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Open source search engines attract developers

The enterprise search market is evolving and offering new options, such as open source and AI. Discover the benefits of these platforms and how companies are using them.

As the enterprise search market expands, open source search engines compare favorably to their commercially built counterparts as an attractive option for developers.

Organizations can choose to deploy enterprise search platforms in a variety of ways: on premises, in the cloud or through PaaS. Today, cloud offerings such as Microsoft Azure Search and Google Cloud Search dominate the enterprise search market, but open source search engines are also gaining steam.

As they upgrade their enterprise content management platforms, companies should familiarize themselves with technologies such as open source search engines and AI- and analytics-fueled cognitive search platforms.

Benefits of an open source enterprise search platform

Organizations can also choose multiple deployment methods in an enterprise search strategy. Connective DX, a digital experience agency in Portland, Ore., for example, uses Apache Solr, an open source enterprise search engine, in most deployments, said Scott Simmons, VP of technology at the company. The company uses Microsoft Azure Search for full Microsoft Azure PaaS deployments in conjunction with a content management system, such as Sitecore.

Open source also has one distinct advantage in the enterprise search market: Software developers want to use it. Open source enterprise search platforms aren't tied to one particular source code, so developers can customize features such as the UI or relevancy ranking.

We want great people to work here, and great people want to work with open source.
Archie CowanChief architect, Ithaka Harbors, Inc.

Ithaka Harbors Inc., a nonprofit company in New York that runs major academic research websites, such as JSTOR, uses open source technologies partially to attract talent.

"We want to be a technology innovator," said Archie Cowan, chief architect at Ithaka Harbors. "To do that, we want great people to work here, and great people want to work with open source."

Organizations can easily obtain an effective enterprise search platform, but it's not as easy to get great search results. Developers are key to a successful enterprise search deployment. Ithaka Harbors Inc., for example, continuously optimizes search results. To support this, its team logs information such as search query performance, all while adhering to strict privacy regulations.

Since Ithaka Harbors' user base is students, usage peaks during periods such as finals or midterms, Cowan said.

"Students only have a finite amount of time," he said. "You only have fall semester finals week as a sophomore once."

Smartphones, voice assistants change the game

Enterprise search has been around for decades, but technologies such as smartphones and AI change the way that users approach a content search.

As users become more comfortable with voice assistants, such as Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa, that run search engines in the background, developers may opt to deploy enterprise search technologies behind other interfaces and applications rather than on the front end.

"Search is still important," said David Schubmehl, research director at IDC in Framingham, Mass. "But … especially in the mobile world, search is often front-ended by a conversational user interface."

How open source enterprise search affects the market

As open source search engines, such as Solr and Apache Lucene, infiltrate the market, it puts a lot of strain on commercials vendors, Simmons said.

"'Smart' vendors expanded their offerings with AI and analytics features, and new vendors [such as Swiftype, Algolia and Elastic] appeared to fill in the gaps," he said.

Coveo, for example, is a cognitive search platform that uses AI and analytics and integrates with platforms such as Salesforce and ServiceNow. It contextualizes user behavior to suggest an article or document that might solve a problem, to predict content that might be helpful in the user's next steps or to even support integration with a chatbot.

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