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Looker Tops $47 Million in Funding

March 12, 2015

Business intelligence, a close cousin to cyber intelligence, continues to capture venture funding attention. “BI Startup Looker Notches Up $30M Injection for Expansion” reports that Looker has more than 250 customers up from 40 in 2013. According to the write up:

The web-based Looker platform, mainly deployed in the cloud, uses proprietary SQL-based modeling language LookML and allows data analysts to give business users the ability to explore large data stores themselves instead of depending on standard reports.

The article includes this article:

“Most business intelligence is about, ‘Hey, data guy give me this set of data so that I can get an answer’. What Looker is doing is giving those data people tools they want to use – code-based tools, GitHub-integrated, all that kind of stuff – so that they can curate experiences for the business users, much like the early web developers and web masters were doing,” he [Frank Bien, CEO] said.

The service includes collaboration functions, data fusion, and an easy-to-use interface. More information about Looker is available at www.looker.com.

Stephen E Arnold, March 12, 2015

Attivio Does the Hadoop the Loop

March 9, 2015

What happens when a company founded by former Fast Search & Transfer executives do? Attivio took a reasonable path:

  1. Present the company’s mash up of open source and proprietary code as a report generator that answered questions
  2. Put search in a subordinate role to the report output
  3. Bang the drum about the upside of the approach in order to attract millions in venture funding
  4. Replace the Fast founders with hardier stock
  5. Unveil the new Attivio as a Big Data and Discovery platform.

The transformation took from 2007 until I read the official announcement in this write up “Attivio Previews Big Data Profiling & Discovery Platform at Strata + Hadoop World 2015.”

The question is, “Will the Fast DNA go gently into the good night?” My hunch is that Attivio’s founders realized that search was not the killer app. Fast Search during its spectacular implosion learned that talking about a “platform” was different from delivering a functioning platform.

Attivio tried to avoid that error. According to the write up:

Attivio, Inc., the software company reinventing enterprise search and Big Data discovery, today announced that it will showcase its new Big Data Profiling and Discovery Platform at Strata + Hadoop World 2015. Demonstrations of the Big Data Profiling and Discovery Platform will take place at booth #1136 in the main exhibit hall.

After eight years in business, some stakeholders may be looking for a solid payback. With the discovery and Big Data market choked with companies offering knock out services, Attivio may face some challenges.

One of these is the fact that Hortonworks, one of the cheerleaders for Big Data systems based loosely on Google’s approach from 2002 and 2003, missed its revenue target. If “Hortonworks Q4 Misses on Revenue” is accurate, the Big Data market could be one of those fanciful confections that enthrall pundits, mid tier consulting firms, and former enterprise search wizards.

Hadoop is morphing into other types of software. For me, this looks like a reprise of the Fast Search strategy: Start with something familiar and then add software widgets until people start to buy. Once a deal is closed, assemble the solution. Rinse and repeat.

What could go wrong?

Stephen E Arnold, March 9, 2014

Estimating Enterprise Search Returns

March 8, 2015

I read an interesting statement about financial forecasts in “Investigator Was Told Women Made More Money for Kleiner.” Keep in mind I am not sure about the accuracy of information disseminated in the course of legal proceedings. One has to be there and be part of a legal team involved in the matter to get a sense of the “truth.”

Attorney Stephen Hirschfeld, hired by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers to probe allegations of discrimination against the firm, testified in a San Francisco courtroom today that then-partner Trae Vassallo had run the numbers on both male and female partners. According to her calculations, the women came out ahead of the men in multiple measures of profitability. Even so, the men forecasted higher revenues for their investments than the women, Hirschfeld said Vassallo told him.

I have highlighted the assertion/factoid that caught my attention. It would seem that the wild and crazy estimates about the revenue from search and content processing investments cut across gender. For example, there are the folks at Attivio, BA Insight, and Coveo who have to generate sustainable revenue and healthy profits for their stakeholders. But these outfits’ estimates pale in comparison with the billions IBM Watson will spin in the time it takes to get a stack of pancakes at IHOP. Isn’t IBM’s chief estimator a female?

Stephen E Arnold, March 8, 2015

IBM and the Functioning Assumption

February 26, 2015

I read “Could IBM Really Function with Tens of thousands Fewer Staff?” I think this is an interesting headline. It contains an assumption that IBM is indeed functioning with its present staffing levels.

The write up moves blithely forward offering up:

According to a recent report from India, IBM reduced its India-based workforce from about 165,000 in 2011 to 113,000 in 2014. The report quoted sources close to IBM’s plans who said this number will fall to 100,000 in 2015. The introduction of modern technologies that make services less labor-intensive is reducing the need for staff in lower-cost locations. At the same time, IBM, like much of the industry, is trying to move away from linear business models based on the provision of full-time equivalents. And talk of IBM cutting swathes of staff is nothing new. In 2010 a senior HR executive at the company told Computer Weekly’s then sister publication, Personnel Today, that IBM was looking into the possibility of cutting its workforce by almost 300,000. He said the strategy would involve making people redundant and rehiring them on a project-by-project basis. It would have reduced IBM’s 399,000 workforce to 100,000 by 2017.

Bloomberg reported:

IBM’s global employee count fell for the second year in a row, the first two year decline since 1993-1994. Even before the 2015 firings, IBM reported 379,592 employees at year end 2014, down 12% year on year (3.9% excluding divestitures). But there are allegedly 15,000 job openings, IBM claims.

Lots of figures. Lots of people. But let me go back to the word “functioning.” IBM, like HP, has been around a long time. The company’s notion of agility is to market wild and crazy ideas with zest. I see Watson as an example of the new IBM. Open source technology and home brew code. The search system is presented as a “basket brand” into which many different and discrete products and services have been gathered.

The challenge remains. The company has to generate sustainable revenue that yields a profit. So far that seems to be very difficult. I struggle with the “functional” assumption. Perhaps Watson has the answer?

Stephen E Arnold, February 26, 2015

Hewlett Packard: More Misfires

February 25, 2015

I am no financial whiz kid. I read “Hewlett Packard Shares Take a Beating on Poor Sales.” Even I was able to figure out that “HP’s corporate business struggled in the first quarter, dragging down overall revenue.”

What’s the fix? Splitting the company, getting a windfall, and retiring? Chasing Autonomy’s founder with more enthusiasm? Promising big revenue from a future German deal?

My hunch is that HP is struggling with three issues for which there is no silver bullet solution. First, the company just looks as if it is going through management motions without generating the payoffs MBAs are so darned confident that are a natural consequence of their thinking.

Second, HP is a big company with considerable friction. Good ideas are difficult to pursue with alacrity. Compared to other behemoths like GE, HP looks sluggish. A corporate couch potato perhaps?

Third, the notion that nifty new technologies are in HP’s bag of tricks is silly. When I run a query for Autonomy, for example, I see numerous appeals for consultants to tackle projects. You can track this yourself on my Overflight page for Autonomy.

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For my CyberOSINT monograph, I asked one of the law librarians assisting me with research to send the draft to HP’s designated contact point for comments and suggestions. Guess what? No one responded. No easy fix when people designated as a contact point do not respond to an inquiry. Nuff said. (Notice that I don’t think the value of the dollar is a root issue.)

Stephen E Arnold, February 25, 2015

Watson and Toys: The Next Pet Rock?

February 17, 2015

If I were working, I would try to hit my goals. One of the takeaways from my years at Halliburton Nuclear Services was that selling big deals was generally preferable to selling little deals.

IBM seems to have a deal scale problem with Watson. Here’s a possible illustration of what I call “spreadsheet fever.”

Navigate to “Elemental Path Debuts The First Toys Powered By IBM Watson.” The article explains that an IBM partner is using Watson make toys smarter. I recall the toys I had as a child: a wooden car, a ball, and eventually a cheapo chemistry set. (I was able to use the chemistry set to create some wonderful, persistent odors until my mother nudged me toward physics and math.)

The write up points out that “none of the co-founders have kids themselves, they believed in this idea of “connected” toys to both entertain and educate children.”

Okay, no problem.

My reaction to this effort is that it is a good PR generator. A spreadsheet jockey can set up a model that makes clear how much money will flow from a pet rock or beanie baby type hit.

For me, I fear that Watson is unlikely to generate sufficient revenue to sustain the financial hopes and dreams of IBM.

Here’s a statement from an Alliance@IBM contributor:

I’ve decided to RA IBM! Yes, you read that right. Henceforth, in every case and every way, I’m going to RA IBM. That means whenever there’s an opportunity to weigh in on whether products and/or services should be from IBM or anyone else, I will vote for the anyone else. And when IBM products and/or services are already entrenched in my environment, I will do everything in my power to convince any powers that be that they could – and should – be doing better with solutions other than IBM’s. In other words, I will be rating IBM a 3 or less everywhere I go, and RA’ing their backside. Why? Well, first off, their products and/or services *are* 3-(or worse)-worthy. As a former IBMer, I have inside information on how poorly they treat their employees, and there’s just no way that people being treated thusly could produce goods and/or services of the quality and commitment to every customer’s success that happy employees elsewhere could. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t blame IBM employees for intentionally sabotaging IBMs plans, albeit in subtle ways that slowly ground their operation to a halt. Surely, hell hath no fury like the employee scorned. But there’s another reason: IBM is *old*. Yes, I’ve decided to discriminate against IBM based on age. “What’s good for the goose..”, right?

That may be a question for Watson. Just access Watson via the Cognitoy product of your choice. I quite like the green ones. That’s “green” for the oodles of revenue Watson will generate from toys, tamarind barbeque sauce, and, of course, curing cancer.

Isn’t Lucene, home grown scripts, and some IBM magic a rocket fuel for revenue? Watson, would you answer?

Stephen E Arnold, February 17, 2015

Will Google Be Forced to Downsize?

February 15, 2015

With the founders cashing in some of their shares, I am sensitive to allegedly accurate information about the future of the GOOG. I read “Google Layoffs Inevitable.” The write up references a third party, so the info may not be spot on. I noted this passage:

With ad revenues leveling off and expenses skyrocketing (G&A has quadrupled in 5 years), Google is headed for a financial meltdown, and when it happens, the company will need to shave $2 billion a year off its $16 billion/yr in R&D and G&A costs, which means, if we count the fully burdened cost of a Google employee at $200K per year, it needs to On a percent-of-income basis, Google outspends Apple on R&D six-to-one. Where is that money going? Driverless cars, Google Glass, body odor patents. Stuff that doesn’t have a chance in hell of generating revenue any time soon. On the one hand, Google is to be credited with thinking long-term, something American companies don’t tend to do very well, but on the other hand, Google needs to execute well on the revenue side. Right now, most of its revenue is tied to search ads, which are receding in relevance. It competes, in the cloud space, with Amazon (which no one should have to do). Will that save the company? No. It would have, already, if it were going to shave 10,000 jobs.

Then there was some information about the fuzzywuzzy research investments. I highlighted:

On a percent-of-income basis, Google outspends Apple on R&D six-to-one. Where is that money going? Driverless cars, Google Glass, body odor patents. Stuff that doesn’t have a chance in hell of generating revenue any time soon. On the one hand, Google is to be credited with thinking long-term, something American companies don’t tend to do very well, but on the other hand, Google needs to execute well on the revenue side. Right now, most of its revenue is tied to search ads, which are receding in relevance. It competes, in the cloud space, with Amazon (which no one should have to do). Will that save the company? No. It would have, already, if it were going to.

I find these negative Google analyses interesting. Keep in mind that I don’t have a dog in this fight. I find the Yandex, iSite, and Ixquick search systems increasingly useful. I do love the strapping teenager with the dinosaur on its campus. Even though Apple is allegedly developing a vehicle, it seems that Apple may hit a financial high water mark which Google cannot achieve as the mobile revolution spawns new, competitive life forms. Is that frost on the Google dinosaur’s snout this morning?

Stephen E Arnold, February 15, 2015

A Newspaper Asserts Content Worthless

February 13, 2015

I recall paying for a copy of the Guardian newspaper when I was in the UK a couple of years ago. My hunch is that the newspaper is still for sale. I encountered a link on a UK headline site to “The iPod Effect: How Near Limitless Storage Made Content Worthless.”

The idea that an MP3 player devalued content was interesting. I thought that newspaper entitles like quality oriented Murdoch operations blamed Google for devaluing content. I have heard speakers at conferences point the finger of blame at education’s failure to produce book readers. A consulting firm expert opined that it was the acceleration of life that nuked magazines and newspapers and reading in general.

According to the Guardian, which embraces some open source (free) technology:

If we continue to cultivate a society where even the most crafted and artisan digital items are throwaway flash sale detritus, how can we expect to continue enjoying the talented minds that create them?

Armageddon arrives and the warriors are Taylor Swift and iPhone toting troops.

I learned:

As a whole, we humans aren’t great at moderating our own consumption. As each scarce resource in human life has become more and more available, we’ve gorged ourselves until popular sentiment realizes it’s time to rebalance. Just as we hit that wall with nutrition and energy consumption, I think we’re getting there with the value of art in ubiquitous digital form. But while we adjust, we’re relying on brave creators to treat us mean and keep us keen so when we return to tough decisions, we know they’re too good to lose.

Oh, maybe this article is only about music and not newspapers. Wow, that had me frightened.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2015

Coveo Asserts Record Growth and Improved Relevance

February 12, 2015

Proprietary enterprise search is one reason DARPA has made noise about a new threat center. The idea is that cyber intelligence is a hot issue. Without repeating the information in CyberOSINT, suffice it to say that keyword search is not up to the findability tasks in today’s world. For more on the threat center integration, you may want to review “New Threat Center to Integrate Cyber Intelligence.”

In this context, I read “Coveo Announces Record Growth in 2014.” The company was founded in 2005 in Canada. The the last nine years, according to Crunchbase, the company has ingested $34.7 million from eight investors. The most recent funding round was in December 2012 when the company obtained an additional $18 million. Let’s assume the data are accurate.

In the “record growth” announcement, the company states:

Coveo today announced accelerated growth in 2014 via strong demand for its enterprise search-based applications that help employees upskill as they work, and driven in large part by its continued strategic partnerships with leading organizations such as Salesforce. The year was also marked by the best quarter in the history of the company and the 1,000th enterprise activation of its software, with new customer Sonus Networks.

The “record growth” news story omits an important data point: Financial results with numbers. Coveo is a privately held company and under no obligation to provide any hard numbers. In lieu of metrics, the story provides this interesting item: Enhanced relevance tuning. After nearly nine years in the enterprise market, I had assumed that Coveo had figured out relevance.

Coveo, like its fellow travelers in the keyword search sector Attivio and BA Insight, is recognized in different “expert” advisory firms’ lists of important companies. Also, each of these three keyword search companies are working overtime to generate revenues that enable them to generate Autonomy or Endeca scale revenues. The three keyword search vendors have to differentiate themselves as the US Department of Defense are actively seeks next generation approaches. The sunny days of Autonomy and Endeca have been hit by climate change even as they recline in the shelter of Hewlett Packard and Oracle, their new owners.

My hunch is that if the financials back up the assertions in the “record growth” story, stakeholders will be happy campers. On the other hand, if those funding traditional search systems relying on proprietary code do not see a solid payback, dreary days may be ahead.

For functional information retrieval, many large companies—including the firms developing next generation information access systems—ignore proprietary search solutions. The open source software deliver a lower cost, license fee free commodity function.

Did anyone bring umbrellas? In the hay days of enterprise search, vendors gave away bumbershoots with logos affixed. These may be needed because the search climate has changed with heavier rainfall predicted.

Stephen E Arnold, February 12, 2015

IBM Layoffs or Resource Action Numbers

February 11, 2015

I keep looking for information about Watson. That’s the super smart search system pegged to generate a billion in revenue in a year or so. I came across a fascinating analysis of IBM’s layoff in my quest for Watson info. The article is “Which IBM Layoff Numbers Add Up?” The write up is a collection of estimates about how many IBM professionals and contractors have an opportunity to find their future elsewhere.

One comment jumped out for me:

63,000: The number of current employees in excess of what IBM’s business model can sustain, according to an analysis by David Ing, a former president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (and former IBMer)posted here. IBM today should have about 350,000 workers; it’s current staff numbers are at about 413,000.

It looks to me as if this “expert” suggests that IBM has 63,000 people which the company cannot keep in the flock.

Watson, what’s your analysis? The Business News Network offers a possible response to this question. How does financial engineering sound? I think the phrase was “total disaster.”

Stephen E Arnold, February 11, 2015

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