Enterprise search is one of the hottest growth areas today, but the wide variety of hardware, software and service-based approaches makes it difficult to determine the best approach for any given enterprise.
One key question that many administrators face when contemplating search technology is whether to put the intelligence of the system into the search tools or the data itself. Seth Grimes at Intelligent Enterprise describes the latter as fostering "findability" within your content. Although his experiences with the findability concept were less than stellar, he does concede that it at least offers the ability to maintain some control over data access by making some pieces of information more findable than others.
While the field is dominated by Microsoft and Google, a number of start-ups are looking to establish themselves by offering niche capabilities that may prove vital as search becomes more endemic throughout the enterprise. A firm called Endeca, for example, concentrates on database and data warehouse search, primarily for XML, RSS and documents. Vivisimo is gaining a name for itself by tying search to social networking.
These newcomers are forcing the old guard to constantly update its products. Google recently relaunched its Search Appliance with a new interface that gathers data from structured and unstructured sources, and has tapped leading business software firms like Oracle and SAP to bring more transparency into their applications.
Microsoft, meanwhile, is looking to integrate search to its leading enterprise platforms. SharePoint Server, for one, is getting many of the tools that previously were only available on Microsoft Search Server. Included is a federate search capability that allows you to search multiple applications with a single interface. The company has also embraced the OpenSearch standard developed by Amazon.
Searching for data is one thing. Turning it into actionable intelligence is quite another. Tools are available for the former, but it takes that most precious resource of all, human intelligence, to give that data real value.