Open-source search has some major advantages compared to its competitors.

First of all, it's free. Second, it stands up in comparison to the largest, proprietary search vendors. Third, there is a growing ecosystem around open-source search that makes it far easier to implement than ever before.

The combination makes open-source search a potent alternative to Google and Microsoft, arguably two of the biggest players in the enterprise search market.

Lucid Imagination

Lucid Imagination considers itself a bit like Red Hat. The company provides services for Lucene and Apache Solr, open-source search technologies. This week, Lucid Imagination is releasing a certified version of Lucene 2.9. What this means is that Lucid has tested and debugged Lucene to make it palatable for organizations to implement.

As a Lucid executive said today, it's Lucene with a "shampoo and a blow dry." It can be integrated quickly into an enterprise search environment. For example, a major online retailer downloaded the certified version and had it running within a few days across its Canadian, German and United Kingdom sites.

Lucene is downloaded several thousand times a day. It is used by more than 4,000 organizations. Many organizations have switched to Lucene to replace proprietary search software products. Beyond the issue of cost, organizations are using Lucene's flexible and scalable architecture for developing highly sophisticated full-text search applications.

Compared to Lucene, Google Search Appliance prices according to the number of searches performed. This can get pretty costly for larger scale search efforts. The API can be customized to some extent but Google protects its core technology, which requires the customer to do some work arounds. Google is targeting enterprise customers to do search within Sharepoint and in a number of other ways in the Enterprise.

Earlier this month, Google announced Commerce Search, a service designed for e-tailers to customize searches for their products.

Microsoft is banking on Sharepoint to position its search functionality within the enterprise. In particular, with Sharepoint 2010, Microsoft will launch FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint. Based on the FAST search technology, it combines the FAST's high-end search capabilities with SharePoint.

But the issue here is again how much customization the customer can actually do with the search technology. Due to its proprietary nature, the customer has little control over how it can be customized. Customers are forced to wait to see what features Microsoft develops.

No doubt, Lucene is a super-hot player in the enterprise search market. And who's to gain? Enterprise customers who want world-class search at cost you just can't beat. Even better is the fact that one company, Lucid Imagination, is dedicated to supporting Lucene. The company has the chance to score big in the market, especially with certified offerings such as what they are providing for Lucene 2.9.

Open-source search is here to stay. The proprietary players in the market will continue to keep significant market share but open-source search has to be considered in the mix as more companies seek to take control of its search environments.