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Corporate Wide Search Solutions

In Search of the 360 Degree View of the Enterprise

CORPORATE SEARCH NOW GOES BEYOND TRADITIONAL DATA SOURCES

There is renewed interest in the market for what we at Search Technologies call “corporate wide search," or CWS. These are holistic solutions making corporate information easily and securely available to all staff within an enterprise. Subsets of information are sometimes also made searchable for customers or partners.

Some people call this “Enterprise Search.” But that label can be confusing as it is also used to describe a class of software, used for a range of search applications, such as eCommerce, customer support, business intelligence, and publishing.

So, for clarity, we refer to it as “corporate-wide search.”

A DEFINITION

Corporate-wide search systems can be defined by the following characteristics:

  • Indexing multiple, disparate document repositories, which are heterogeneous in nature, contain a variety of file formats, and are often topologically distributed around the corporate network
  • Serving a range of user needs, from deep, specific research, to simple fact checking and document retrieval
  • Supporting business-critical processes through customized search capabilities
  • Fully respecting all document-level security restraints imposed by the various document repositories involved
  • Providing a universal user interface for search results presentation

This corporate goal of implementing a search system that meets these requirements is often referred to as a quest for a "360 degree view" of the enterprise.

WHY IT'S HARD TO MAKE SEARCH EASY

Building successful corporate-wide search systems is primarily about addressing the awkward issues. The core indexing and query functionality provided by leading search engine vendors is mature, reliable, and scales well. Peripheral issues are the ones that tend to pose the key challenges. Among these are:

  • Data connectivity: Implementing and maintaining sustainable connectivity to capture content and metadata
  • Content processing (enrichment, cleansing and normalization)
  • Query processing, to support and enhance user queries

These key challenges are exacerbated by the relentless growth of data. For example:

  • Data growth overwhelms standard crawl/ingestion strategies, especially where the data is remote
  • As data volumes grow, metadata capture and enhancement, and content processing prior to indexing, become increasingly important for “findability”

These are situation-specific issues that can only be addressed through the application of expertise.

HOW IS CORPORATE WIDE SEARCH IMPLEMENTED?

In our experience, most corporate-wide search implementations can be classified into one of the following categories:

Enterprise repository-centric
Many enterprises have corporate initiatives to establish central repositories of enterprise content, and Microsoft SharePoint is increasingly used as the solution, with varying degrees of success. SharePoint 2013 now includes very good standard search capabilities, though this does not preclude the consideration of other technologies for corporate-wide search projects.  

An enterprise search solution can work quite well when all content to be indexed is within the SharePoint environment. However, when much of the content is in remote repositories (ECM systems, SAP systems, file shares, websites, etc.), additional challenges are posed which require specific expertise. For further information, see Enterprise Search with SharePoint 2013.

Heterogeneous repository environments
For a number of different reasons, many enterprises also choose to maintain multiple "best-of-breed" content repositories versus a centralized solution. These heterogeneous content environments can result from the natural evolution and federation of IT infrastructure, as well as from merger and acquisition activity. It is not uncommon to see organizations with a dozen or more repositories in use.

The Google Search Appliance is a popular choice for search in this scenario, as are established technologies such as HP Autonomy IDOL, Attivio, and IBM Data Explorer (Vivisimo).  However, the need to access, process and index multiple, heterogeneous, and distributed content, can pose challenges that require unique search expertise to address.

Open source pioneers
Apache Solr has been around for more than 10 years and is a popular choice for Web-facing search applications.  It is simple and straightforward in nature, and so may not always meet the complex needs of corporate-wide search solutions.

More recently, Elasticsearch is gaining excellent traction, and is based on the same Lucene (and other proven open source utilities) roots as Solr.  Elasticsearch is also often paired with LogStash (for log management) and Kibana (for user interfaces) in a full architecture stack for search-enabled applications.

A growing number of enterprises are now considering open source solutions for corporate-wide search. They accept that it won’t always work out-of-the-box, and that customization and expertise will need to be applied. Open source solutions using g Solr or ElasticSearch is also popular with sophisticated FAST ESP users.  

LEVERAGING EXPERTS TO MAKE SEARCH EASY

At Search Technologies, we have deep expertise in all of these technologies and helped enterprises develop or migrate corporate-wide search solutions based on both open source and commercial technologies. Whatever your circumstances or choice of search product, we have the experience and expertise to help you deploy a corporate-wide search system that meets your business needs while delivery a better experience to your users.

Just about any type of organization can benefit from a Corporate-Wide Search solutions:

  • Fortune 500 and Global 2000 enterprises
  • Government organizations
  • Non-profit and charitable organizations
  • Research organizations
  • Educational institutions

A more comprehensive list of these organizations is available on our customer page.

 

Contact us for an informal discussion of how we can get started with our Assessment Service.