Dataiku: Former Exalead Wizard Strikes Big Data Fire

January 24, 2015

I read “Big Data : Le Français Dataiku Lève 3 millions d’Euros.” The recipient of the cash infusion is Dataiku. Founded by former Exalead wizard Florian Douetteau, Dataiku offers:

a software platform that aggregates all the steps and big data tools necessary to get from raw data to production ready applications. It shortens the load-prepare-test-deploy cycles required to create data driven applications.

The company’s approach is to reduce the complexity of Big Data app construction. The company’s algorithms support predictive analytics. A community edition download is available at http://www.dataiku.com/dss/editions/.

Dataiku plans to open an office in the US in 2015.

Information about Dataiku is at http://www.dataiku.com.

Stephen E Arnold, January 24, 2015

Unicorns and Search Satyrs

January 23, 2015

I read with considerable amusement “The Age of Unicorns.” The notion that in the last 12 months or so, we have entered an “age” is pretty darned silly. Toss in the unicorn, and we have the makings of a slam bam, Manhattan analytic levitation.

The premise of the story is that $1 billion valuations are everywhere. I assume that the mythical $1 billion, backed by very real bucks from rich folks and wild eyed VCs, are the unicorns.

image

A “real” unicorn and a female venture capitalist. Image source: http://wallpapersinhq.com/79414-white_unicorn/

The Time Warner wizards report:

Today the technology industry is crowded with billion-dollar startups. When Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee coined the term unicorn as a label for such corporate creatures in a November 2013 TechCrunch blog post, just 39 of the past decade’s VC-backed U.S. software startups had topped the $1 billion valuation mark.

The list of the identified unicorns is located at this link. (Relax before browsing this Fortune list. The presentation is designed to boost dwell time and make the user experience similar to visiting a Time Warner cable storefront. I assume the list has 63 companies. If there were more, I couldn’t figure out how to coax the Time Warner/Fortune to display more items. Wow, this was like waiting for the Time Warner cable guy to arrive.)

I identified a handful of search satyrs. In my mind, these are not true unicorns. The search satyr is a breed apart, smaller than the average unicorn, and probably more promiscuous because with each marketing opportunity, the search satyrs behave like chameleons munching peyote buttons.

Search satyrs closing deals for customer support, data management, Big Data (whatever that is), search, content processing, etc. Promiscuous solutions?

My short list includes:

Palantir, which is described as a member of the sector “Big Data”

  • Actifio, also pegged as “Big Data”
  • MongoDB, which is a member of the sector “database software”
  • Sogou, which isthe only occupant of the “search engine” category

What I found interesting is that each of these companies handles big data (whatever that actually means). Each of the companies rely on a database. And each of the companies includes findability tools with their “solution,” “framework,” “product,” or “service.”

In short, these are search satyrs, ready to have a go at any information challenge that has cash and is impressionable to PowerPoints, generalizations, and assorted stories about return on investment, improving an organization’s operation, and solving problems that other firms have found intractable.

In short, these companies are quite a bit alike, but each is positioned in a way that appears to set them apart from their competitors.

  • Actifio, for example, manages data. Dassault, a company that owns Exalead, relies of Actifio. With Actifio, Dassault becomes a single data platform. I thought that Exalead provided this type of functionality when I learned about the use of Exalead to manage a global logistics company disparate apps and data. Oh, well.
  • MongoDB, which is an open source project, is a repackager and services play. The idea is to become the RedHat of information management. You can watch a video about the text search function included in the data management system here.
  • Sogou is Chinese for search dog, not search satyr, but I prefer my translation. The idea is that Sogou is supposed to be a Google killer, presumably more robust than Jike.com which went dark not long ago. Sogue is leaner and meaner than Baidu, the present champ for Web search and assorted oddities included in the index. Will Google rebuild a bridge to China? If the answer is no, maybe Sogou will be a Bigger Dog.

Several observations:

Which of these outfits is likely to generate a payback to their investors? My hunch is that none unless there is some exogenous factor that arrives from an orbit near Jupiter’s.

Which of these outfits will generate a sustainable revenue flow that obviates the need for additional infusions of capital over the next 12 to 18 months? My view is that none of these outfits will pull this off. Again a Drucker discontinuity might save the day, but that strikes me as tough to bet on.

Which of these outfits will displace one of the major players now dominating their business sector? From the hollow here in rural Kentucky, I would edge toward this answer, I would assert, “I am not sure.” Excellence and big money are not locked like protein pairs.

Why, then, are information access systems getting these billion dollar valuations? The short answer is verbal hypnotism, spreadsheet fever, and MBA magic that whips up billions in fantasy revenue before breakfast.

Does my somewhat cautious view jibe with the panting of the Fortune hunters?

Nah. Modern high tech magic is tossing around fairy dust the way TV talking heads output viewpoints.

Stephen E Arnold, January 24, 2015

Google X Labs Just Buys a Better Idea

January 23, 2015

Short honk: X Labs was to be part of the Google innovation push. The idea was “moon shots.” Well, Google came up with balloons, self driving cars, and a linguistic innovation, Glassholes.

Now Google and by extension gets a better idea. I read “Google Wants Life on Mars in $1bn SpaceX Investment.” Fueled by ad revenue, Google is into satellites and rocket ships.

The article said:

Google is racing to spread internet access as it looks for new ways to boost its user base and sell more digital advertising. By teaming up with SpaceX, Google would be seeking to gain an edge over rivals such as Facebook, which is working on projects to deliver Internet service to underserved regions by building drones, satellites and lasers. WorldVu Satellites, backed by Qualcomm and Virgin Group, has begun a similar effort. “Google needs to find additional sources of revenue,” said Greg Sterling, vice-president of strategy and insights for Local Search Association, whose members operate in the location-based advertising market. “If they can expand into new markets, obviously they can expand their revenue and keep investors happy.”

The issue for me is innovation. After 2006, Google began to flag in the innovation department. Amazon did the cloud thing. Facebook did the relationship thing. AirBnB and Uber did the sharing thing.

Google continued to keep its infrastructure chugging along in order to sell ads.

Don’t get me wrong. Google is a giant outfit. I find it interesting that Google X Labs came up with balloons and Elon Musk came up with a better idea. To get that innovation, Google has to write a check, not rely on its 50,000 plus really smart folks.

Interesting. Loon balloons trumped by satellites and rockets. What’s that line about soaring like an eagle?

Stephen E Arnold, January 21, 2015

IBM: Why Did Watson Fail to Generate Billions?

January 22, 2015

I read a number of IBM earnings-related articles. None of the ones I examined addressed the question in my mind:

Why didn’t Watson, the smart search system, generate billions in new revenue?

A mainstream statement about IBM’s financial results appears in “IBM’s Mixed Earnings Results Show Troubled Year.”

Investors are watching for moves to put Big Blue back on an upward track. And Schroeter said that “strategic imperatives” like cloud computing, analytics, mobile uses, social media and security offerings will make IBM “the go-to platform for the enterprise.”

No Watson.

IBM has been doing financial engineering, not closing deals that generate revenue from content processing, text analytics, and next generation information access systems.

Why not? No answers jumped out at me.

My view is that IBM is better at Watson public relations than closing deals with customers and prospects with significant information access problems.

The reality is that IBM faces many challenges in content processing ranging from open source alternatives to new vendors with more compelling solutions.

I have tallied Watson’s proposed home runs in health care, recipes, and financial services. So far, from my vantage point in a hollow in rural Kentucky, IBM is struggling to get singles.

IBM’s Watson disappearance is one more indication of the difficulties that companies planning for huge multi billion cash intakes from content processing may face some challenges.

The companies with unrealistic expectations are likely to wish they could win a TV game show and touch up glitches in post production.

Is this what investors and stakeholders paid money to witness?

Stephen E Arnold, January 22, 2015

AI: Outputs Become Inputs, No Humans Necessary in Some Situations

January 13, 2015

Here’s the thing. The time between an an actionable item and taking action is a big deal. For example, you hear about buying shares of X at the gym. Two days later you call your financial advisor and say, “Should we buy shares of X?”

He says, “Well, the stock has jumped 25 percent yesterday.”

The point: You heard about an actionable item—buying shares. When you cranked up to buy the stock, the big jump was history.

The train left the station, and you are standing on the platform watching the riders head to the bank.

How does one get less “wait” between the actionable item and taking action? The answer is automation. The slow down is usually human. Humans want to deliberate, think about stuff, and procrastinate.

A system that takes actionable outputs and does something about them reduces the “wait.” The idea is to assign a probability to reflect your confidence in the actionable item. The system computes that probability, looks at your number, and then either does or does not take an action.

This happens in milliseconds. Financial institutions pay hundreds of millions to shave milliseconds off their financial transactions. The objective is to use probability and automation to make sure these wizards do not miss the financial train.

Now read “Artificial Intelligence Experts Sign Open Letter to Protect Mankind from Machines.” The write up asserts:

AI experts around the globe are signing an open letter issued Sunday by the Future of Life Institute that pledges to safely and carefully coordinate progress in the field to ensure it does not grow beyond humanity’s control. Signees include co-founders of Deep Mind, the British AI company purchased by Google in January 2014; MIT professors; and experts at some of technology’s biggest corporations, including IBM’s Watson supercomputer team and Microsoft Research.

Sounds great. Won’t compute in the real world. The reason is that time means money to some, security to others, and opportunity for 20 somethings.

The reality is that outputs of smart systems will be piped directly into other smart systems. These systems will act based on probability and other considerations. Why burn out a human when you can disintermediate the human, save money, and give the person an opportunity to study Zen or pursue a hobby? Why wait to discover a security breach when a smart system can take proactive action?

Who resists accepting a recommendation from Amazon or Google “suggest”? I am not sure users of smart systems realize that automation and smart software—crude as it is—is not getting bogged down in the “humanity’s control” thing.

Need an example? Check out weapon systems. Need another? Read the CyberOSINT report available here.

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2015

Palantir and 2014 Funding

January 5, 2015

I read an article that confused me. Navigate to “Palantir Secures First $60M Chunk of Projected $400M Round as Market Asks, “Who?”

This sentence suggests that Palantir wants to go public. What do you think?

But although it would clearly find no trouble catching the market’s attention, the company is in rush to take on the pressure of public trading The secretive nature of its clientele and an apparent desire to prioritize long-term strategy over short-term returns are the primary considerations behind that approach, but what facilitates it is the ease with which Palantir has managed to draw private investors so far.

I wonder if this article means “no” rush. I wonder if this article is software generated.

Here’s another interesting passage:

The document [cited by Techcrunch?] doesn’t specify the source of the capital or what Palantir intends to spend it on, but based on the claim in NYT report that it wasn’t profitable as of May, the money will probably go primarily toward fueling operations. The paper also noted that most of the estimated billion dollars that the company raked in this year came from private sector customers, which provides a hint as to the areas where the funding will be invested, namely the development of its enterprise-oriented Gotham offering.

I have my own views about Palantir which are summarized in the forthcoming CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access monograph. (If you want to order a copy, write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com. The book is available to law enforcement, security, and intelligence professionals.)

The statement “isn’t profitable” is fascinating if true.

Stephen E Arnold, January 5, 2015

Storage, Like Search, a Commodity: Key Vendors Omitted from the Report

December 9, 2014

Nothing spotlights the hungry like a price war. Low prices win. Now what happens to the expensive option? If you are Ferrari and enjoy a cult following of big money car people, you are sort of in business. If you offer expensive online storage, well, that is a good question.

Navigate to “IBM, NetApp Suffer As Storage Buyers Shun Mainstream Suppliers.” The write up points out:

A year ago IBM would have been the third-ranked vendor, but its revenues fell 7.2 per cent to $866m, giving it fourth place. Not so Big Blue is failing to keep up with modern storage technologies and its ageing product set has less and less appeal to customers.

The report from the ever resourceful, expert packed IDC (yep the outfit that sold my information on Amazon without my permission) looks at the world through glasses that give me a headache.

In terms of search, I recall that Coveo was at one time the supplier of search to this outfit. Since IBM bought NetApp, I am not sure what happened to the deal.

Vendors of search hoping for a home run by tagging on to a storage vendors’ wagon train may also be disappointed at the outlook for Big Blue.

Omitted from the mid tier consulting firm’s study were the many low cost storage options that are “good enough.” I, for example, use low cost online storage services and just set up the system to allow each system to copy data from my happy little Drobo. Cheap, multiple copies onsite and off site and none of the crazy pricing that accompanies the folks IDC studies like a Ouija board. I suppose IDC could consult its very own oracle, Dave (surf on Arnold) Schubmehl. Why not?

Stephen E Arnold, December 9, 2014

Amazon and Oracle: The Love Affair Ends

November 14, 2014

I recall turning in a report about Amazon’s use of Oracle as its core database. The client, a bank type operation, was delighted that zippy Amazon had the common sense to use a name brand database. For the bank types, recognizable names used to be indicators of wise technological decisions.

I read “Amazon: DROP DATABASE Oracle; INSERT Our New Fast Cheap MySQL Clone.” Assume the write up is spot on, Amazon and Oracle have fallen out of love or at least beefy payments from Amazon for the sort of old Oracle data management system. This comment becomes quite interesting to me:

“This old-world relational database software is very expensive,” Jassy [Amazon tech VP] said. “They’re proprietary. There’s a high level of lock-in. And they’ve got punitive licensing terms, not just allowing very little flexibility in moving to the cloud the way customers want, but also in the auditing and fining of their customers.”

Several thoughts flitted through my mind as I kept one eye on the Philae gizmo:

  1. Amazon’s move, if it proves successful, may allow Mr. Bezos to mount a more serious attack on the enterprise market. Bad news for Oracle and possibly good news for those who want to save some Oracle bucks and trim the number of Oracle DBAs on the payroll
  2. Encourage outfits that offer enterprise cloud solutions. Will Amazon snap up some of the enterprise services and put the squeeze on Google and Microsoft?
  3. Trigger another round of database wars. Confusion and marketing hype often add a bit of spice to the Codd fest
  4. Cause concern among the commercial, proprietary NoSQL outfits. Think of MarkLogic and its ilk trying to respond to an Amazon package designed to make a 20 something developer jump up and down.

Interesting move by the digital WalMart.

Stephen E Arnold, November 14, 2014

HP and Accordions

November 10, 2014

I try to avoid reading about marketing and MBAs. Sometimes I slip. For example, this morning I read about the trials and tribulations of “Pizza Hut Reboot: Food Chain To Reinvent Itself For The First Time.”

The write up explains that selling pizza is not easy—when you are part of YUM. Here’s a passage that I found laughable:

They plan to change everything from their topping options to the very logo. One major change includes the addition of 10 more crust flavor toppings. While garlic has always been the general standby, apparently you will now have more options than just removing the garlic if you want to. There will be new toppings as well, including salami and spinach, and more sauces available for the pie itself, such as barbecue and balsamic.

This sounds like the silliness search and content processing vendors foist on the wary prospects. Hey, the problem with pizza from Pizza Hut may be that the company is out of step with pizza eaters. There is a joint in Middletown, Kentucky that offers all you can eat pizza at lunch time for less than $8. That pulls in the hungry pizza cravers.

Almost as intriguing as a Fortune 100 company trying to get hip with pizza is the information in the article “What Do Chief Executives and Accordion Players Have in Common.”

This AdAge.com story includes this passage:

Expand and Contract. Repeat. Except When CEOs Hit a Sour Note, They Blame the Marketing

I like this analogy. The write up is about Hewlett Packard. One passage I highlighted before my trust Ricoh laser ran out of toner was:

“The question I get most often is, ‘What is H-P?'” said Meg Whitman recently and then added “It’s a communication problem.” Sure, blame the marketing people for not solving the company’s communication problem instead of blaming the management people for inflating the company into such a mess it can’t be communicated.

I don’t think marketing can do much to improve the four percent after tax net profit margin.

Perhaps Autonomy Systems as a Service (quite an acronym!) will generate an IBM Watson scale $10 billion payoff. These seems as likely as Pizza Hut crushing the upstarts like Hometown pizza or neutralizing the Peyton Manning love of Papa John’s pizza.

Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2014

Altegrity Kroll: Under Financial Pressure

October 30, 2014

Most of the name surfing search experts—like the fellow who sold my content on Amazon without my permission and used my name to boot—will not recall much about Engenium. That’s no big surprise. Altegrity Kroll owns the pioneering company in the value-added indexing business. Altegrity, as you may know, is the owner of the outfit that cleared Edward Snowden for US government work.

I read “Snowden Vetter Altegrity’s Loans Plunge: Distressed Debt”. In that article I learned:

Altegrity Inc., the security firm that vetted former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, has about six months until it runs out of money as the loss of background-check contracts negate most of a July deal with lenders to extend maturities for five years.

The article reports that “selective default” looms for the company. With the lights  flickering at a number of search and content processing firms, I hope that the Engenium technology survives. The system remains a leader in a segment which has a number of parvenus.

Stephen E Arnold, October 30, 2014

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