Exclusive Interview: Miles Kehoe, LucidWorks

January 30, 2013

Miles Kehoe, formerly a senior manager at Verity and then the founder of New Idea Engineering, joined LucidWorks in late 2012. I worked with Miles on a project and found him a top notch resource for search and the tough technical area which was our concern.

I was able to interview Miles Kehoe on January 25, 2013. He was forthcoming and offered me insights which I found fresh and practical. For example, he told me:

You know I come from a ‘platform neutral’ background, and I know many of the folks involved with ElasticSearch. Their product addresses many of the shortcomings in Solr 3.x, and a year or two ago that would have been a coup. But now, Solr 4 completely addresses those shortcomings, and then some, with SolrCloud and Zoo Keeper. ES says it doesn’t require a pesky ‘schema’ to define fields; and when you’re playing with a product for the first time, that is kind of nice. On the other hand, folks I know who have attempted production projects with ES tell me there’s no way you want to go into production without a schema. Apache Lucene and Solr enjoy a much larger community of developers. If you check the Wikipedia page, you’ll see that Lucene and Solr both list the Apache Software Foundation as the developer; Elastic Search lists a single developer, who it turns out, has made the vast majority of updates to date. While it is based on Apache Lucene, Elastic Search is not an Apache project. Both products support RESTful API usage, but Elastic requires all transactions to use JSON. Solr supports JSON as well, but goes beyond to support transactions in many formats including XML, Java, PHP, CSV and Python. This lets you write applications to interact with Solr in any language and with any protocol you want to use. But the most noticeable difference is that Solr has an awesome Web Based Admin UI, ES doesn’t. If you’re only writing code, you might not care, but the second a project is handed over to an Admin group they’re bound to notice! It makes me smile every time somebody says ES and “ease of use” in the same sentence – you remember the MS DOS prompt back in 1990? Although early adopters enjoyed that “simplicity”, business people preferred mouse-based systems like the Mac and Windows. We’re seeing this play out all over again – busy IT people want an admin UI – they don’t want to spend all day at what amounts to a “web command line”, stitching together URLs and JSON commands.

I found this comment prescient. I learned about a possible issue triggered by ElasticSearch in “Github Search Exposes Passwords Then Crashes.”

I pressed Mr. Kehoe for key points of differentiation in open source search. I pointed out that every vendor is rushing to embrace open source search. Some do it with lights flashing like IBM and others operate in a lower profile manner like Attivio. He told me:

Just as we have different products and services for our customers, we can customize our engagements to meet our customers’ needs. Some of our customers want to have deep product expertise in-house, and with training, best practice and advisory consulting, and operations/production consulting, we help them come up to speed. We also provide ongoing technical and production support for mission critical applications – just last month an eCommerce site ran into production problems on the Friday afternoon before Christmas. We were able to help them out and have them at full capacity before dinner. Not to dwell on it, but what sets LucidWorks apart is the people. We employ a large number of the team that created and enhances Lucene and Solr including Grant Ingersoll, Steve Rowe and Yonik Seeley. We also have significant expertise on the business side as well. At the top, Paul Doscher grew Exalead from an unknown firm into a major enterprise search player over just a few years; my former business partner Mark Bennett and I have built up deep understanding of search since our Verity days in the early 1990s.

Important information for those analyzing search systems I believe.

You can read the full text of the interview on the ArnoldIT Search Wizards Speak series at http://goo.gl/31682. Search Wizards Speak is the largest, no cost, freely available collection of interviews with experts in search and content processing. There are more than 60 interviews available. You can find the full series listing at http://www.arnoldit.com/search-wizards-speak/ and http://arnoldit.com/wordpress/wizards-index/.

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2013

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