Last Updated Mar 13, 2009 3:43 PM EDT
As opposed to Web search, enterprise search is used by companies internally to help comply with legal discovery requirements, identify documents that can be archived in inexpensive storage devices, and increasingly, to improve productivity by helping knowledge workers find information more effectively.
The enterpise search market grew by approximately 22% in 2008, according to IDC analyst Sue Feldman, not even pausing for breath in the fourth quarter.
Feldman agreed it's "a good guess" that EMC would want in on that.
There's more than simply growth that should attract EMC's attention. Feldman told me that vendors are starting to gain traction with a concept called "unified access" -- the ability to pull content from a variety of sources into a single platform.
Most major software vendors, including Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM and SAS, have over the past year acquired FAST Search and Transfer, Hyperion, Business Objects, Cognos and Teragram, which were either business intelligence software vendors with integrated search components or, in the cases of FAST and Teragram, stand-alone enterprise search vendors.
EMC is known as a nuts and bolts storage infrastructure company, but it sees itself as an information management company, building in this direction since its 2003 acquisition of document management vendor Documentum and, more recently, data deduplication vendor Avamar. Without an enterprise search or unified access component, it risks being left with a big hole in its information management strategy.
There are still a number of likely candidates for it to target, the most well-known of which is Autonomy, as well as Recommind, Endeca, Vivisimo and Exalead.
It's quite likely that EMC has already been shopping but is holding back until the market softens somewhat. Feldman told me she has every reason to think that the market continued growing strongly during Q1 of this year, allowing the remaining independent vendors to hold out for a higher price.
But she expects it to slow during the second and third quarters of the year, a view shared by Craig Carpenter, vice president of marketing and general counsel for Recommind, which specializes in e-discovery and compliance search.
Carpenter told me he expects a shake-out in the e-Discovery market this year.
Feldman confirmed that she knows of several M&A deals pending in the enterprise search space. "There will be bargains to be had, but there aren't yet, because the market is doing well," she said.