The Search Wars: When Open Starts to Close

March 12, 2019

Compass Search. The precursor. The result? Elasticsearch. No proprietary code. Free and open source. The world of enterprise search shifted.

As a result of Shay Bannon’s efforts, an alternative to proprietary search and interesting financial maneuvers, an individual or organization could download code and set up a functional enterprise search system.

There are proprietary search systems available like Coveo. But most of the offerings are sort of open sourcey. It is a marketing ploy. The forward leaning companies do not use the word search to market their products because zippier functionality is what brings tire kickers and some buyers.

The landscape of search seems to be doing its Hawaii volcano act. No real eruption buts shakes, hot gas, and cracks have begun to appear. The lava flows will come soon enough.

a bezos art

The path is clear to the intrepid developer.

The tip off is Amazon’s announcement that it now offers an open distro for Elasticsearch. Why is Amazon taking this step? The company explains:

Elasticsearch has become an essential technology for log analytics and search, fueled by the freedom open source provides to developers and organizations. Our goal is to ensure that open source innovation continues to thrive by providing a fully featured, 100% open source, community-driven distribution that makes it easy for everyone to use, collaborate, and contribute.

DarkCyber’s briefings about Amazon’s policeware initiative suggest that the online bookstore is adding another component to its robust intelligence system and services.

The move involves or will involve:

  • Entrepreneurs who will see Amazon as creating low friction for new products and services
  • Partners because implementing search can be a consulting gold mine
  • Users
  • Developers who will use an Amazon “off the shelf” solutions
  • Competitors who may find the “other open source” Elasticsearch lagging behind the Amazon “house brand”.

The move is not much of a surprise. Amazon seeks to implement its version of IBM’s 1960s style vendor lock in. Open source is open source, isn’t it? A version of the popular Elasticsearch system which has utility in commercial products to add ons which help make log files more mine-able. Plus search snaps into the DNA of the Amazon jungle of services, functions, features, and services. Where there is confusion, there are opportunities to make money.

Adding a house brand to its ecosystem is a basic tactic in the Amazon playbook. Those T shirts with the great price are Amazon’s, not the expensive stuff with a fancy brand name. T shirts and search? Who cares?

What’s the play mean for over extended proprietary search systems which may never generate a pay day for investors? A lot of explaining seems likely.

What the play mean for Elastic, the company which now operates the son of Compass Search? Some long off site meetings may be ahead and maybe some chats with legal eagles.

What’s the play mean for vendors using Amazon as back end plumbing for their enterprise or policeware services? A swap out of the Elasticsearch system for the Amazon version could be in the cards. Amazon Elasticsearch will probably deliver fewer headaches and lost weekends than using the Banon-Elastic version. Who wants headaches in an already complex, expensive implementation?

The Register quotes an evangelist from AWS as saying:

“We will continue to send our contributions and patches upstream to advance these projects.”

DarkCyber interprets this action and Amazon’s explanations from the perspective and context of a high school football coach:

“Front line, listen up, fork that QB. I want that guy put down. Hard. Let’s go.”

Amazon. The best defense is a good offense, right?

The coach shouts:

“Let’s hit those Sheep hard. Arrrgh.”

Stephen E Arnold, March 12, 2019

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