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SaaS Approach Not A Fit For Enterprise Search

An accurate way to describe Software as a Service's (SaaS) impact on the enterprise software market would be "all the rage." Buoyed by high profile success stories, such as Salesforce.com and Google's Gmail, vendors have been quickly moving to adopt this computing model, with one very notable exception: enterprise search. "The SaaS approach has had little impact on the enterprise search market to date," stated Paul Sonderegger, chief strategist at Endeca.  

Search suppliers, such as Blossom, Northern Light and Pico, have tried to build up enterprise SaaS search services, but they haven't gained significant traction. Meanwhile, most of the prime search suppliers have stayed with traditional licensing models even though SaaS has become quite popular in many other market segments. A couple of factors have tempered users' and vendors' interest in SaaS search.

Search boomed at the turn of the millennium as the Internet became a common way for business professionals and consumers to find information. At the time, host based computing was the dominant model that enterprises followed. So, most search products were designed for that approach. Transforming these systems so they follow a SaaS formula can take a lot of time, effort and money. To date, most vendors have not thought that such an investment would be worth the potential rewards.

In fact, SaaS offerings have been limited mainly to scouring web sites. They do offer companies help in cataloguing information on their sites and then presenting it to users, however, that is not what corporations desire from their enterprise search systems. Instead, they need a system capable of examining information stored in multiple repositories and then presenting the most relevant data to employees.

One challenge in delivering such features is that the information is squirreled away inside the enterprise. Corporations house information in a variety of places: Enterprise Resource Planning systems, email messages, text documents and spreadsheets. Cataloguing and then providing access to the different data sources via a SaaS service has proven to be a significant challenge for suppliers.

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