IDC’s Definiton of Search-Based Applications

Sue Feldman and the team over at IDC are talking about a new category / trend called search-based applications, and I think they may well be onto something.

Because I believe that IDC puts real thought and rigor into definitions, I pay attention when I see them attempting to define something. From past experience, IDC was about 10 years ahead of the market in predicting the convergence of BI and enterprise applications with — even in the mid 1990s — a single analyst covering both ERP and BI.

Here’s how IDC describes search-based applications.

Search-based applications combine search and/or text analytics with collaborative technologies, workflow, domain knowledge, business intelligence, or relevant Web services. They deliver a purpose-designed user interface tailored to support a particular task or workflow. Examples of such search-based applications include e-Discovery applications, search marketing/advertising dashboards, government intelligence analysts’ workstations, specialized life sciences research software, e-commerce merchandising workbenches, and premium publishing subscriber portals in financial services or healthcare.

There are many investigative or composite, text- and data-centric analysis activities in the enterprise that are candidates for innovative discovery and decision-support applications. Many of these activities are carried out manually today. Search-based applications provide a way to bring automation to a broad range of information worker tasks.

Some vendors are jumping whole hog into the nascent category. For example, French Internet and enterprise search vendor Exalead has jumped in with both feet, making search-based applications a key war cry in their marketing. In addition, Exalead’s chief science officer, Gregory Grefenstette, seems a like match to the “Ggrefen” credited in Wikipedia with the creation of the search-based applications page.

Another vendor jumping in hard is Endeca, with the words “search applications” meriting the largest font on their homepage.

While you could argue that this is yet-another, yet-another focus for Endeca, clearly the folks in marketing — at least — are buying into the category.

At Mark Logic, we are not attempting to redefine ourselves around search-based applications. Our product is an XML server. Our vision is to provide infrastructure software for the next generation of information applications. We believe that search-based applications are one such broad class of information applications. That is, they are yet another class of applications that are well suited for development on MarkLogic Server.

So, if you’re thinking about building something that you consider a search-based application, then be sure to include us on your evaluation list.

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6 responses to “IDC’s Definiton of Search-Based Applications

  1. There seems to be some public discussion of the concept of “search based applications” and its used by Sue Feldman of IDC. For the record, both Sue and Exalead arrived at a common conceptual understanding independently for the most part. Sue arrived there based upon her interaction with the market and Exalead arrived there via its customers. Having said that, we both are of like mind in a number of ways.

    First, the core of the SBA concept is based on providing search-like query interactivity that doesn’t require advance knowledge of a specific query language (e.g., SQL) or data structure (e.g., multi-dimensional cubes or data entity relationships). Clearly this opens use to a dramatically broader user community than other technologies that have those prerequisites .

    Second, SBAs present information in mash-ups that can be more than just a list of page or document hits. Our customers want this to accommodate specific business processes or consumer activity needs.

    Third, SBAs can integrate information using fuzzy logic, semantic meaning and other means beyond simple key-based joins or term matching.

    Lastly, that information can be from not only Enterprise structured and unstructured data sources, but also the Web. The win being a richer, more real-time, more nuanced context for analysis and decision-making, be it consumer or business.

    Of course, even though we recognized and even put a name to this kind of application early on won’t keep other related technology vendors from recognizing the market opportunity in their own way and joining in. That’s completely understandable. Consider the total revenue of the BI market over the last decade and the size of the data upon which that industry was built.

    Now, fast forward to now, and consider the current data generation rate, the majority being unstructured or modestly structured information and then extrapolate out the business value of harnessing that information.

    So, this is why Exalead is in this domain.
    As part of this commentary, I’d like to THANK OUR CUSTOMERS for collaborating with us in creating some very special and distinctive search-based applications. It is their progressive vision in their respective industries that help us drive our innovation. To our customers, present and future, I say: “please stay tuned there’s more innovation yet to come!”

    François Bourdoncle, Founder, Exalead

    • Francois,

      Thanks for weighing in. My quick response: (1) I like your definition’s inclusion of no advance knowledge of schema or queries, (2) I agree that they must go beyond returning list of links to documents, but feel that saying they must be mash-ups is overspecifying, (3) I like the whole fuzzy angle as a distinguishing characteristic; databases and data-driven application don’t do fuzzy well, (4) it seems artificial to argue that they must including structure and unstructured data sources as well as the web because you can simply argue the web is an unstructured data source. Some people (e.g., reputation management) might really care about it. Others may have no interest whatsoever, but it doesn’t make their application any less search-based.

      While I won’t edit it out — and since I’ve just switched blogging tools, I’m not sure I know how– please refrain from the little ads in the last paragraph, otherwise I might have to reject the whole comment which I don’t want to do. Merci / Dave

  2. I’m not clear on how “search-based applications” are different from “search platforms”.

    Thoughts?

    Avi

    • Yep, to me, they are two sides of the same coin. A search-based application is something you build on top of a search platform. We should probably ask Sue at IDC for her take on this one as well!

  3. To Avi’s question, “…how “search-based applications” are different from “search platforms””

    I would guess that the key distinction for the IDC would be this statement:
    “They deliver a purpose-designed user interface tailored to support a particular task or workflow.”

    I’d guess that I’m like most people who think of “search platform” as being something like ESP, IDOL, MDEX, etc., etc. — they either provide no U/I at all, or if they do, it’s a simple U/I that just handles general search.

    • My distinction is that a search-based application is something you build on top of a search platform. And a search platform can be, for example, a search engine with an API, an XML server like Mark Logic, or — and I don’t like this one — the bolting of an RDBMS to a search engine so as to handle both structured and unstructured information. Despite marketers obsession with the platform word, my take has always been simple: a platform is something you build applications on.

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