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Government IT Expo: CIA Buys into Lucene Start-up

The CIA and its black ops buddies have bought into Lucid Imagination, the start-up commercializing the Apache Lucene and Solr search technologies.

Lucid says search is big right now in spy circles, particularly a full-text search engine they can tinker with like Lucene.

Nobody's saying how much In-Q-Tel (IQT), the unique, independent and publicly funded, not-for-profit investment arm of the U.S. intelligence community, tucked into Lucid but there's a support contract that goes along with the investment, an arrangement IQT apparently calls a "work program."

The company will be supporting the 19 organizations that make up the U.S. intelligence community by providing advanced access to Lucene and Solr search solutions. And IQT will be spreading the word about Lucene to its "customers."

Reportedly 4,000 organizations use Lucene/Solr-based search and it fetches 9,000 downloads a day. Lucid claims a lot of folks are trading in their proprietary software for Lucene and Solr because of the lower TCO and flexible, scalable architecture.

Lucid, whose other investors include Granite Venture and Walden International, is offering free certified distributions of the software, SLA-based support subscriptions, training, high-level consulting and value-added software.

It was started in September of 2007 and brought in a $6 million A round this past January.

In-Q-Tel says its mission is to spot and partner with companies developing cutting-edge technologies that serve America's national security interests. It works from an evolving strategic blueprint defining the intelligence community's critical high-tech needs. It was started by the CIA in 1999.

On it web site it says that over its lifetime it has reviewed 7,000 business plans, "engaged" with 150 companies and delivered 240 technology solutions to the intelligence community.

For instance, Google acquired Keyhole, the CIA-funded satellite mapping software that turned into Google Earth. In-Q-Tel in turn sold $2.2 million worth of Google stock.

© 2008 SYS-CON Media Inc.