IBM-Yahoo Pairing To Rekindle Enterprise Search Battle

IT executives are getting used to this clamor for business technology to live up to the zip and simplicity of consumer technology, and they know to tune it out when there's little value. With enterprise search, though, saying no is getting harder to justify.

For one, cost has become less of a barrier with products like Google's search appliances. And get ready, because last week's introduction of the free IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition will light another fire under enterprise search. The result will be more for less from every vendor in that market. Soon, the question will change from "Why don't we have enterprise search capabilities?" to "What took so long?"

"Today, you can't run a company without E-mail, and in the next few years search will gain that level of prominence," says Matthew Glotzbach, head of products at Google Enterprise. Google has 6,000 search appliance customers and is adding 1,000 a month; sales for the division doubled this year.

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Competition's growing in every segment. Microsoft's recently announced Office SharePoint Server for Search and IBM OmniFind Yahoo will take on the Google Mini at the low end of the market. In the midtier, where companies might spend $20,000 to $80,000, there's Google's Search appliance, Oracle's Secure Enterprise Search 10G, introduced earlier this year, IBM OmniFind, and SAP's Enterprise Search software, which is in beta. Vendors that get the big bucks--typically $350,000 to $450,000--for the best capabilities and scalability include Autonomy, Endeca, Fast, and Vivisimo, though they'll feel the pressure from better-performing midrange products.

Which way should your company go? That depends on your priorities. For Decision Critical, an online health information service, it was cost. "Free is a great price point from our perspective," says CTO Eric Brierley, who has been testing the IBM-Yahoo offering. The company provides online services to 400 hospitals for planning and tracking educational courses. This content comes from many sources and in many forms, from PowerPoint to documents to PDFs. Decision Critical is using the IBM-Yahoo search tool to index that information and let users search for information on a topic or course, depending on what content a hospital subscribes to. It took about 30 minutes to install the software and another four or five hours to customize it, Brierley says.

For others, security and access control features will dictate their search decisions. Security and access control often are addressed at the application and data repository levels, and that creates the same kinds of problems as trying to implement single sign-on systems. For companies that have single sign-on, Google's appliance has APIs so they can integrate their security systems and use the access privileges therein. But it's not plug-and-play for big companies trying to access information in many legacy applications and databases.

Enter SAP And Oracle

Google offers a way to get real-time business data off applications with Google OneBox for Enterprise, which became available in April. Cisco, Cognos, Employease, NetSuite, Oracle,, and SAS are among the partners that provide links to their applications through OneBox.



Search documents and Web pages



Less than $20,000



Coveo, Google Mini, IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition, Microsoft Office Sharepoint 2007 For Search


Documents and Web pages, plus structured data in databases and other apps; aids such as clustering to categorize results



$20,000 to $80,000



Google Search appliance, IBM OmniFind, Oracle Secure Search 10G, SAP Enterprise Search (in beta)


Search billions of records, business rules engines, advanced clustering, multiple languages, high-end natural language processing, high-end structured data support



$80,000 and up



Autonomy, Fast, Endeca, Vivisimo

Data: Forrester

Price Pressure
With the IBM-Yahoo announcement, enterprise search gets even more interesting. All enterprise search vendors are seeing strong sales, but the biggest success story is Google, which sold $50 million to $70 million of search appliances this year, estimates Matt Brown, an analyst at Forrester Research. The company's driven the entry-level segment almost entirely on its own with the Google Mini, starting at $1,995 for search- ing 50,000 documents. The Google Enterprise appliance costs $30,000 for searching 500,000 documents. IBM OmniFind Yahoo is marketed for searches of similar scale, and can be downloaded at for free by companies looking to add basic search to intranets and Web sites, while relying on Yahoo for Internet search--precisely the market where Google's had success.

Expect a market shake-up. Besides the familiar Yahoo interface, the product is based on Lucene, an open source indexing core. "The bottom is going to drop out around price," predicts Brown. Other vendors will offer free entry-level offerings to grab market share. Features found in midrange enterprise search systems--such as clustering search results for easier perusal, access to databases and applications, and greater scalability--will find their way into entry-level systems of less than $20,000.

Meantime, demand for good enterprise search--making it as easy as consumer search--will keep rising. While most people research car purchases online, down to detailed price ranges and quality ratings, too often a salesperson can't answer a customer's product question because the relevant information isn't searchable. Says SAP's Moore: "That's the difference between making money and not making money."

-- with Thomas Claburn