Lucid Imagination, a commercial company behind Apache Lucene & Solr search, announced that In-Q-Tel (IQT), an independent strategic investment organization serving the CIA and broader US Intelligence community has made an investment in Lucid.  I hadn’t heard about IQT before, so I decided to peruse their site.  This is IQT’s mission:

“To best serve its customers, In-Q-Tel plays multiple roles:

  • A technology accelerator, fostering development and introduction of technologies needed by the Intelligence Community
  • A capabilities builder, helping nascent commercial technologies mature into commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products the government can buy
  • An idea lab and forum for innovation, providing the Intelligence Community with insight and access to both new technologies and leading innovators and thinkers
  • A strategic investment firm, investing in companies and helping build businesses into reliable providers for the Intelligence Community”

After reading their mission, I must say that Lucid’s press release sub-title is misleading (in a good way).

“Relationship to Help Broaden the Use of Apache Lucene/Solr for Full-text Search within the U.S. Intelligence Community”

As much as this deal will help drive Lucene/Solr adoption by the US intelligence community, the more important news is what the deal will do for Lucid and Lucene/Solr.   At least half of IQT’s mission is focused on helping the startup build a solid business.  As much as “it’s open source, so the CIA could support, fix bugs and add new features themselves” sounds great on paper, the US intelligence community would rather spend its time on its core competency.  By helping Lucid build and grow a solid and stable business, IQT is helping the US intelligence community get comfortable with procuring Lucid’s products and services.  The revenue from this customer segment will be reinvested to enhance Lucene/Solr, which will pay dividends to the broader user and Lucid customer base.

This is a big win for Lucid, and in turn, Lucene/Solr. Congrats!

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News out today from Lucid Imagination’s commercial offerings around the Apache Lucene portfolio:

“Our commercial offering includes support, training, consulting services and value-added software for enterprises using Lucene- and Solr-based search solutions.”

As many of you know, Apache Lucene’s project is widely used in enterprise search products.  Solr is a sub-project of the Lucene top-level project.  Think of Lucene as the library, and Solr as a higher level abstraction.

Lucid’s President & CEO, Eric Gries, quotes a few figures regarding Lucene/Solr:

  • Amongst top 15 open source projects
  • One of top 5 Apache projects
  • Installation at over 4,000 companies
  • Over 6,000 download per day
  • Playing in a $1.8B market growing at a 28% CAGR

Companies like Netflix and Ticketmaster utilize Lucene/Solr.  As Lucid’s CEO highlighted to me, these companies live and die by the quality of their search results.  Up until now, these companies have been doing the heavy lifting themselves, or securing the services of Lucene committers.  The Lucid team saw an opportunity to become the commercial entity behind Lucene/Solr (especially since key Lucene committers work at Lucid).

A great thing about Lucid’s business model is that search software isn’t a “set it and forget it” solution.  As Lucid’s CTO, Marc Krellenstein, explained to me, search needs initial design assistance and ongoing tuning to improve the quality of search results.  Lucid’s team wants to help customers across the end-to-end use of Lucene/Solr in the enterprise. Very cool.  Good luck to the Lucid team!