporter Dom Nicastro about the topic. His article is definitely worth a read, but know, there is some overlap. 

Related Article: Cognitive Tech, Implementation Challenges and Other Enterprise Search Trends

Microsoft's Search Future Remains ... Fuzzy

Microsoft seems determined to reveal its roadmap for search one pixel at a time. Of course when you are the dominant vendor of search software (albeit under the protective shelter of Office 365), you are in the position of having significant customer lock in — at least for the present. 

It was very disappointing to see Microsoft, during its recent Ignite conference, still quoting an IDC guess about the time spent on search (2.5 hours a day) that dates back to 2001. Equally concerning was the suggestion during its Project Cortex announcement that finding and gaining access to expertise (which are two different tasks) is a problem technology can solve. 

When you have a moment, ask your Microsoft contacts how it handles content in multiple languages and commercially sensitive knowledge. My guess is reality will dawn in a couple of years when the challenges of providing cross-repository and cross-language search solutions are still not being adequately met. 

Related Article: Microsoft Project Cortex Ushers in the Age of Topic Computing

Lucidworks and Elastic: What Follows Lucidworks' Recent Funding Round?

In August, Lucidworks gained a further investment of $100 million. Upon hearing that news, my first question is how it will spend that money, specifically, how it will use the money to generate an ROI for investors, given that the shine is starting to come off its competitor, Elastic. A recent analyst comment stated that Elastic has a flawless balance sheet but growth prospects are limited. Its share price seems to have lost its upward momentum. The implications of the announcement by AWS in April that it was going to build its own Elastic-based library are still somewhat uncertain, and it is worth remembering that Azure also uses Elastic code.

Attivio/ServiceNow and Algolia: What's Behind the Announcements?

Close on the heels of the Lucidworks announcement, Algolia announced a $110 million investment from Salesforce Ventures and Accel on Oct. 15. This is a strong vote for the future of SaaS search solutions. Algolia has operations in six countries, which is four more than most search vendors. 

A week later came an announcement from ServiceNow that it was acquiring the cognitive search intellectual property (IP) of Attivio along with some of its key software engineers. This asset acquisition inevitably raises the issue about what will now happen at Attivio. According to a blog post on the Attivio site “Attivio will continue to support its existing customers and power their search experiences across employee experience, customer support, and risk avoidance. And we’ll keep you updated in this space about what we have planned next for the future of search.” 

Two questions: How will Attivio continue to support customers when its IP is inside ServiceNow? And why was there not a more detailed and positive commitment to customers which addressed this IP issue? It all looks like a high-speed IP grab done in the greater interests of ServiceNow customers. 

At this point it might be worth noting that Salesforce and ServiceNow are competitors, so perhaps the Salesforce investment in Algolia is not an entirely benign financial investment. Just something to consider ....

Related Article: Is Open Source Part of Your Search Stack?

Coveo's Cash Infusion Is a Promising Sign

Coveo has attracted an investment of $227 million, greater than the combined investments in Algolia and Lucidworks. Coveo has struggled a little over the last few years in getting across to the market its technology model of on-premises and SaaS search solutions. Of course Microsoft has a similar problem with SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure. In my view, taking together the Algolia and Coveo investments suggests that SaaS search is going to grow in importance, especially for smaller organizations. I am delighted to see Coveo gaining the resources to be a significant player in the global market — Gartner and Forrester may need to revise their recent quadrants!

Autonomy Resolution Coming Soon(ish)? 

The end game for Autonomy is now in sight. The UK court case is coming to a conclusion, though the judgment may not be handed down until some time in 2020. The Financial Reporting Council has also brought disciplinary proceedings against two Deloitte partners over alleged misconduct in their audits of Autonomy between 2009 and 2011, citing Deloitte had too close a relationship with Autonomy prior to the HP acquisition.

Autonomy is now back in the UK having been acquired by Micro Focus Ltd, but it seems to have dragged down the performance and share price of this previously very successful software business. Micro Focus has asked Goldman Sachs to assess where the opportunities lie for the company. Rumors have been circulating in the press that OpenText was considering an acquisition of Micro Focus, a rumor which both parties denied, but technically it still leaves open the sale of the Autonomy IP to OpenText.

Related Article: HP Sues to Recover $5.1B From Autonomy Deal

A Bright Future for Search

Overall, I am very encouraged by this recent round of investment after what have been several challenging years for search vendors. The range of high-quality applications has probably never been wider. Time for your organization to make an investment in search!