Tuesday, January 27, 2009

response to Noisy Channel post on Lucid Imagination

Cross posted to my blog since it's a long response ;-)

To: Daniel Tunkelang

RE: Noisy Channel blog post on Lucid Imagination

I don’t think it’s their aim to compete with Enterprise search directly (business suicide), though I suspect they might pressure the pricing in the mid-market of search. The small market has been mostly eliminated by Google/Yahoo/MSN site search and open source engines.

Note also that they do not seem to (yet) provide support for Nutch or Droids.. meaning that they are missing a spidering/crawling engine. Same with Tika (office document support). Search result clustering may be coming soon via SOLR-769. No content-management or versioning. (These are fixable pieces given all the open source out there)

There is no good native support for rich taxonomies in Solr/Lucene, nor is there native support for some of the interesting semantic-web data driven features. No self-learning or auto-personalization of results. No analytics (though one could go elsewhere for that).

Lucid is also not offering a hosted Solr service .. so they are not an SaaS play either.

All that said, they obviously have some huge wins within the software industry.. but it’s a tough road to go after accounts like Home Depot, Albertson’s, or the government entities.

Enterprise search is mostly about finished feature sets and a near full admin GUI for non-programmers. The question is in these lean economic times if a given customer considering “build versus buy” is willing to risk starting a professional services engagement to build what they want for cheap, versus purchase a commercial ES product with way more features than they think they need.

I do think that a smart customer will have new leverage during the sales cycle to credibly threaten the ‘build’ option and get the ‘buy’ price down. And Lucid certainly should affect the ability of the ES companies from getting a customer bought in then milking them for professional services, integration and customization fees… Lucid provides a credible switching threat to cut bait and start over.

Google, Yahoo and open source projects like Lucene have commoditized basic search, so ES is about value-added features, innovative R&D and taking away customer pain and complexity.

Some of the people in Lucid have big plans (Grant Ingersoll comes to mind), and there is absolutely no question that Lucene has made some search vendors look like dinosaurs with slow engines and archaic index structures.

It will be some time before open source catches up to ES.. but it just might not be as long as some would hope.

Disclaimer: The above is my opinion and some fact-looking statements might be wrong.. so Lucene guys jump in!

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