New Microsoft Initiative: Enterprise Innovation Management

May 31, 2008

I received a news release from Webwire on May 31, 2008. The headline–Microsoft Announces Enterprise Innovation Management Initiative–caught my attention. I had zero idea what this phrase meant.

The release explained that Microsoft announced its “Innovation Process Management (IPM) initiative to help enterprises build a flexible IT platform to speed the process of innovation for competitive advantage and a higher return on investment.

You can read the full release here. Please, click quick. I have a hunch that Webwire doesn’t maintain a deep archive.

The links in the news release pointed me to http://www.epmconnect.com, a SharePoint-based Web site built and hosted by Avitiva. Avitivia was founded by some former Microsoft engineers. One–Simeon Cathey–was an engineer on the original SharePoint project.

I explored the Web EPM Connect Web site, but I could find no reference to the new initiative. Since I receive news releases with the word “search” in them, I assumed that the new initiative was another facet of Microsoft’s sprawling search-and-retrieval empire.

I navigated to the search box for the site, entered the term search, and I received a list of hits. A segment of them appears in the screen shot below:

The Microsoft EPM Connect site is not well-behaved in today’s browsers. Based on my experience with SharePoint, I concluded that the pages were generated using SharePoint’s default settings. The original pages had the display characteristic from earlier versions of the products.

I can work around display peculiarities. What puzzled me was that the search results contained pointers to a company that ceased to exist a couple of years ago, Entopia. You can find my case analysis of the defunct company here. Yet there it was. In fact, clicking on the main link dsplayed an entry from a Microsoft partner catalog. The links within that display returned the telltale “file not found” display. The site is not maintained.

Here are my questions:

  • Why is this site featured in a new initiative with an older design and partner data that are not up to date.
  • What’s the relatioship of this initiative to search? I could find no link.
  • Why does the search function for the word “search” return what appears to me the complete list of certified partners in the underlying database?

My brief investigative effort probably has this slip betwixt cup and lip all wrong. What I think is that new initiatives take precedence over maintaining Web sites. I’m still puzzled by the routing of the Webwire to me based on the key word search. I see a number of news releases that don’t mention search directly. In order to get a higher search engine score, metatags are stuffed with key words.

The EPM Connect site could be useful if you were looking for information about Microsoft Project. The vendor’s Web site shows how auto generated pages look in the default SharePoint search results template. Another benefit of the site is that it shows how easy it is to design a site, activate SharePoint’s “intellgent” features, and create a page that looks okay but contains invalid urls. The search function doesn’t work too well, which is not good news for a person looking for relevant results for a query whose key word was “search”.

If you have another point of view, let me know. I had to remind another perky PR fellow today of this fact: this is a free site and I created it so I could share my views, information that doesn’t make it into my for-fee studies, and odd pieces of information that I find interesting. Use the comments function on this Web site to add info, set me straight, or correct an error in my understanding.

Stephen Arnold, June 1, 2008

Consultants Instruct Google, Buy Salesforce.com… Now

May 31, 2008

eWeek ran a very interesting story “Analysts to Google: Buy Salesforce.com“. The article, written by Clint Bolton, ran on May 30, 2008. Please, read it before it gets sucked into the innards of the sprawling eWeek Web sites.

The point that jumped out at me is this statement:

The 451 Group report comes amid belief that Google could buy SAAS BI provider Panorama Software. But like Google’s previous App purchases, including Postini, buying Panorama would be the equivalent of bringing an axe instead of a chainsaw to chop down the great oak in the enterprise app forest: Microsoft. “If the search engine wants to be an enterprise player, it needs to buy big,” Daly and Martens concluded. “And in acquiring Salesforce.com, Google would finally have a true platform, one that could help it go after not just Microsoft Office but also content management, business intelligence and other offerings.”

A client asked me to think about this problem several months ago. Based on the research this lame duck conducted, my conclusion was that Google strikes like a mongoose when it wants to buy a company. If the acquisition is a strategic one like the Keyhole buy that ignited Google’s geospatial business, the decade old Google acts like a two year old shark–quick to move. The Keyhole deal dinged Microsoft, a company poking around the Keyhole technology tool. One source told me that the Google deal left a gap that Microsoft rushed to fill with technology from a Rochester, NY, company. True or false, Google got its product out the door in about four months. Now I can’t watch a news story on TV without seeing Google’s talon scratches on the television maps.

Therefore, as much excitement as the 451 Group’s report will engender, I’m not sure Google pays much attention to suggestions from outside the company even when Google pays the contractor to make them. Also, some of the data I reviewed suggested that Google may be playing a different game with Salesforce.com.

Let me offer my interpretation of my reserach data and invite you to push back via the comments funciton on this Web log.

  1. Google has been dating Salesforce.com for several years. In fact, one Googler told me, “We really like those guys.” But since I heard this statement over 24 months ago, Google continues to date Salesforce.com. A marriage is a possibility, but I think Google is in dating, not marriage, mode. This can change, but the pace with Salesforce.com is different from Google’s velocity with other targets.
  2. The Salesforce.com core technology pivots on its multi-tenancy methods. The idea is that many different clients each with many different users can access the Salesforce.com system with confidence that data don’t seep from one customer to another. As nifty as this virtualization technology is, Salesforce.com has Oracle at its core. So the technology of Salesforce.com is good, but it is not Googley.
  3. Google is the key player in cloud computing. Amazon, eBay, and maybe Salesforce.com don’t understand this. Every time a Googler dates a Salesforce.com professional, Mother Google is watching to learn. The increasing density of the Google-Salesforce.com tie ups–some without much if any financial strings attached–allow Google to absorb information. If the received data signal a buy out to Mother Google, Google will take a stake in Salesforce.com, maybe buy it. But if the data flash yellow or red, Mother Google will take steps to cool the relationship.

My research suggests that Google can indeed fix the serious, technical ailments of Salesforce.com. Google is giving up little freedom with its present relationship with Salesforce.com and it doesn’t have to get its fingers dirty in the technical plumbing at Salesforce.com.

My analysis of the Salesforce.com technology identified three potential flaws in the company’s sleek, sales-oriented exterior. The major challenge at Salesforce.com is brittleness. Like Amazon, these firms’ engineers have found ways to keep the Oracle database at the core of the system from turning nasty. Too many transactions shoved into the Oracle RDBMS maw, you will have the system bite you hard on the ankle. You could lose a foot with a cranky Oracle database.

For the time being, I think Google’s present “dating” approach to Salesforce.com benefits both firms. Google keeps it options open. Salesforce.com gets direct access to Googlers which is not something companies enjoy. My research suggested that as of March 31, 2008, both companies believed their relationship was a good one.

As you can tell, I don’t think that the 451 Group’s suggestion will change many minds at Google. But it would be a great payday for Salesforce.com shareholders, zing Microsoft with the Google taser, and create a lot of complicated engineering work for Google engineers.

The good eWeek write up provided me with the information I needed. I will not buy this 451 Group report.

Stephen Arnold, May 31, 2008

Google Mini: A Useful Summary

May 31, 2008

The Star Online carried a good write up about the upgraded Google Mini and GSA Version 5.0. The Mini is a basic Google Search Appliance. The GSA comes in different “sizes”, each with different document capacities. The story “Google Search for Businesses” ran on May 30, 2008. The international date line confuses me about the past and future. Nevertheless, you will find the information useful. The article is here.

The key sentence in the write up for me was:

Organisations can set different levels of security for employees, such as giving managers more access to critical information while limiting lower staff access.

Search pundits have criticized Google’s approach to security. What’s evident is that with each release of these search appliances, Google is making changes to address users’ needs. The approach is incremental and evolutionary. Google is taking the long view of the enterprise market, not what’s in the next news release.

Stephen Arnold, May 31, 2008

Google’s Competitive Advantage: Plumbing

May 31, 2008

Stephen Shankland wrote “Google Spotlights Data Center Inner Workings”, and I think it is a must-read article. The story appeared on May 30, 2008, and you can read the piece here. Google’s Jeff Dean, one of the engineers from AltaVista.com search team, gave a talk at the Google I/O Conference.

Mr. Shankland’s article contains a number of juicy tidbits. The one that jumped out at me is:

Google likes multicore chips, those with many processing engines on each slice of silicon. Many software companies, accustomed to better performance from ever-faster chip clock speeds, are struggling to adapt to the multicore approach, but it suits Google just fine. The company already had to adapt its technology to an architecture that spanned thousands of computers, so they already have made the jump to parallelism. “We really, really like multicore machines,” Dean said. “To us, multicore machines look like lots of little machines with really good interconnects. They’re relatively easy for us to use.”

I don’t want to spoil the fun of learning from Mr. Shankland’s write up. Unlike most of the folks covering Google, he has the technical background to pay attention to details other than Google sells a lot of ads.

His article triggered several thoughts. These are:

  1. Next-generation computing is about scale. Google has the requisite engineering and infrastructure in place and up and running. The “sub half second response” is brutal evidence that Google’s Web search, video, and map applications don’t choke the as-is Google system. That’s not impressive; that’s a feat that none of Google’s competitors can match on cost and scale.
  2. Google has been chipping away at scaling for years. The fact that Google is revealing how it does a few whizzy things is a wake up call to its competitors. Google, a very secretive company, is now explaining what it does and how it does it. This means that Google is confident of its technical lead, and it is moving on to even more difficult challenges.
  3. Duplicating Google’s as-is infrastructure won’t help competitors narrow the gap between their data center technology and Google’s. Google is designing hardware and coding its own hardware and software. Catch Google’s present capabilities does one thing–you remain behind the GOOG.

The interesting question is, “What’s Google doing for Act II?” I think it is applications that run on the Googleplex, my term for this formidable as-is computing infrastructure. Each revelation about Google’s technology makes it next thrust more interesting. I’m glad I’m not Amazon, eBay, Microsoft, or Yahoo. Once I catch up with Google’s infrastructure, programming tools, and high-speed supercomputer, Googzilla has moved on. Good for Google shareholders. Bad for Google competitors who now have to leap frog the goodies ably described by Mr. Shankland.

An interesting exercise is to navigate to “The Business of IT” and peruse the list of Top 10 technologies according to high technology consultantancy, Gartner. You can find the list here. Google’s data centers seem to touch directly upon half of these important technologies.

Stephen Arnold, May 31, 2008

IN-Q-TEL Investments: 2004-2005

May 31, 2008

I’m delighted with the response to my table and links of IN-Q-TEL’s investments up to 2002. If you want to review this information, click here. In this essay, I want to provide the list of companies receiving funding in the two year period from 2004 to 2005. As one of the people reviewing my list pointed out, there are some companies associated with IN-Q-TEL that do not appear in my table. My source is the publicly-accessible information on the IN-Q-TEL Web site. If you know of an investment that I have omitted, please, use the comments section of this Web log to share your information. I appreciate the numerous suggestions to make the list more useful. There is a limit to what we have time to assemble for a no-cost information resource. Please, tell me what you think would improve the utility of the list. If it’s light weight, then I will consider altering the basic information in the table. The table appears after the jump.

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Search Crystal

May 31, 2008

A colleague in the UK called my attention to a service I did not know about. A happy quack to my email helpers! The service is called Search Crystal. This is a difficult metasearch system to describe. You will have to navigate to the site, go through a basic registration form, and then wait until Search Crystal sends you an activation link.

Once you have access to the site, you enter a query in the search box. Search Crystal sends the query to Google, Ask.com, Exalead, Yahoo, and Microsoft. The results are processed and then the fun begins. Here’s the display that I was able to explore for my query “enterprise search”.

searchcrystal

You can filter by search engine. The colors correspond to the results from a particular search engine. You can flip among displays. These include a “crystal” view that shows an icon to make it easy to see which result appeared in specific search engine’s results. Every item on the display is a hot link. You can slice and dice the result list in myriad ways.

In the bull’s eye view, the top result is in the center of the display. SEO specialists will find this feature useful. The full version offers you a powerful research tool that lets you compare up to 500 results, add comments and share and compare saved crystals with friends and colleagues.

If you are a fan of rich interfaces, you will find a lot of love at Search Crystal. In my test queries, I found that I preferred the more traditional list view. My eye sight is simply not up to the task of reading the listings in the side control panels, the tag clouds, or the dense visual renderings.

You can search images, save result sets, share your Search Crystal views, and license the technology for use in your organization. You can visualize overlap in result sets and explore the Wikipedia via a Search Crystal. There are APIs so you can integrate the technology with a Web service like Flickr’s or an enterprise application if you are so inclined. I recall seeing a reference to a Facebook application as well. If you have a Web log, you can use the company’s widget to add the Search Crystal functions for your users.

The Search Crystal engineers certainly know their Flash technology. Check it out.

Stephen Arnold, May 31, 2008

Microsoft’s Enterprise Search Center

May 31, 2008

I’m working on a report about SharePoint search. I’ve been surprised by the appetite for SharePoint search information. Judging from the email I receive, SharePoint search is a topic that quite a few readers of this Web log find fascinating.

I’m neutral on the subject.

If you are one of the many who want to beef up the native search functions of SharePoint search, you will want to visit Microsoft’s Web site called Microsoft Enterprise Search here. In my experience, the Web log is more useful than some of the content on the main site. I prefer having marketing collateral separated from technical information.

sharepoint splash

The information is reasonably well labeled. You can download trials of various SharePoint search versions here. Click the package and you are sent to a download page. No registration hassles and none of the Web 2.0 design elements that I find more annoying than helpful. One useful link is the one to the Microsoft Enterprise Search Blog here.

You can download Microsoft’s desktop search tool as well. When you click on the Desktop Products link, you see a Vista-themed page. Click here to check it out. You have to click a “Get It Now” button to see the five variants that are on offer. I was a bit confused by the choice of Windows Live Toolbar and the MSN Search Toolbar. But you can decide for yourself. My eyes glaze over when I am forced to choose among many options. Read more

Enterprise Search Derby: The Winner Is Everybody

May 30, 2008

I’m digging out from what a marketer told me today was “the tsunami of information” after a few working days in the civilized city of Montréal. I heard no English clichés. But there were a few d’accords and oui ouis floating around.

To give me more work to do, a number of chipper PR wizards sent me news stories, snippets of reports, and references to leaders in enterprise search. I knew in an instant that a consulting firm had released a study of enterprise search. That’s what the world needs. Another study of enterprise search.

I scanned these news items, and I concluded that if you have an enterprise search system, attend trade shows, and make some noise via news releases, you can be declared a winner in the enterprise search derby. Two examples, and I am not being critical of either of these firms who sell pretty good software:

  • Autonomy, one of the top two or three players in enterprise search, revealed that it too was singled out in the Forrester Wave: Enterprise Search Q2 2008 report. Autonomy is “a global leader”. The account of Autonomy’s triumph is here. Autonomy told me via its news release that it received “the highest scores” for current offering, strategy and market presence.
  • Vivisimo, a company I tagged as one to watch in Beyond Search, is now a leader in the Forrester Wave: Enterprise Search Q2 2008 report. You can read Vivisimo’s account of the race here.

I’m not privy to the white shoe consulting firm reports like Forrester. I worked at a lesser outfit called Booz, Allen & Hamilton. After making a couple of calls, I learned that Endeca Technologies and 10 other vendors were declared winners. Obviously this “everyone wins” contest shares little with Extreme Cage Fighting where only one person is left standing after anything-goes fights in an mesh octagon. This competition was gentle like that at my wife’s bridge parties.

cagerage26-rosspointon

A real fight.

I must admit that I was surprised to hear from one informant that Fast Search & Transfer, now a unit of Microsoft was in this elite group as well. Earlier today, I posted some snippets of Fast Search’s restated financials. One highlight was that FY2007 was disappointing. Based on the data I downloaded from the Fast Search Web site, the company finished the year losing about $140 million. I assume the analysts handing out derby ribbons knew about this shortfall. As a 64-year-old, I would have down checked the Microsoft-Fast duo, but when you have lots of cash, what’s a $100 million in the context of a $1.2 billion deal. You can get these PDF documents directly from http://www.newsweb.no/index.jsp?messageId=209172. The explicit link from the Fast Search Web site with the pointer is here: http://www.fastsearch.com/news.aspx?m=329.

If I understood my telephonic source correctly, “Everyone in the report was a winner.”

That’s encouraging. Procurement teams know to send a request for proposal to every search vendor. There obviously must be little to differentiate the vendors technically. Following the award mentality a bit further, Oracle SES10g (a vendor whose strong suit is secure search anchored in the venerable Oracle relational database) will do what Recommind (a system best known in the legal market) does. InQuira, a firm formed from two other search companies and now “the glue”, delivers a solution comparable to that provided by the Google Search Appliance. No, that’s too far out. InQuira licenses a customized NLP vendor that works pretty well for customer support. It’s used by the great minds at Yahoo tool. Anyone in the search game knows that the GOOG has licensees ship boxes. Customers who want hand holding are referred to companies like the one my son runs–Adhere Solutions. InQuira is touchy feely. The GOOG is Googzilla. Not the same at all.

T-Ball

An approbation culture award ceremony.

The second big surprise to me was the omission of Exalead. My research revealed that Exalead is making sales, making customers happy, and pushing into new areas. Too bad, Mr. Bourdoncle. Your system is not a winner. No ribbon for you. You are a loser, at least until the next wave swings through in 12 weeks.

Each search system is distinctive based on my experience. When horses race, one crosses the line first. In a race where the horses bunch up and finish at the same time, that’s like a Kentucky Derby where some horses die or are killed. Reality is not candy-coated and honey-colored.

One thing is certain: the companies telling me that each is a winner reminds me of the T-Ball awards banquets. These are joyous affairs. Every kid leaves with a ribbon and a warm, fuzzy feeling. Search is for hardened professionals.

Congratulations to the winners. Keep in mind that you may not be one in Extreme Cage Fighting search competitions. T-Ball, well, maybe.

Stephen Arnold, May 30, 2008

IBM Puts Document Classification Front and Center

May 30, 2008

IBM was thoughtful. I received a hot link to the new IBM white paper, Beyond Automation: Accelerating Processes with Classification. Before I clicked the link, I had a hunch that IBM’s Automated Classification Resource Center would feature OmniFind. I was right. IBM says:

The IBM Classification Module is a part of the IBM ECM portfolio and primarily targeted for use by IBM ECM customers. The previous version of the product (V8.3) was named IBM Classification Module for OmniFind Discovery Edition.

I had a bit of trouble figuring out what product name was current. In fact, depending on which IBM link you select you get directed to catalog pages, FileNet document management pages, or OminFind pages.

To get the Flash video, navigate to http://www.filenetinfo.com/mk/submit/classifyop?_JS=true&sor=CatalystEmail3. You will need to fill out the form if you use this link.

If you find the classification module via the IBM search box, you get pointed to http://www-306.ibm.com/software/data/enterprise-search/classification/. I didn’t have to register again, but your mileage may vary.

In my review of the classification module, I didn’t see any notable changes since I last reviewed the product. My thought is that IBM is in the midst of a marketing campaign for document classifiction for people who have a copy of OmniFind, IBM’s search system.

I took a closer look, and I found the new thing. The previous version of this product was named IBM Classification Module for OmniFind Discovery Edition. The current version of this product is the IBM Classification Module”. The module is $1,500, a bargain when compared to the deep extraction system available from Attensity. Some investigation reveals that you need to have a license for other IBM content components. If you want IBM to install or customize the system, you can run up an interesting bill.

I recall pointing out in the first three editions of Enterprise Search Report that IBM software requires a bit of work to research. In fact, product naming and interdependencies that you may not be able to do this job alone. Don’t worry. IBM’s professional services are just a phone call away and available from IBM offices worldwide.

Oh, when you do a search for the “new” product name IBM Classification Module, the top rated link is to an order form that is different from the one displayed by navigating to the main product page. The first page of the 3,622 results did not point to the new product page.

It’s a job for OmniFind Discovery Edition all right.

Stephen Arnold, May 30, 2008

Fast Financials: Three Day Old Fish Should Be Discounted

May 30, 2008

You may want to download the revised financials that are available today–May 30, 2008–on the Fast Search & Transfer Web site here. Information that I recall seeing on various Web sites is either no longer available or I lack the skills to locate the data. Mary-Jo Foley in her All about Microsoft Web log wrote a useful description of the implications of the deal when it was first announced. You can read this story here.

Some Fast Search corporate and general business information has been deleted because it was old or because it was deemed no longer of interest. Fortunately, I have a habit of downloading interesting documents when I first see them. Fast Search information is tough to locate using public Web sites for some reason. You can get these PDF documents directly from http://www.newsweb.no/index.jsp?messageId=209172. The explicit link from the Fast Search Web site with the pointer is here: http://www.fastsearch.com/news.aspx?m=329. Note: I am reluctant to post these documents because I am not certain of the Norwegian guidelines for this type of information.

2007 restated

A screen shot of the restated FY2007 data. I used this information plus the data in the FY2006 restated financials to make the table of numbers below.

A Walk Through

Fast Search’s top line revenues for the period from 2004 to 2007 are now reported as increasing from $66.4 million in 2004 to $143.0 million in 2007. That’s a jump of 115.4 percent. In the search engine game, the increase is good, but it does not match Google’s performance with its Google Search Appliance in the same period. Google went from zero revenue in 2004 to an estimate $400 million in the same period. (Note: that Google reported $188 million for its enterprise unit, but I have calculated monies from its educational initiative, maps, and partner contributions in the form of sign up fees, among other enterprise revenue flows.)

Year Revenue (Restated) Original Revenue Statement

2004

$66,374,000

$66.300,000

2005

$98,069,000

$100,300,000

2006

$133,741,000

$162,200,000

2007

$142,979,000

n.a.

Nothing too dramatic in this run down except the sharp decrease in FY2006 numbers. But what’s $30 million in today’s loosey goosey financial world? However, when you look at the Fast Search restatements in terms of revenue, I found the losses interesting.

A Warning Signal from Fast Search

I have a copy of the Fast Search & Transfer Mid Quarter Presentation by Joseph J. Lacson, dated December 2006. That document has some optimistic comments about Fast Search’s opportunities. The presentation is no longer available on the Fast Search Web site, but I have made a couple of screen shots from the presentation to give you a sense of what caught my attention. (Since the document is no longer available on the Web, you may want to skip my discussion of this information. I wish I could provide a link to the full document, but I don’t have permission to do that. I wrote Fast Search’s PR department, but I haven’t heard anything from them.)

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