LexisNexis Embraces Open Source

October 2, 2012

LexisNexis has been anchored in commercial, for fee search and retrieval for decades. I fondly recall watching the red Lexis terminals double space each line. I saw the white space as a way to charge for data and special paper. The search system was proprietary. When the company talked about search, most of the information was about how to extract information from the LexisNexis system, not about the details of the systems and subsystems.

I found “How LexisNexis Competes In Hadoop Age” quite fascinating because the story included some high level information along with a bit more detail about LexisNexis’ approach to data management for its risk businesses. The idea is that LexisNexis has quite a bit of data from different sources. These data become the raw material for analyses which allow users of the for fee products and services to assess risk.

The big news in the story is that LexisNexis has developed a high performance computing cluster. The foundation is HPCC. Here’s the key phrase, “an open source platform. Those critics of open source who question the security and stability did not dissuade LexisNexis from an open source path.

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HPCC charges an annual subscription to the platform software and includes enterprise support.

The other high level items in the story included:

  • The decision to shift to open source was taken over a span of several years
  • The market for a big data platform such as LexisNexis is new. This means that LexisNexis and its corporate parent Reed Elsevier are pushing into uncharted territory.
  • The Hadoop platform is viewed as becoming fragmented. The strategy seems to be to offer an fragmented alternative.

The data management system is HPCC. Some of the details about this platform are:

  • The data transformation methods are implemented via an open source Enterprise Control Language
  • The system includes a social graph (relationship analysis) component
  • HPCC will be easier to use.

The community edition is available via download. There is a fee for the enterprise edition of the system. Modules which extend the basic system are also available. Information about how to buy a subscription is available on the HPCC Web site. There was no pricing information on the HPCC Web site on October 1, 2012. You may want to call HPCC or check the Web site to see if more cost information is posted.

In my opinion, the shift to open source makes sense due to the cost efficiencies the approach can deliver. The technology of open source software can be excellent for operating systems and search. For data management, the proprietary data management vendors assert that systems like Oracle’s database and IBM DB2 offer advantages which many organizations find attractive.

Will LexisNexis embrace open source technology for its commercial search and retrieval service? Perhaps LexisNexis, like Microsoft, is moving more quickly in the open source sector than I know. IBM has been a leader in tapping open source technology within its commercial business model.

As I write this, Reed Elsevier, according to Google Finance, has been able to grow its top line revenue modestly since early 2010 while tripping total operating expenses by a percentage point or two. My view is that open source software offers one way to trim certain licensing fees and possibly some of the restrictions that vendors of proprietary software vendors impose on their customers.

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2012

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