MC+A Is Again Independent: Search, Discovery, and Engineering Services

December 7, 2016

Beyond Search learned that MC+A has added a turbo-charger to its impressive search, content  processing, and content management credentials. The company, based in Chicago, earned a  gold star from Google for MC+A’s support and integration services for the now-discontinued Google Search Appliance. After working with the Yippy implementation of Watson Explorer, MC+A retains its search and retrieval capabilities, but expanded its scope. Michael Cizmar, the company’s president told Beyond Search, “Search is incredibly important, but customers require more multi-faceted solutions.” MC+A provides the engineering and technical capabilities to cope with Big Data, disparate content, cloud and mixed-environment platforms, and the type of information processing needed to generate actionable reports. [For more information about Cizmar’s views about search and retrieval, see “An Interview with Michael Cizmar.”

Cizmar added:

We solve organizational problems rooted in the lack of insight and accessibility to data that promotes operational inefficiency. Think of a support rep who has to look through five systems to find an answer for a customer on the phone. We are changing the way these users get to answers by providing them better insights from existing data securely. At a higher level we provide strategy support for executives looking for guidance on organizational change.

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Alphabet Google’s decision to withdraw the  Google Search Appliance has left more than 60,000 licensees looking for an alternative. Since the début of the GSA in 2002, Google trimmed the product line and did not move the search system to the cloud. Cizmar’s view of the GSA’s 12 year journey reveals that:

The Google Search Appliance was definitely not a failure. The idea that organizations wanted an easy-to-use, reliable Google-style search system was ahead of its time. Current GSA customers need some guidance on planning and recommendations on available options. Our point of view is that it’s not the time to simply swap out one piece of metal for another even if vendors claim “OEM” equivalency. The options available for data processing and search today all provide tremendous capabilities, including cognitive solutions which provide amazing capabilities to assist users beyond the keyword search use case.

Cizmar sees an opportunity to provide GSA customers with guidance on planning and recommendations on available options. MC+A understands the options available for data processing and information access today. The company is deeply involved in solutions which tap “smart software” to deliver actionable information.

Cizmar said:

Keyword search is a commodity at this point, and we helping our customers put search where the user is without breaking an established workflow. Answers, not laundry lists of documents to read, is paramount today. Customers want to solve specific problems; for example, reducing average call time customer support using smart software or adaptive, self service solutions. This is where MC+A’s capabilities deliver value.

MC+A is cloud savvy. The company realized that cloud and hybrid or cloud-on premises solutions were ways to reduce costs and improve system payoff. Cizmar was one of the technologists recognized by Google for innovation in cloud applications of the GSA. MC+A builds on that engineering expertise. Today, MC+A supports Google, Amazon, and other cloud infrastructures.

Cizmar revealed:

Amazon Elastic Cloud Search is probably doing as much business as Google did with the GSA but in a much different way. Many of these cloud-based offerings are generally solving the problem with the deployment complexities that go into standing up Elasticsearch, the open source version of Elastic’s information access system.

MC+A does not offer a one size fits all solution. He said:

The problem still remains of what should go into the cloud, how to get a solution deployed, and how to ensure usability of the cloud-centric system. The cloud offers tremendous capabilities in running and scaling a search cluster. However, with the API consumption model that we have to operate in, getting your data out of other systems into your search clusters remains a challenge. MC+A does not make security an afterthought. Access controls and system integrity have high priority in our solutions.

MC+A takes a business approach to what many engineering firms view as a technical problem. The company’s engineers examine the business use case. Only then does MC+A determine if the cloud is an option. If so, which product or projects capabilities meet the general requirements. After that process, MC+A implements its carefully crafted, standard deployment process.

Cizmar noted:

If you are a customer with all of your data on premises or have a unique edge case, it may not make sense to use a cloud-based system. The search system needs to be near to the content most of the time.

MC+A offers its white-labeled search “Practice in a Box” to former Google partners and other integrators. High-profile specialist vendors like Onix in Ohio are be able to resell our technology backed by the MC+A engineering team.

In 2017, MC+A will roll out a search solution which is, at this time, shrouded in secrecy. This new offering will go “beyond the GSA” and offer expanded information access functionality. To support this new product, MC+A will announce a specialized search practice.

He said:

This international practice will offer depth and breadth in selling and implementing solutions around cognitive search, assist, and analytics with products other than Google throughout the Americas. I see this as beneficial to other Google and non-Google resellers because, it allows other them to utilize our award winning team, our content filters, and a wealth of social proofs on a just in time basis.

For 2017, MC+A offers a range of products and services. Based on the limited information provided by the secrecy-conscious Michael Ciznar, Beyond Search believes that the company will offer implementation and support services for Lucene and Solr, IBM Watson, and Microsoft SharePoint. The SharePoint support will embrace some vendors supplying SharePoint centric like Coveo. Plus, MC+A will continue to offer software to acquire content and perform extract-transform-load functions on premises, in the cloud, or in hybrid configurations.,

MC+A’s approach offers a business-technology approach to information access.

For more information about MC+A, contact sales@mcplusa.com 312-585-6396.

Stephen E Arnold, December 7, 2016

Verizon Inches Closer to Yahoot (Sorry, I Meant Yahoo)

December 7, 2016

I read “AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Optimistic about Yahoo Deal.” The book the “Power of Positive Thinking” emphasizes optimism. Looking at the bright side is good. One can sing “Keep on the Sunny Side,” the snappy tune penned allegedly by June Carter Cash.

The write up points out:

AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo will go through despite the internet company’s disclosure this fall that it suffered a significant data breach.

The point I found interesting was:

the digital media veteran said he’s been working closely with Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer on strategy and structural planning as if the deal will close. And he’s been impressed with some of Yahoo’s plans for 2017 outside of the integration work.

Perhaps the dynamic duo will craft a new local newspaper play with an enhanced weather map. Sound good? Sure does.

Yahoot. Amazing. Former Baby Bell. More amazing. Together. Most amazing.

Stephen E Arnold, December 7, 2016

Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube: A Spirit of Cooperation

December 6, 2016

I found this write up interesting. No philosophy or subjective comment required. The title of the write up is “Partnering to Help Curb Spread of Online Terrorist Content.” This is what is called “real” news, but that depends upon one’s point of view.

I highlighted this passage:

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are coming together to help curb the spread of terrorist content online. There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services. When alerted, we take swift action against this kind of content in accordance with our respective policies.

The idea is to use “digital fingerprints” in the manner of Terbium Labs and other companies to allow software to match prints and presumably take action in an automated, semi automated, or manual fashion. The  idea is to make it difficult for certain content to be “found” online via these services.

The write up adds:

As we continue to collaborate and share best practices, each company will independently determine what image and video hashes to contribute to the shared database. No personally identifiable information will be shared, and matching content will not be automatically removed. Each company will continue to apply its own policies and definitions of terrorist content when deciding whether to remove content when a match to a shared hash is found. And each company will continue to apply its practice of transparency and review for any government requests, as well as retain its own appeal process for removal decisions and grievances. As part of this collaboration, we will all focus on how to involve additional companies in the future.

I noted the word “collaborate” and its variants.

The filtering addresses privacy in this way:

Throughout this collaboration, we are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and their ability to express themselves freely and safely on our platforms. We also seek to engage with the wider community of interested stakeholders in a transparent, thoughtful and responsible way as we further our shared objective to prevent the spread of terrorist content online while respecting human rights.

Fingerprints in the world of law enforcement are tied to an individual or, in the case of Terbium, to an entity. Walking back from a fingerprint to an entity is a common practice. The business strategy is to filter content that does not match the policies of certain organizations.

Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2016

On Accountability for Search Engine Content

December 6, 2016

For better or worse, Google and, to a lesser extent other Internet search engines, shape the way many people view the world. That is a lot of power, and some folks are uneasy about allowing those companies to wield it without some sort of oversight. For example, MIT Technology Review asks, “What’s Behind Google’s Secretive Ad-Blocking Policy?” At the heart of the issue is Google’s recent decision to ban ads for payday loans, a product widely considered to be predatory and currently under investigation by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Reporter Elizabeth Woyke observes that such concerns about gate-keeping apply to other major online companies, like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Baidu. She writes:

Consumers might not realize it, but Google—and other ad-supported search engines—have been making editorial decisions about the types of ads they will carry for years. These companies won the right to reject ads they consider objectionable in 2007, when a Delaware district court ruled that constitutional free-speech guarantees don’t apply to search engines since they are for-profit companies and not ‘state actors.’ The decision cited earlier cases that upheld newspapers’ rights to decide which ads to run.

Google currently prohibits ads for ‘dangerous,’ ‘dishonest,’ and ‘offensive’ content, such as recreational drugs, weapons, and tobacco products; fake documents and academic cheating services; and hate-group paraphernalia. Google also restricts ads for content it deems legally or culturally sensitive, such as adult-oriented, gambling-related, and political content; alcoholic beverages; and health care and medicine. It may require additional information from these advertisers and limit placement to certain geographical locations.”

Legal experts, understandably, tend to be skittish about ceding this role to corporations. How far, and in which directions, will they be allowed to restrict content? Will they ever be required to restrict certain content that could cause harm? And, where do we as a society draw those lines? One suggestion that seems to make sense is a call for transparency. That way, at least, users could tap into the power of PR to hold companies accountable. See the write-up for more thoughts on the subject from legal minds.

Cynthia Murrell, December 6, 2016

Tips for DCGS Vendors Staff If RIFed

December 4, 2016

DCGS (pronounced dee-sigs by those inside the Beltway and dee-see-gee-ess by folks in Harrod’s Creek) may be heading to some changes. What is DCGS? Who are the DCGS vendors? What are the contracts worth?  DCGS is a 15 year old project to provide one screen with federated intelligence, war fighting, and Web information. What are the contracts worth? Lots. Think hundreds of millions for some Beltway outfits. Some of the vendors appear in the list below:

dcgs vendors

Now to the meat of this write up. Here are the top 10 tips for DCGS incumbent vendors to have on hand if [a] their employer loses some DCGS deals, [b] employees and contractors working on DCGS projects get fired, RIFed, or terminated but without extreme prejudice, or [c] need some ideas to prepare for a future elsewhere (perhaps Palantir?).

Tip 10

Identify six different Starbuck’s  and rotate your visits. You don’t want the “regulars” to know you are flipping rocks for work.

Tip 9

Hit Second Story Books or Capitol Hill Books for a copy of the classic job hunters’ manual What Color Is Your Parachute?

Tip 8

Convert your home office into an AirBnB rental to generate some extra dolares en efectivo.

Tip 7

Inform your significant other that he/she has to get a second job, possibly at Wendy’s or McDonald’s.

Tip 6

Add more content to your Microsoft LinkedIn résumé. (Note: Do not select need the “secret” job search option. You do not have an employer.)

Tip 5

Switch to Sunmark antacids with calcium instead of Whole Foods’ select mixed nuts.

Tip 4

Sign up to drive for Uber.

Tip 3

Tell your children they need more exposure to diversity and will switch to local public schools immediately.

Tip 2

Inform your family that holiday gifts will be purchased at the Montgomery County Thrift Shop in Bethesda or the Goodwill in Ashburn.

Tip 1

Cancel that cruise to the Norwegian fjords. Vacation this year is a trip to Wal-Mart Supercenter on Georgia Avenue NW.

Please, have a footless and fancy free 2017. Plus, remember to sign up for unemployment.

Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2016

Google Versus Amazon: And the Price War?

December 2, 2016

I read “How Google Is Challenging AWS.” The factoids and the analysis weave together the cloud-smart software boomlet. Both companies want to generate big money, be recognized as leaders in artificial intelligence, and dominate the “cloud.”

There are some differences between the two outfits. The Google is a company based

Here’s the passage I highlighted:

To be sure, Google’s success is not assured: the company still has to grapple with a new business model — sales versus ads — and build up the sort of organization that is necessary for not just sales but also enterprise support. Both are areas where Amazon has a head start, along with a vastly larger partner ecosystem and a larger feature set generally. And, of course, AWS has its own machine learning API, along with IBM and Microsoft. Microsoft is likely to prove particularly formidable in this regard: not only has the company engaged in years of research, but the company also has experience productizing technology for business specifically; Google’s longstanding consumer focus may at times be a handicap. And as popular as Kubernetes may be broadly, it’s concerning that Google is not yet eating its own dog food. Still, Google will be a formidable competitor: its strategy is sound and, perhaps more importantly, the urgency to find a new line of business is far more pressing today than it was in 2006.

The MBA analysis covers the waterfront: References to trial balloons, buzzwords, and Google’s techno-prowess.

I did note one omission: The old-fashioned concept of price war. Google depends on advertisers to funds its attempts to generate new revenues, conquer unspoiled markets, and achieve Sillycon Valley greatness. Amazon, on the other hands, gets people to pay Amazon to reduce its administrative burden for its plumbing. Customers buy products and services from Amazon, which is a reworking of the big box store into a digital WalMart.

Yet the price war appears to be simmering. Who will back their horse to the finish: Advertisers who want a measurable return on ads in the murky, somewhat opaque world of online clicks? Customers who want to buy laundry detergent?

Harrod’s Creek remembers the gasoline price wars of yore. We remember them fondly. Perhaps the battle between Sillycon Valley and Seattle will evoke similar thoughts a few years down the line. Disruptions can be fun too.

Stephen E Arnold, December 2, 2016

 

Stephen E Arnold,

Directories: Those Money Makers Never Went Out of Style

November 30, 2016

Printed directories may be under stress due to the cost of sales, paper, ink, and distribution. But my local bank offers a free directory of local businesses. Someone near Harrod’s Creek either has lots of money to waste or has a way to turn the traditional print Yellow Pages into a money maker.

Digital directories have been the heir to the venerable Bell Telephone Yellow Pages. I love directories and so does Google. In 2009, when Google: The Digital Gutenberg was published by a half crazed British eccentric who frittered away time expressing an interest in my research, the premise of the study was that Google was a modern day directory publisher. For the fancy technology and hip Sillycon Valley jargon. Google was in the directory business. Companies paid Google to put their message in front of eye balls. The shift to mobile has simply accelerated the process.

I read “The Comeback of the Directory?” The write up has discovered that directories exist. Not news in Harrod’s Creek, but to the avid readers of an online publication, I hear “Eureka!”

I highlighted this statement:

There are directories for UX designers, iOS developers, Pokemon Go players, remote workers, modern travellers (and many more). … Personally I am a big fan of categorizing a Quality and Fair Web where results are not dependent on the advertisers budget but the users valuation.

Ah, insight upon insight. If you are curious about the main point of Google: The Digital Gutenberg, a video airs as part of a HonkinNews’ special. The seven minute program talks about Google as a directory outfit and the challenge the company faces to make its desktop business model generate the revenue needed to keep the world’s most used search system plump and cheerful. Watch Beyond Search for the link. The video goes live on January 3, 2017.

Spoiler: Google is a directory company today and tomorrow.

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2016

The New Hewlett Packard Enterprise: HP Eeek

November 30, 2016

i read “HPE Posts Mixed Q4 Results.” The main idea in the write up is that HPE squeezed out some profit despite a drop in year on year revenue. I noted one interesting phrase in the write up in the midst of the fancy dancing around the revenue erosion:

In September, HPE said it will “spin-merge” its non-core software assets with Micro Focus, a software company based in the UK, in a transaction worth around $8.8 billion. These moves will enable HPE, Whitman said, to be more nimble, play higher growth margins and have an enhanced financial profile.

I also like the confections worthy of the Food Channel expressed in this statement:

The company’s goal, she [Ms. Whitman, chief cook] said, is to be the industry’s leading provider of hybrid IT built on the secure, next-generation software-defined infrastructure that runs customers’ data centers today, bridges them to multi-cloud environments tomorrow, and powers of the emerging intelligent edge. [Emphasis added to highlight jargon]

Yes, intelligent edge. Yep, the edge of my desk is possibly intelligent? But I love the thought behind “intelligent edge.” Maybe I would tweak the phrase to say “intelligence edge.” But, hey, I am not a manager at an outfit with a history of board floundering, flubbed acquisitions, and selling off assets.

When I read the reports of the HPE financial results I had this thought:

I wonder if HPE’s senior management has properties with the bookings and potential of Dr. Michael Lynch’s DarkTrace.

Dr. Lynch is going one direction: up. HPE is going another: down.

I doubt if the senior management of HPE thinks much about Dr. Lynch’s business acumen. HPE thinks about finding a scapegoat for its own failure in the due diligence process, understanding the search and content processing market, and its management methods.

As I said, just a thought.

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2016

The Next Web Portal Revolution: Video Gateways

November 19, 2016

Navigate to “Yahoo and Google Face Challenge As Social Media Sites Aim To Be Video Gateways.” The leaders in this new gold rush are Facebook and Snapchat. The write up reports:

Facebook and Snapchat have overtaken the homepages of Yahoo and Google as the front doors to the internet for hundreds of millions of people.

 

Okay, Google has invested in Snapchat. The outfit won’t be left out in the cold. Some other high flying Web outfits may be caught napping. Video is the thing, the biggie, the next money machine.

 

The write up continues:

Recurring shows are hitting Facebook from cable companies such as E! and business news provider Cheddar.

And Snapchat is also beavering away:

Snapchat has co-invested in two media brands exclusive to Discover.

What’s happened to dear, old, almost impenetrable YouTube? The write up reports:

YouTube has come closer than any video app to surpassing TV. But industry experts say the service is flooded with competition, associated with on-demand viewing and set in its style. Facebook and Snapchat represent uncharted terrain and potentially more lucrative opportunities, so that’s where money is flowing.

I think this means no cigar.

And the new content flowing to Facebook and Snapchat has one appealing factor to the cost conscious:

“No need for editing,” she says. “We’re just done.”

Good enough. Just like the title for the article and almost nothing of substance about Yahoo. For  the shows which are capturing eyeballs, consult the original write up.

Stephen E Arnold, November 18, 2016

Autonomy Software Executive Indicted

November 12, 2016

I used to pay reasonably close attention to Autonomy Software plc. The outfit was a leader in search and content processing. The methods were based on math, not human editors. Bayesian, LaPlacian, and Markovian methods created a take away happy family. Early customers included some big defense companies, government agencies, and some banks. Over the years, Autonomy generated millions in revenue from its Digital Reasoning Engine, Integrated Data Operating Layer, and other technologies.

In 2011, Hewlett Packard went to an automated teller machine, withdrew $11 billion dollars, and bought Autonomy. The deal brought patents, the products, assorted bits and pieces, and executives who had shepherded the search and content processing company from zero to somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million in revenue. Oh, the Autonomy deal brought along the shrunken head of Fast Search & Transfer, one of the outfits to take on Autonomy only to find itself struggling with revenues and some rumors of financial fast dancing. Fast Search went to Redmond in 2008, and Autonomy cruised along until HP showed up with a tractor trailer filled with money.

After buying Autonomy, HP found that the Autonomy management team did not fit the Sillycon Valley pioneer’s life style. The founder of Autonomy quit and a handful of Autonomy executives tagged along. HP found out that it did not have a clue how to make money from search and content processing. HP also learned that its auditors, accountants, senior executives, and lawyers were in the dark when it came to generating money in a sector where dozens of companies have gone down the drain. What happened to the wizards from Delphes, Endeca, Fast Search, et al?

Well, one went to jail or was sentenced. Now, if the information in “HP Fight about $11 Billion Takeover Sees Former Autonomy Executive Indicted on Felony Charges” is accurate, HP wants to put Sushovan Hussain, Autonomy’s financial manager and a minivan filled with other Autonomy executives, into orange jump suits.

The write up reports:

The indictment charges that Sushovan Hussain, “together with others, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to deceive purchasers and sellers of Autonomy securities and HP about the true performance of Autonomy’s business, its financial condition, and its prospects for growth.”

The hammer dropped on November 10, 2016. The write up says:

… federal prosecutors indicted Hussain in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. He was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Wire fraud is financial fraud involving use of telecommunications or information technology. The charges carry a combined maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The federal government is seeking at least $7.7 million from Hussain, money it said was gained through crime.

Autonomy denies the allegations that Autonomy pumped up revenues and doctored assorted information. HP apparently was unaware of “alarms” about HP which surfaced in 2007. The newspaper article adds:

Daniel Mahoney, research director of forensic accounting firm CFRA, told this newspaper in 2012 that his company in 2007 started sounding alarms about Autonomy in reports to investor clients. Summarizing the beliefs of himself and other analysts, Mahoney said, “Our concern was the organic growth that Autonomy was reporting was overstated … it seemed like they were constantly moving things around in their financial statements to make things appear better than they are.”

Okay, 2007. HP bought Autonomy in 2001. Presumably HP reviewed Autonomy’s financials, talked to resellers, interviewed executives, consulted the mid tier firms specializing in search, and other research prior to deciding $11 billion was the right sized number for Autonomy.

If not, what caused HP to buy Autonomy? If HP did its homework, why did  the company ignore the 2007 storm warnings?

The saga continues even though HP sold Autonomy earlier this year to Micro Focus for an alleged $8.8 billion. If that number is accurate, a $1.2 billion loss is important, but the real motivating factor may be the fact that HP’s approach to deal management may have been wobbly. To brush up on the Autonomy system, check out the free report at this link.

Excitement will ensue.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2016

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