The enterprise search vendor business is becoming rather crowded!

I have now updated my list of enterprise search vendors, and was quite surprised to find that since January last year only two had disappeared but 17 had arrived, taking the total to 87. I’m sure this is not a comprehensive list. If the company you work for, or use, is not listed please use the Comments box to let me know. I reserve the right not to add them to the list.

Looking at the numbers, there are 30 vendors with an HQ in Europe and a further 28 US companies with representation in Europe based on the addresses listed on the vendor’s web site. That leaves nearly 30 based in the USA with no representation outside of the USA that are offering a global solution.

It is important to remember that Microsoft SharePoint has probably a 95% market share of the ‘enterprise search’ market. I have put ‘enterprise search’ in quotes as rarely is SharePoint search adopted across all applications and repositories, and it is quite common for individual departments or offices to go their own way. Nevertheless for (at a complete guess!) 360 million employees see SharePoint search as perfectly adequate.  CIOs regard SharePoint as free (because they have an enterprise Microsoft license) and excellent (because they have never seen a good search application). Persuading the CIO to accept that they have made a mistake in using Microsoft as their enterprise search is a significant marketing/sales barrier. More important, they are never going to throw away their Microsoft license so any incoming search solution has to work with the incumbent SharePoint solution.

New entrants to the sector that have a vision of being the master enterprise search application will need to demonstrate proven capabilities in integrating with SharePoint, well-tested connectors, various federated search options and the ability to support search in multiple languages. Looking at the web sites of some of these vendors the core message that is shouted out is that each has the ultimate search solution. How vendors are going to convey the competitive advantage they have against say 40 similar vendors remains to be seen.

The majority of recent entrants to the sector will have venture capital funding. The key issue is what strategy the investors have to get an adequate return. The usual routes are either a trade sale to another software company (MicroFocus to OpenText) or an IP sale (Attivio to ServiceNow) but how attractive either of these will be in an AI/LLM world is going to take some time to emerge. Will investors have the patience?

A final thought. There are various estimates of the value of the enterprise search software market but the companies who make most of the money from enterprise search are the systems integrators over the course of what might easily be at least a 6-month implementation following a 6-month specification, beauty parade and contract negotiation project. And nowadays a lot happens in a week let alone 12 months!

Martin White, Principal Analyst