We've worked with most of the major commercial search vendors for a long time. We can go back and talk about companies that were once leaders in the space, companies most people have never heard of: Excalibur... Conquest.. Fulcrum... Verity, and more. We continue to work with the best of commercial and open source technologies to give our customers solutions that meet their needs.
A major trend we've written about before and the we see continuing over the next couple of years is the significant reduction in price for what are now best in breed technologies in the space. This is being driven by of couple of factors, including increasing functionality in open source alternatives Lucene and Solr; and the acquisition of FAST by Microsoft, with the anticipated integration of FAST ESP into SharePoint, which many feel will result in a much lower price point.
Lately, we've seen a few major vendors engaging in some pretty severe obfuscation in their licensing parameters. I'm not sure it's a remnant of the 'good old days', or a last-ditch attempt to extract as much revenue as possible before the inevitable collapse in licensing costs we've talked about before. Let me explain, by way of analogy.
You want to buy a new car. You tell the sales person your budget range, and she shows you a model that is about three times what want to spend. When you point this out to her, she acknowledges the 'oversight' in passing, and suggests that if you don't need the backseat, she could take 10% off the cost. And if you insist, she could sell you a car with no reverse and save you maybe an additional 5%. And if you were willing to get in through the window, she could weld the door shut and reduce the price a bit more. Her final offer, still about 15% above your price range, would be for a car with no motor. Are you ready to buy?
Down the street at another dealer, you start over. His burning question is 'What kind of roads do you drive on?'. You see, if you never plan to exceed 55 miles per hour, he can sell you the car for just about what your budget is. You decide that's a pretty good deal, so you buy the car. A month later, you get a call from their global maintenance organization: it seems that you have actually driven your car closer to 65 MPH on several occasions, and your new price is 25% more than you paid. You have 30 days to send in the different, or your car will stop working. Can you hear me now?
A final dealership you now wish you had visited can pretty much give you the car for free. You'll have to assemble it, of course, but you can make it do anything you want. There's another company you can go to that will put it together for you - in fact, there are a number of them. One will even assemble it for you, and charge you an annual fee in case you have any issues. And their guys review the design on most of the parts, so you know they are pros and you can trust them.
Glad that search engines are not like cars? Or are they? This is one reason we really encourage you to use a skilled, competent partner to specify your requirements and to help you navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of acquiring enterprise search technology.