Lucid Imagination wants to be to enterprise search what Red Hat is to Linux.
So says Eric Gries, CEO of the open source enterprise search software company, whose platform is based on Apache's Lucene and Solr open source projects.
The San Mateo, Calif. firm isn't exactly a startup. It was officially founded in 2007 but is now coming out of stealth mode with $6 million in funding and an impressive client list including Netflix, HP, FedEx, Orbitz, AOL, Apple, Comcast and Zappos.
Lucid will provide free certified distributions and a portfolio of support, training, consulting services and value-added software.
Subscription costs range from $12,000 to $18,000 per year. Gries said this is a first-of-its-kind services firm for the Lucene/Solr project. Lucid already has more than 4,000 installations to date. Lucene is a search project while Solr is a complementary web services add on that enables customers to get up and running fast without any programming.
Lucid will go up against established players such as Autonomy, Microsoft's FAST, Endeca and IBM, which markets its own Lucene based offering, analysts say.
The company employs about 10 of the Lucene/solr projects's top 10 committers and founding members include Lucene/solr experts Marc Krellenstein, Yonik Seeley, Grant Ingersoll and Erik Hatcher.
Enterprise search is one of few bright spots in the software industry. Granite Ventures, one of the two VCs that pumped $6 million into Lucid, claimed the industry was worth $1.8 billion in 2007.
IDC analyst Sue Feldman estimates the market will grow between 10 percent and 12 percent over the next year -- and that's a conservative estimate, she said.
"It’s growing like gangbusters," she said about the overall market, acknowledging that a commercially backed open source play offers a number of advantages over proprietary offerings.
First, the code isn't owned by a single vendor. So there's no lock-in or risk of investing in a proprietary technology that goes bust. There’s plenty of Lucene/solr expertise in the marketplace to assuage customer concerns about long term support. An finally, open source also allows customers to tweak the source code such as changing relevancy ranking or the user interface, she noted.