MarkLogic: Data Management and Healthcare.gov

November 23, 2013

I read “Tension and Flaws Before Health Website Crash.” The good news is that the story focuses on what is now old news: Management challenges at the agency responsible for Healthcare.gov. The bad news—at least for champions of XML repositories, XML normalization, and XML as the “answer” to a wide range of information management woes—is that XML (extensible markup language) is not the slam dunk, whiz bang solution some true believers hope.

Here’s the passage that caught my attention:

Another sore point was the Medicare agency’s decision to use database software, from a company called MarkLogic, that managed the data differently from systems by companies like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. CGI officials argued that it would slow work because it was too unfamiliar. Government officials disagreed, and its configuration remains a serious problem.

MarkLogic has not been identified as a vendor creating some headaches until now. MarkLogic has a system that can store information and data in an XML data management system. The trick is that content not in XML must be normalized; that is, converted to XML. MarkLogic has developed some proprietary methods to perform its data management operations. A person familiar with XML may not be conversant with the MarkLogic conventions. The upside of this approach is that MarkLogic has experts who are able to address most customer requests. The downside is that a person familiar with XML but not MarkLogic can introduce some problems into an otherwise spiffy system.

In the last few years, MarkLogic has had a number of senior management changes. I track the company via my Overflight system and have noted that the firm has gone from a company that does a good job of publicizing itself to an outfit that has trimmed back on its public presence. You can check out the MarkLogic Overflight on the ArnoldIT.com Web site. The minimal news flow, the absence of tweets, and the termination of public blog content can be verified by visiting the paste every few days.

One interesting aspect of MarkLogic is that the company has positioned itself as a publishing platform. Once content is in the repository, it is possible to slice and dice information and data. Publishers can use this feature to whip out books with little or no involvement of human editors. But the company has, like Verity, grafted on other features and services. These range from enterprise search to text mining to electronic mail management.

I heard that the company was to have been a $200 or $300 million dollar a year operation a few years ago. The firm may be the best kept secret in terms of its revenues and profits. If so, kudos. But if the company has not been able to demonstrate strong growth and healthy net profits, the firm may need to ramp up its publicity and marketing activities.

The New York Times’s comment may be hogwash. Even if a stretch, getting a paragraph that strikes me as less than favorable raises some questions; for example:

  1. Are proprietary extensions a good idea for an XML system that must be used by folks who are not into XML?
  2. Will the transformations between and among content from disparate systems remain bottlenecks during periods of high content flow and usage?
  3. Will Oracle seize on the MarkLogic system and revive its flow of information about the weaknesses of XML as compared with content stored in an Oracle data management system?

MarkLogic has rolled through three of four presidents in the last few years. Dave Kellogg departed, and I mostly lost track of who followed him. At the time of his departure MarkLogic was in the $60 million estimated revenues. Will the management turmoil kick in again? Will the company continue to expand its features and functions as Verity did prior to its initial public offering? Are there parallels between the trajectories of Convera, Delphes, Entopia, and Verity and MarkLogic. For some case analyses, check out www.xenky.com/vendor-profiles.

Stephen E Arnold, November 23, 2013

Comments

One Response to “MarkLogic: Data Management and Healthcare.gov”

  1. Alicia Saia on November 25th, 2013 1:48 pm

    Um, I’m not sure I understand where this phrase is coming from:
    “The minimal news flow, the absence of tweets, and the termination of public blog content”
    1) The MarkLogic “Pressroom” page http://www.marklogic.com/company/pressroom/ is regularly updated with both news releases and 3rd party articles
    2) The MarkLogic Twitter feed (@MarkLogic) is also active
    3) The MarkLogic public blog is accessible at http://www.marklogic.com/blog/

    As an employee of MarkLogic, I can’t comment on the NY Times article. However, I will say that I am extremely proud of our technology and the results our customers have achieved with it.