Elastic Remains Strategically Bouncy

November 10, 2017

Enterprise search remains a dull and rusty sword in the museum of enterprise applications. Frankly, other than wordsmithing with wild and crazy jargon, the technology for finding information in an organization works a bit like the blacksmith under the spreading chestnut tree.

The big news from my point of view has been the uptake in open source enterprise search software. The lead dog is Lucene. Even the much hyped free version of Fast Search technology pitched as Solr is built on Lucene.

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Yep, there are proprietary solutions, but where are these folks? Outfits with search technology are capturing the hearts and minds of decision makers who want solutions to findability problems, not the high speed sleet of buzzwords like ontology, taxonomy, natural language processing, facets, semantics, yada, yada, yada.

I read an article, which I assume is true, because I believe everything I read on the Internet and in white papers. The write up is “Elastic Acquires SaaS Site Search Leader Swiftype.” Elastic is the result of a bold search experience called Compass. The champion of this defunct system was Shay Banon, who created Elasticsearch.

For many people, Elasticsearch and the for fee “extras” available from the company Elastic is Lucene. Disagree? Everyone is entitled to an opinion, gentle reader.

The write up informed me:

Elastic, the company behind Elasticsearch, and the Elastic Stack, the most widely-used collection of open source products for solving mission-critical use cases like search, logging, and analytics, today announced that it has acquired Swiftype, a San Francisco-based startup founded in 2012 and backed by Y Combinator and New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Swiftype is the creator of the popular SaaS-based Site Search and the recently introduced Enterprise Search products.

Swiftype used Elastic to captur3e some customers with its search solution. According to the write up, even Dr. Pepper found a pepper upper with Swiftype’s Elasticsearch based system.

Why’s this important? I jotted down three reasons as I was watching a group of confused deer trying to cross a busy highway. (Deer, like investors in enterprise search dream spinners, are confused by the movement of fast moving automobiles and loud pick up trucks.)

First, compare Elastic’s acquisition with Lucidworks purchase of an interface company. Elastic bought people, a solution, and customers. Interfaces are okay, but those who want to find information need a system that springs into action quickly and can be used to deal with real world information problems. Arts and crafts are important, but not as important as search that returns relevant results and performs useful functions like chopping log files into useful digital lumber.

Second, Elastic has been on a role. We profiled the company for a wonky self appointed blue chip consulting firm years ago. The report went nowhere due to the managerial expertise of a self appointed search expert. See this link for details of this maven. In that report, my team of researchers verified that large companies were adopting Elasticsearch because those firms had the most to gain from an open source product which could be supported by third party engineers. Another plus was that the Elasticsearch product could be extended and amplified without the handcuffs of a proprietary search vendor’s license restrictions.

Third, Elasticsearch worked. Sure, it was a hassle to become familiar with the system. But if there were an issue, the Lucene community was usually available for advice and often for prompt fixes. Mr. Banon pushed innovations down the trail as well. It was clear five years ago and it is clear today that Elastic and Elasticsearch are the go to systems for some savvy people. Contrast that with the floundering of outfits flogging their search systems on LinkedIn or on vapid webinars about concepts.

Net net: Elastic is an outfit to watch. For most of Elastic’s competitors watching is easy when one is driving a Model T behind the race leader in one of those zippy Hellcats with 700 horsepower.

Even blacksmiths take notice when this baby roars down the highway. And the deer? The deer run the other way.

Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2017

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