Technology

The Codie Contenders


The software industry's version of the Oscars features a special category for enterprise search. And the nominees are...

On May 16, 2006, the Software Information Industry Assn. hosts its annual Codie Awards gala. While few of us will attend Codie parties, for the software industry this event is as big as the Oscars. And the industry does it up just like Hollywood's big night: black tie and a well-known comedian as master of ceremonies (think Jon Lovitz rather than Jon Stewart). A table at the event will set you back $1,200.

There are more than 75 award categories, and over the last few years Best Enterprise Search Engine has emerged as one of the most competitive honors. "Obviously it's a hot area," says Ken Wasch of the SIIA. "It's a quickly evolving market that has become central to business use of the Web and even access to people's own information."

KUDOS AND SALES.

For the winners, there are bragging rights for the marketing department, a higher profile with analysts, and hopefully a pop in sales. Anyone can nominate a company, then it's up to the SIIA's equivalent of "the Academy" -- more than 100 analysts, trade journalists, and experts -- to select the finalists. Their rankings count for 50% of the score that determines the final winner, and a handful of expert judges do the rest. Like the Oscars, no one at the SIIA knows who won until the envelope is opened.

With Google (GOOG), Oracle (ORCL), IBM (IBM), and others flooding into search, the choices have never been more confusing (see BW Online, 5/15/06, "Google's Search for Corporations"). If you're a CEO looking for the answer to your data headache, perhaps the following nominees can help provide some relief.

Exalead: While still a small company, it's hardly a niche player in search. It ambitiously aims to provide companies with one product for Web search, personal desktop search, and corporate intranets. In other words, search for "American Airlines" and you could get the airline's Web site from Google, your company's policy on expensing travel, and any personal travel plans. The judges gave Exalead credit for pulling this off with all the simplicity of an everyday Web search, and for providing a product that's easy to install.

Price: Depends on how widely it's used in a company, can range from $30,000 to $250,000 for larger customers.

Fast Search & Transfer

Product: Fast is one of the oldest enterprise search companies, started in Norway in 1997. Its personal search product -- Fast Personal Search Platform -- is like a souped-up version of free desktop offerings from Yahoo (YHOO) or Google. Like Exalead's product, it also scours corporate information and the Web for results. It has the added benefit of allowing companies to set parameters, so employees don't have the ability to search whatever data they want. The judges cited the product for its speed, results, ease of use, and clean interface.

Price: Licensed like traditional business software by how many people use it. Typical deals start at $25,000.

MarkLogic: Its product, MarkLogic Server, is more cutting-edge than the others nominated, retrieving relevant sections of documents, not just Web links. While many other enterprise search sites strive to replicate Google's ease of use, MarkLogic is trying to one-up them all, by looking inside documents or applications and retrieving actual answers to questions, not just a list of relevant links. But that comes with a downside, say some judges, making the software not as intuitive for users or as easy to install as other search offerings.

Price: Starts at $30,000 per server

Nstein Technologies: As the product name suggests -- Ntelligent Enterprise Search Data Miner -- its software melds business intelligence with search. For instance, a search for "sales in Boston" might return actual numbers, along with a host of "soft" factors to indicate future sales. It does more than find the data, it mines it. Judges called the product "solid" and lauded its clean design and ease of use.

Price: $140,000 per processor

WebSideStory: WebSideStory Search is entirely different from its fellow nominees. It's not a product for companies to mine their own data. Rather, it's a way for Web sites to outsource search functions altogether. Clients install WebSideStory Search's tool on their external sites and just forget the headache.

WebSideStory isn't the only one doing this, but it has been lauded for using more sophisticated Web analytics to provide better search results. With search being increasingly important and hard to do well, WebSideStory's product enables a lot of Web administrators to quickly sidestep a big potential headache, particularly since WebSideStory even hosts the application, delivering it over the Web for a monthly fee. More than 300 customers use it to date.

Price: Starts at $40,000 per year

Lacy has been a business reporter for 10 years, most recently covering technology for BusinessWeek. Her book, Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0, will be published by Gotham Books in May, 2008. She is also Silicon Valley host of Yahoo Finance's Tech Ticker.

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