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Guide to Search Engines

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Text Search:  General-Purpose DBMS vs. Specialty Search Engines

While there are exceptions to any rule, we generally favor building text search applications on top of general-purpose DBMS – such as Oracle or DB2 -- rather than specialty “search engines.”   

First of all, manageability concerns generally favor the general-purpose DBMS.  Every large enterprise has tools and procedures to manage DBMS, back up data, and so on.  Generally, it is safer and easier to extend this investment to some new applications and tables than it is to bring in a new specialty text database engine. 

Second, security is more flexible within a general-purpose DBMS.  Some of the most important applications of Web-style search are for the dissemination of technical or customer information, either internally or to an extranet.  Such information is in many cases proprietary and sensitive.  And it may be hard to do a great job of sorting out entitlements and permissions without a lot of hooks into human resources and/or customer information systems.  Indeed, many text search applications – both intranet and internet – would be much enhanced in utility if sensitive and not-so-sensitive information could be searched side-by-side.  And the best way to make that happen is with DBMS-based security.   

Security even aside, there simply are a lot of application areas in which text search is or should be tightly integrated with traditional RDBMS-based application functionality.  Examples include: 

  • Resume management

  • Knowledge management (specifically, the part of KM which works, namely finding internal experts in your enterprise)

  • Search-based navigation (think of

  • CRM of all kinds (comment fields on call reports, maintenance reports, etc.)

  • Product lifecycle management  

Meanwhile, the traditional reasons for preferring a specialty text engine to a general-purpose DBMS are largely obsolete.   Performance is usually a non-issue.  And while specialty products are rich with text-specific features, these are usually available in general-purpose DBMS as well.   

For more discussion of these issues, please see our section on text search. 



For more information, please contact Curt Monash or Linda Barlow.

To reach Monash Information Services by phone, please call 978-266-1815.



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Updated: 05/11/04