Startup Provides Commercial Support for Lucene-based Search

Startup Lucid Imagination is banking on the belief there's a market in commercial support for enterprise search applications built with the popular open-source Lucene and Solr projects.

"Lucene and Solr are probably some of the most underestimated players in this market," said CEO Eric Gries. The Solr search server provides a front end to the core Lucene search engine library.

Lucene is in use at more than 4,000 organizations worldwide, according to Lucid Imagination. But companies that are starting to use the search engine for mission-critical applications can't rely solely "on the good graces of the [open-source] community" for support and quick bug fixes, Gries said.

The San Mateo, California, company is offering Standard, Professional and Enterprise support subscriptions, with pricing ranging from US$12,000 to $18,000 annually.

As far as Lucene application development, Lucid Imagination is focusing on "high-level consulting," not coding. Instead, it will refer customers to independent consultants, earning a percentage of their fee, Gries said.

The company is also providing certified Lucene and Solr distributions; training and certification courses; and additional software, such as Solr Gaze, a performance monitoring tool.

The company will contribute all bug fixes back to the open-source community, according to Gries.

Meanwhile, Lucene has made "significant improvements in processing speed" during the past several years, search analyst Stephen Arnold said in a blog post.

"The biggest plus is that you can download the system, install it on a Linux, UNIX, or Windows server and provide a stable, functional keyword and fielded search system," he added.

But the technology has a learning curve, according to Arnold.

"A non-programmer will not be able to figure out how to install, test, configure, and deploy the system," he wrote. "Open source programs are often quite good technically, but some lack the graphical interfaces and training wheels that are standard with some commercial search and content processing systems."

He added that Lucene has not been built to provide the level of security in offerings such as Oracle Secure Enterprise Search, "so expect to spend some time making sure users can access only content at their clearance level."

However, the software presents a far more economical option than commercial products, which can fetch six-figure license fees, he said.

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