CMS Watch, a vendor-independent analyst firm that evaluates content technologies, has found that the software as a service (SaaS) model for enterprise search has faltered, as hosted players fail to make inroads into enterprise-wide scenarios and appliance vendors increasingly address the kind of simpler scenarios typically fulfilled by hosted services. This analysis stems from CMS Watch's 2008 "Enterprise Search Report," which evaluates 18 major enterprise search offerings.


SaaS delivery models are hot all across the software landscape, but search has become an exception. Early hosted players Blossom and Pico have remained relatively obscure. The granddaddy of hosted search, Atomz, has been acquired twice and now belongs to Web analytics vendor Omniture.


CMS Watch finds at least three reasons for the decline of SaaS search.

  1. SaaS offerings have been limited largely to website search scenarios - an important use case, but not as high-value as multi-repository enterprise search, which depends heavily on the kind of internal WAN access and onsite software connectors that SaaS vendors simply cannot provide today.
  2. The dramatic rise of search appliance vendors (especially Google) has cut into demand for simple, web-oriented solutions of the type offered by SaaS vendors.
  3. Google's own hosted search offering, although targeted at the small and midsized market, has likely dampened enthusiasm among potential competitors. 

CMS Watch research identified other enterprise search trends as well: 

  • Vendors across the board are introducing Web 2.0 features, such as social results ranking, but customers seem to find these more attractive in demos than in real installations.
  • Browsable, categorized search results functionality of the kind popularized by Vivisimo and Endeca are now nearly ubiquitous across the marketplace.
  • As search technologies become more powerful and complex, enterprise customers are pressing search vendors for better testing and configuration management facilities, which remain comparatively thin in this marketplace.

The report is available for purchase online from CMS Watch.

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