Is True Enterprise Search actually Possible?

By Mark Owen posted 01-08-2012 20:42


The idea of “Enterprise Search” is an attractive one. It certainly would be its weight in gold to have a single search location where key words can be entered, and within a fraction of a  nanocentury[1], results would be displayed that include both structured, and unstructured, content from across the numerous repositories, silos, systems, archives, file shares, cabinets, clouds, etc, etc.

But is true Enterprise Search really possible? I know there are several tools that provide “Enterprise Search” functionality, but these usually allow you to search over a fixed number of different repositories, usually containing similar data. Maybe it’s a set of defined documents, or a database, or similar. You certainly get the opportunity to make available content from disparate sources, but can you consider that “enterprise”.

If you consider what’s involved to search across the “Enterprise”, it should be quite easy, right?

Well…consider this:

1. First off, you need to be able to identify where your structured, and unstructured, data and content is. Remember, here we are dealing with the complete enterprise, so don’t forget that this includes files shares, hard drives, database system, ERP systems, ECM systems, etc, etc. And what happens if new “sources” are added?

2. Next, you need to know what sort of content you have. Can the Enterprise Search application “read”, or parse, the data/content you have? There certainly are ways to make it possible to do this. You can install an ifilter, for example. But, you’ll need one for every format that you have in your enterprise.

3. You need a way that your Search application can connect to all of the different “sources”. In principle this is, again, possible. (However, I would imagine that this would require a lot of configuration).

4. How frequently is your data, and content, changing? For example, in an ECM system, is the content constantly being changed (as new documents are added). Maybe several major and minor versions are kept of each document. Do you need to index all versions, or only the latest? What about data in your ERP system? How accurate do you want your search results to be? Do you just keep continuously indexing?

5. Security. Do you want users to be able to see results of data, or content, that, if they had used the native application, they do not have rights to? If there are disparate security systems in place, how do you translate ACLs from them into a common format? Do you use “early binding”, or “late-binding”?  

As you can see, it’s not that simple.

Until we have a way to be able to “capture” all information from an undefined number of sources, with an undefined number of data, and file, formats, with disparate sets of ACLs, I return to my opening question: “Is True Enterprise Search actually possible?”

What are your thoughts on this?


[1] A nanocentury is approximately 3.155 seconds

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