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Verity Buys Inktomi Enterprise Search Software
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Posted On November 18, 2002


Verity, an enterprise knowledge management vendor headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., announced that it is purchasing Inktomi's enterprise search software business for $25 million in cash. The software provides local searching on business Web sites, government and educational institutions, and corporate intranets. Verity has offered positions to most of the Inktomi employees in search engine sales, marketing, support, quality assurance, and programming. It will also assume Inktomi's contractual obligations for search, such as customer support.

Inktomi, of Foster City, Calif., plans to concentrate on its portal Web search and paid-inclusion business, having reduced development on enterprise caching. When the acquisition is completed in 30 to 60 days, it should bring the company to profitability.

Verity, one of the best-known brands in enterprise search, has been concentrating on knowledge management and social networking, with little change to the search engine software introduced in Verity Search97. It has approximately 1,500 customers, mainly among Global 2000 companies, and provides extensive consulting services. While the Verity K2 toolkits have been successful at the very top level of the enterprise business, the company is eager to offer a solution for a growing number of customers looking for search engines for smaller businesses and departments. In the immediate future, Verity K2 federated search will provide a connector for the search engine; this will integrate results with other sources.

Business considerations include an installed base of around 2,400 installations for Inktomi enterprise search products. This provides revenue of $20 million per year, with an average deal size of just under $20,000 and many customers purchasing maintenance and upgrade agreements. Verity expects to supplement its own enterprise sales team with the Inktomi inside sales organization. The analyst consensus was positive for Verity: This is a good deal at an attractive price.

Verity officials indicated that they are considering returning to the name "Ultraseek." Ultraseek, an enterprise search engine, was originally developed by Infoseek Corp. in the 1990s. It was included in Go Disney's acquisition of Infoseek in July 1999 and subsequently sold to Inktomi in June 2000 for more than $300 million in cash and stock.

The Inktomi search engine is a market leader due to its flexible indexing, fast retrieval, quality search relevance ranking, ability to scale from thousands to millions of pages, and low maintenance requirements. Indexing features include a powerful robot spider for crawling links on Web pages; XML tag and attribute handling; security and access control integration; CMS connectors; database connectors for ODBC, JDBC, Sybase, and Oracle; extensive language and character set support; and Unicode internal storage.

The search features include date range and metadata search, stemming, synonyms and spell checking, Quick Links for manual recommendations of best matches for specified searches, U.S. Government Section 508 compatibility, and passage-based summaries that show search words in context from the documents. A browser administration interface and HTML/CSS-based page customization engine make it simple to configure, keeping its Total Cost of Ownership significantly lower than some competitors. Customers praise the search engine for its unique, continuous robot indexing, high quality of retrieval, application flexibility, and customization features.

The NativeX SDK XML toolkit allows integration of all the features of the search engine into other applications via a Java API. The suite also includes the Quiver classification engine, which places new content into taxonomy categories with human editorial control over automatic categorization. This classification application, acquired by Inktomi in July 2002, has a well-designed work-flow component. Verity considers these products valuable additions and will continue development on them.

While Verity officials promised further development on the search engine software, high-end enterprise offerings will continue to be Verity K2E (enterprise) and K2C (catalog), and there will be a defined migration path for customers with extensive integration requirements. No final decisions have been made on exactly where the boundaries will be, whether the browser administration interface will apply to other products, or if the security features of the Verity products will be added to the search engine. Inktomi has provided downloadable demo versions, free customer discussion lists, and user group meetings. It's not clear whether these interactions will continue.

The enterprise search market is crowded, with free open source search engines such as ht://Dig, SWISH-E, mnoGoSearch, and ASPSeek providing a quality alternative to commercial software, even for sites with hundreds of thousands of pages. Remote search services (ASP search engines) are often used for public sites. The leaders are Atomz, FusionBot, FreeFind, PicoSearch, and MondoSearch.

Successful commercial search engines include dtSearchWeb, FAST Data Search, MondoSearch, Hummingbird Search Server (formerly Fulcrum), Convera RetrievalWare (formerly Excalibur), Alkaline, Thunderstone Webinator, and the Google Search Appliance. Faceted metadata search and browse, a new approach to accessing structured content from databases and tagged repositories, is led by Endeca, i411, and bpallen Teapot. Verity and Inktomi both have excellent brand awareness, and the combination will be an immediate search engine market leader.


Avi Rappoport is available for search engine consulting on both small and large projects.  She is also the editor of www.searchtools.com.

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