Oracle Targets the Enterprise With New Search Engine

Oracle has staked out ground in the rapidly changing enterprise search industry with the introduction of Oracle Secure Enterprise Search 10g, a standalone engine that can search databases, file systems, enterprise content management systems, portals, e-mail systems and enterprise applications for internal corporate use.

Oracle enters as the corporate search market is realigning and expanding. Two of the major providers of corporate search technology have merged, with Autonomy’s acquisition of Verity last year. Then there is Google’s entrance into the space. IBM has also thrown its hat into the ring with the introduction of its own standalone engine, OmniFind.

Sizing the Market

Enterprise search is a fast-growing software market segment, albeit from a relatively small base, IDC analyst Sue Feldman told TechNewsWorld.

“In 2004, the size of the market was US$760 million,” she noted. “It is forecasted to grow to $1.8 billion by 2009.” Feldman is currently compiling figures for 2005.

The major players now are Autonomy, FAST and Endeca. It is diffcult to gauge Google’s reach, she said, because Google is not as forthcoming with numbers as other vendors.

Emphasizing Security

Oracle is differentiating itself among these players by emphasizing the security elements in its offering.

Security has become a hot issue in the corporate search space, because many companies have rushed to adopt enterprise search applications without considering the wider implications.

The implementation of many new regulations and stricter enforcement have been major drivers in this space, Martin White, president of Intranet Focus, told TechNewsWorld. “Companies realize that they need to be able to get their hands on a certain document if the Department of Justice ever comes calling.”

At the same time, companies also realize that there need to be stricter controls on who can search their intranets because of privacy concerns and regulatory issues — such as separation of certain functions in a financial services firm.

“In some cases, an employee finding documents he shouldn’t is worse than not being able to find the documents at all,” White said.

In many cases, companies have been careless with internal security by storing proprietary data on secret servers and not coding documents appropriately. These practices may have allowed some firms that did not have enterprise search systems installed to coast along without serious violations, he explained. When such systems are implemented, though, those secret servers will be exposed to virtually anyone — if the proper controls are not in place.

“It is critical that a search application meet both the needs of the end user and the need to protect confidential information,” agrees Greg Crider, senior director of tech product marketing at Oracle.

“That is why we have built into the application multiple layers of security.”

The features have been designed so that only authorized users can view certain content. Oracle does this, he explained, by integrating the application with multiple user authentication systems and providing a hardened repository for storing the search index.

Whither Google

Still, it will be difficult for Oracle to make inroads into the market, White believes, given the quality of standalone applications already in existence.

Google’s approach to corporate search is different from the other vendors, but it also could snap up market share among a certain subsector of corporates.

“It is an appliance, literally — you plug it into the server and it is ready to go,” he said.

The problem is that it is not easily customizable — a drawback if a company tends to change its lexicon a lot — and that it can be more expensive than companies realize.

“Some firms may need as many as 15 appliances to run their operations,” White pointed out, “so it is best suited to a company that has well defined corporate search needs.”

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