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MarkLogic: Now a Unicorn in Database Land

May 12, 2015

I read “Database Vendor MarkLogic Joins Billion Dollar Club with New Funding.” The main point for me is that MarkLogic is described as a “database vendor.” MarkLogic has been working hard to explain that it is an enterprise search vendor, a business intelligence vendor, and an XML publishing system appropriate for finance, health care, and publishing. There is MarkLogic DNA in Autonomy.

The headline brushes these assertions away, clearing the path for the unicorn to charge directly in the face of Oracle and maybe IBM.

According to the write up:

MarkLogic in the last few years has gained several new database rivals–including Cloudera Inc., last valued at $4.1 billion; MongoDB Inc., last valued at $1.6 billion; MapR Technologies Inc.; and Datastax Inc.–in addition to traditional competitors Oracle, Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. MarkLogic customers include Dow Jones & Co., which publishes VentureWire and The Wall Street Journal. The company said the new money would be used to expand globally across Europe, Japan and Asia and invested in MarkLogic partners and in research and development.

Is this what MarkLogic will do with the money? I thought some of it would be allocated to purchase other firms; for example, companies which allegedly shore up MarkLogic’s content processing gaps. Concept Searching, Content Analyst, Smartlogic? Also, there may be some long suffering investors who want a payback for the millions pumped into the company. I noticed that the lead investor was Wellington Management with some help from Arrowpoint Partners.

Before the current president, I was working for some of the nifty outfits in Sillycon Valley. I learned that MarkLogic had missed some important financial targets. A spin of the revolving door put some new faces in familiar positions.

If one looks for MarkLogic today, the company is findable, but it maintains a comparatively low profile. I dropped the blog from my useful source list. I can’t recall the last time I saw a substantive link to the company in Twitter. I don’t see the company at some of the conferences I attend, but, hey, I attend some very specialized information centric hoe downs.

Several observations:

Oracle may expand on its”we’re a better XML database white paper which you can find here. An earlier paper called “Mark Logic XML Server 4.1” points out some issues which Oracle perceived in the MarkLogic approach. In a shoot out with Oracle, the bullets will fly. Does MarkLogic have the arsenal to deal with Oracle’s cache of armaments?

Will proprietary NoSQL data management systems be able to generate a billion in revenue in the next six or eight quarters? Outfits like Lucid Imagination (Really?) have been running into headwinds, and I think a similar weather system may turn MarkLogic’s sunny skies into a cloudy day. I understand that the Wall Street Journal is a MarkLogic believer? How many more can MarkLogic bring to its picnic? The assumption, I assume, is a lot.

MarkLogic’s core technology dates from 2001. Like many companies from this time period, MarkLogic has to find a way to get that old time start up excitement back. Companies which are 14 years old often continue along the same trajectory in my experience.

This will be interesting and maybe a big payday for the increasingly strapped owners of companies with technology which can caulk some leaks in the MarkLogic lake raft.

Stephen E Arnold, May 12, 2015

Watson: The Swiss Army Knife for Digital Information, Business Intelligence, and Search?

May 10, 2015

I thought I could make it through the weekend without being subjected to another fusillade of IBM Watson Braunschweiger. Nope. My Overflight system delivered this 24 16 ounce tubes in plastic this smoggy spring morning in Harrod’s Creek. One tube struck me square in my bald spot. I am still groggy.

Navigate to “IBM’s Watson Supercomputer Strives to Be Jack of All Trades.” My immediate reaction to this conflation of IBM with hardware and smart software built from open source components, home brew scripts, and acquired technology was to think, “And master of none.”

The last Renaissance man was not the poster child for innovation that my sixth grade teacher described. Reality was a bit more gritty and a trifle sad. Leonardo, you gave it the old college try but the inspiration of the frescos in Nero’s Domus Aurea revealed that imitation played a part in your repertoire of insights.

The write up does not focus on what Watson is in terms of hardware or software. Instead I learn:

Watson, which gained fame in 2011 for defeating human opponents on the “Jeopardy” quiz show, has been reaching into its computing power since then for an array of other services.

The article then lists Watson’s initiatives: An engagement advisor for the military, a leak management capability for the petroleum industry, cancer treatment, management of post operative conditions, smart toys for tots, and analysis of financial investment opportunities. Included in the list is Watson’s abilities to develop recipes with tamarind as an ingredient.

How long will it be before Watson delivers sustainable revenues and profits to the struggling IBM? Watson, would you answer that question? Watson, Watson, are you there?

Stephen E Arnold, May 10, 2015

Lightcrest Cloud Nine: Does Nirvana Come from Commodity Plumbing?

May 7, 2015

Lightcrest seems to want to be a major player in the enterprise search market. Recently the company’s senior management has posted links to LinkedIn enterprise search discussion groups. The president is Zach Fierstadt, and I wanted to read some of this other contributions to the search and content processing discussions I follow.

The Metaphors Used to Sell Search in the Cloud

I read “Cloud Nine Is a Private Cloud.” To me, Cloud Nine evokes a somewhat imprecise connotation; specifically, “heaven” and “a utopia of pleasure.” The notion of a utopia of pleasure makes me uncomfortable because promising wondrous outcomes from jargonized technology often comes to no good end.

Definitions

The Urban Dictionary’s word cloud  for Cloud Nine exacerbates my discomfort:

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How do pleasure and technology link in hosted search services. Here’s a definition of pleasure from Google.

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I noted that the word is used or intended for entertainment rather than business. “pleasure boats”. I immediately think of Caligula’s Lake Nemi ships, the Gary Hart vessel Monkey Business, and the Xoogler’s death by heroin yacht Escape. Let me say that I am not calmed by how my mind relates to metaphors of pleasure and information access.

Assertions

Now let’s look at the article “Cloud Nine Is a Private Cloud,” which is at this link, http://www.lightcrest.com/blog/2015/04/cloud-nine-is-a-private-cloud/. The author is Zach Fierstadt, who asserts:

Most public cloud providers are not tuned to provide you with full-stack support, including things like DevOps services and caching best-practices. This cost haunts CTOs in the form of sprawling staff requirements, whereby operational staff required to support a 24x7x365 operation grows as the infrastructure on the public cloud grows.

None of these references evoke any pleasure. I noodled over the reference to “DevOps,” which is a neologism. Like much jargon, the word “DevOps” blurs the distinction between two perfectly useful terms: Developers and Operations.

Hosting companies in general and Lightcrest in particular can, as I understand it, make a DevOp’s life into a digital utopia. Mr. Fierstadt writes:

The growth of private and hybrid cloud solutions is indicative of CIOs and CTOs realizing the economic benefits and performance optimizations associated with sophisticated cloud orchestration layered on top of single-tenant hardware. As your workloads and storage requirements grow, make sure your costs don’t blow your budget – and be sure to consider long-term alternatives that allow you to focus on your core business initiatives, and not on cloud operations or cloud economics.

Now this sounds pretty darned good. I like the parental tone and parental rhetoric of “make sure” and attendant sentence structure as well. When I was in college, I knew one student who thought any polysyllabic stream of nonsense was the stuff of his Technicolor dreams. For me, references to sophisticated, optimizations, workloads, costs, core business initiatives, etc. is a substitute for facts, thought provoking commentary, and useful information. Lightcrest offers my hungry mind thin gruel.

Lightcrest’s Alleged Expertise

I did some poking around on the Lightcrest Web site and learned that when the verbiage is parsed, the company does a couple of things. These are:

  • Hosting
  • Consulting.

Before I could see the sun through the psychedelic cloud of marketing silliness, I learned that Lightcrest has expertise in the following search and content processing systems. You can find the list at this link. Lightcrest, the Cloud Nine technology operation, can provide “expertise” for:

  • Document management search
  • eCommerce search
  • Intranet search
  • Web indexing.

When it comes to expertise which means skill or knowledge in a particular field, Lightcrest makes other search centric outfits a bit like also rans. Please, check out this collection of systems which the Cloud Nine organization can make bark, sit, roll over, and fetch the newspaper:

  • Attivio enterprise search
  • Autonomy and Verity. (I thought that Hewlett Packard had moved Autonomy to the cloud and repositioned it as something other than enterprise search. I am confused.)
  • Custom indexers and support. (What is a custom indexer? Does Lightcrest have proprietary crawling, parsing, and querying technology? Isn’t that important? Doesn’t an outfit with gargantuan expertise have a fact sheet about these functions?)
  • Endeca search and business intelligence. (Isn’t Oracle the owner of Endeca? Why is Endeca separate from Oracle? What happened to Endeca as an eCommerce search system? I must be senile.)
  • LucidWorks (Really?)
  • Microsoft Fast ESP (Enterprise Search Platform) and FDS 4.x. (which I thought was shorthand for Fire Dynamics Simulator. Shows how little search expertise I have.)
  • Oracle Enterprise Search (Is this Secure Enterprise Search, Oracle Text, or functionality from InQuira, TripleHop, or RightNow? No matter. Expertise is easy to say, but I think it might be slightly more difficult to deliver.)
  • Solr, Lucene, Nutch, Mahout, and Hadoop. (Are Mahout and Hadoop software delivering functions other than enterprise information retrieval? )
  • Sphinx and MySQL full text searching.

Some Considerations

Frankly I have grave doubts about this organization’s expertise in these areas. I have several reasons:

First, the odd ball mix of search systems mixes apples and quite old oranges. The square pegs are not in the square spaces. Round pegs sit precariously in the gaps designed for squares.

Also, the logic of the listing of these search engines defies me. I thought Mahout was software for machine learning and data mining, not information retrieval. How does one support and host software which is difficult to obtain from its owners of the intellectual property like Fast ESP or Verity?

The reference to “custom indexers” is interesting. Is Lightcrest able to index the Deep Web like BrightPlanet or like Recorded Future and its monitoring of Tor exit nodes? I wonder if Lightcrest has comparable technical horsepower for this type of work? Based on my experience with BrightPlanet and Recorded Future, I would suggest that Lightcrest is nosing into quite rarified territory without setting forth credentials which give me confidence in the company’s ability to deliver. What exactly are “custom indexers”? Am I able to apply these to a list of Tor sites and cross tabulate retrieved data with targeted clear Web crawls?

In my opinion and without evidence, facts, and concrete examples, the Lightcrest assertions are search engine optimization outputs.

The CEO as a Thought Leader

At least in the LinkedIn enterprise search “space,” Zach Fierstadt has attracted modest attention with his one sentence link only posts. Mr. Fierstadt wrote a non search related article in 2003 labeled “10G Matures” for Computerworld. He has a brief profile or “entry” in Google Plus, Zoom Info, and Stocktwits and a number of other social media sites. He made this statement in a 2010

“Look, there a lot of search solutions out there; but few cut the mustard when it comes to delivering sub-second performance at a reasonable price point. Lucene/Solr is the only platform that gives us the economy of scale needed to provide enterprise-grade search within our hosting model. By leveraging our expertise in deploying search within the enterprise, Lightcrest will be able to provide search solutions to smaller and mid-sized businesses that currently find proprietary platforms to be cost prohibitive.

What’s up with Lightcrest? Lightcrest walks gently, almost as if the company were weightless and massless. Maybe content marketing or just social media shot gunning? The company’s blog archives reveal marketing activities in September 2013 and then gaps in the content flow until January 2014, September 2014, December 2014, and the recent efflorescence of marketing oriented posts.

Bottom Line: Mass or Massless

Net net: Lightcrest may answer the question, “Is light a particle or a wave?” From what I understand about this company, there is most hand waving.

Stephen E Arnold, May 7, 2015

Watson Becomes a Guide for Cancer Therapies

May 6, 2015

I read “IBM’s Watson to Guide Cancer Therapies at 14 Centers.” My immediate reaction? Baloney. I am no doc but I recall an experience with docs, hospitals, and assorted health experts.

In the late 1980s, Ziff Communications created the Health Reference Center. The idea seemed like a good one. We packed information about frequent disorders on CD ROMs. Remember those? We put a—for the time—a user friendly interface on the system. We included categories, what today’s marketers call metadata tags, so a person could select a category and see accurate, consumer-centric articles about common maladies. No rocket science for the folks at Ziff’s Information Access unit. But it was a first. We worked out trial placements at some big outfits. We set up the kiosks.

What happened?

The phones began to ring almost immediately. No one wanted the gizmos in their facilities. Docs were among the first and loudest complainers. Docs did not want a kiosk providing information about diabetes or prostrate cancer to their patients. We removed the kiosks and went back to the drawing board. We reengineered the kiosk into what would be called a “cloud service” today. Out of sight, calm returned.

Good lesson for me.

Flash forward to 2015. Have docs morphed from technological knuckle draggers to Silicon Valley surfers? Maybe. The assertion in the headline does not ring true in my ears. IBM’s marketers are doing everything possible to generate revenues from a collection of content processing software. IBM, as you may know, has delivered three years of declining revenue. Since the IBM technology is not delivering substantial, sustainable growth, enter the Watson cancer guide.

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James Fennimore Cooper crafted a fictional guide. Is Watson a digital guide like Deerslayer’s sidekick?

According to the write up:

Oncologists will upload the DNA fingerprint of a patient’s tumor, which indicates which genes are mutated and possibly driving the malignancy. Watson, recognized broadly for beating two champions of the game show Jeopardy! in 2011, will sift through thousands of mutations and try to identify which is driving the tumor, and therefore what a drug must target. Distinguishing driver [sic] mutations from others is a huge challenge. IBM spent more than a year developing a scoring system so Watson can do that, since targeting non-driver mutations would not help.

This sounds great. I like the Big Data, the uploading, the DNA touch. The problem is that docs, like lawyers, often cling to methods that look back to the good old days and their time worn methods. Docs use what their employers identify as procedurally appropriate.

Now, in my chats  with docs, I ask about their knowledge of various technologies to which I am exposed and I write; for example, automated processing and report generation. Now keep in mind that I live in Kentucky which is in the lower quartile of education and in the upper quartile of bourbon production and horse racing.

The level of tech knowledge is pretty low. Even more amusing to me is that curiosity about advanced technologies is generally low. Continuing education is more important than digging into bits and bytes in my narrow angle of view.

I have no doubt that the institutions involved are delighted to get access to Watson. I have no doubt that some researchers will explore the system.

I don’t accept the assertion that Watson will guide anything. Don’t agree. If you get cancer, chase down a Watson centric health care provider and let me know how that works out.

I would prefer a specialist with experience and a track record of success. Watson can be a resource but I don’t think Watson makes open source, acquired, and home brew code into Chingachgook. What works in fiction may not transfer to real life except in the mental synapses of marketers.

Stephen E Arnold, May 6, 2015

Enterprise Search Vendors: One Way to Move Past Failure

April 21, 2015

I just finished reading articles about IBM’s quarterly report. The headline is that the company has reported slumping revenues for three years in a row. Pretty impressive. I assumed that Watson, fueled with Lucene, home brew scripts, acquisitions, and liberal splashes of public relations, would be the revenue headliner.

How does IBM Watson’s unit, newly enhanced with a health component, respond to what I would call “missing a target.” Others, who are more word worthy than I, might use the word “failure.”

I read a blog post which lured me because at age 70 I am not sure where I left my dog, wife, and automobile this morning. Short term memory is indeed thrilling. Now what was I thinking?

Oh, right, “Embrace Selective Short-Term Memory to Move Past Failure Quickly.” The point of the write up is that those who have failed can more forward using this trick:

Rather than get caught up trying to emotionally soothe yourself, just forget it happened.

I have a theory that after an enterprise search vendor finds itself in a bit of a sticky wicket, the marketers can move on to the next client, repeat the assertions about semantic search or natural language processing or Big Data or whatever chant of buzzwords lands a sale.

Ask the marketer about an issue—for example, Convera and the NBA, Fast Search and the Norwegian authorities, or Autonomy and the Department of Energy—and you confront a team with a unifying characteristic: The memory of the “issues” with a search system is a tabula rasa. Ask someone about the US Army’s search system or the UK National Health Service about its meta indexing.

There is nothing quite like the convenient delete key which operates the selective memory functions.

Stephen E Arnold, April 21, 2015

Marketing the Modern Way: Experts Share Secrets! Secrets!

April 20, 2015

I find the advice of experts interesting. When I worked at Halliburton Nuclear, there was an engineer who knew about “everything.” The person was supposed to be an expert in biology, water, nuclear physics, and, of course, math. I recall the person was bright, but his confidence exceeded his mental baggage compartment.

When I encounter experts without the background this pontificator of yore had, I wonder if the big luggage and tiny cart idiosyncrasy is operating. You be the judge. Navigate to “8 Awesome SEO Secrets from the Experts.” A word about whether the advice is good or not: If these experts had secrets which worked, wouldn’t these folks be household names?

Just a question. When it comes to getting a Web page to light up the Google search results, the folks in the European Commission have a suspicion that Google puts its hand on the rudder of results ranking. The notion that eight experts can fiddle the results which Google may steer to some degree if the allegations are correct raises the question, “Okay, who controls results?” I will leave the answer to you as you read the write up.

Herewith are the secrets from the experts, or, I should say, “so called experts.”

Numero uno is semantic search. Okay, there’s a secret for you. I am not able to define to my satisfaction semantic search, but you have the truth, gentle reader. Go forth.

Here are several other secrets:

  • Write factual, logical, coherent articles
  • Use Google Plus
  • Connect with influencers
  • Write for mobile devices
  • Visualize
  • Markup

Here’s the paragraph I marked as one which puzzled me:

The rise of the Chief Statistical Officer or Chief Conversion Officer is not far away as businesses realize that dominating a niche is going to take more than a few hastily thrown together Adwords campaigns being added to their marketing mix.

I assume only search experts qualify for the job of statistical officer. Differentiate this from other baloney, and perhaps you can be a butcher. Experts, like the fellow at Halliburton, can do just about anything or so they think.

Stephen E Arnold, April 20, 2015

Google is Now My Maid

April 20, 2015

Google wants to make lives easier or so it claims.  In many ways the search engine giant has.  They have free email, Web storage, an office program suite, YouTube, open source code community, maps, TV, access to books, and did we mention they have a search engine?  Taking a queue from mobile phone voice activation services like Siri, Google wants to help people find local services.  BuzzFeed reports that “Google Wants To Send You A Plumber” and a contractor, maid, lawn services, roofer, and an HVAC technician.

“Sources close to the company told BuzzFeed News that Google plans to announce a new product aimed at connecting Google search users with local home-service providers — like plumbers and electricians — at an advertising conference later this spring. The product will be integrated into Google’s core search offering and is intended to capitalize on search intent, turning queries about home improvement tasks into engagement with home-service providers.”

Google has increased its accuracy with local search results, but they have decided to take it a step further with a new service.  Most of the search results for local services are littered with directed Google AdWord advertisements.  Google wants to act as an intermediary for people and home services providers.  Google would directly connect people with the home services providers and act as an unseen partner in the transaction.

It is unsure of how Google would directly connect the two parties, but it comes on the tails of another home services deal between Amazon and TaskRabbit.  The article points out how Google is the only company capable of rivaling Amazon in such an endeavor.  The bigger question is what will they do and how will they do it?  Maybe they will borrow ideas from Uber and Lyft.

Whitney Grace, April 20, 2015
Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Gartner VP Claims Researching “Ethical Programming” Necessary for Future of Smart Machines

April 17, 2015

The article on TweakTown titled Gartner: Smart Machines Must Include Ethical Programming Protocols briefly delves into the necessity of developing ethical programming in order to avoid some sort of Terminator/ I,Robot situation that culminates in the rise of the machines and the end of humanity. Gartner is one of the world’s leading technology research and advisory companies, but it hardly sounds like the company stance. The article quotes Frank Buytendijk, a Gartner research VP,

“Clearly, people must trust smart machines if they are to accept and use them…The ability to earn trust must be part of any plan to implement artificial intelligence (AI) or smart machines, and will be an important selling point when marketing this technology.”

If you’re thinking, sounds like another mid-tier consultant is divining the future, you aren’t wrong. Researching ethical programming for the hypothetical self-aware machines that haven’t been built yet might just be someone’s idea of a good time. The article concludes with the statement that “experts are split on the topic, arguing whether or not humans truly have something to worry about.” While the experts figure out how we humans will cause the end of the human reign over earth, some of us are just waiting for the end of another in a line of increasingly violent winters.

Chelsea Kerwin, April 17, 2014

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Digital Reasoning Goes Cognitive

April 16, 2015

A new coat of paint is capturing some tire kickers’ attention.

IBM’s Watson is one of the dray horses pulling the cart containing old school indexing functions toward the airplane hanger.

There are assorted experts praising the digital equivalent of a West Coast Custom’s auto redo. A recent example is Digital Reasoning’s embrace of the concept of cognitive computing.

Digital Reasoning is about 15 years old and has provided utility services to the US government and some commercial clients. “Digital Reasoning Goes cognitive: CEO Tim Estes on Text, Knowledge, and Technology” explains the new marketing angle. The write up reported:

Cognitive is a next computing paradigm, responding to demand for always-on, hyper-aware data technologies that scale from device form to the enterprise. Cognitive computing is an approach rather than a specific capability. Cognitive mimics human perception, synthesis, and reasoning capabilities by applying human-like machine-learning methods to discern, assess, and exploit patterns in everyday data. It’s a natural for automating text, speech, and image processing and dynamic human-machine interactions.

If you want to keep track of the new positioning text processing companies are exploring, check out the write up. Will cognitive computing become the next big thing? For vendors struggling to meet stakeholder expectations, cognitive computing sounds more zippy that customer support services or even the hyperventilating sentiment analysis positioning.

Lego blocks are pieces that must be assembled.

Indexing never looked so good. Now the challenge is to take the new positioning and package it in a commercial product which can generate sustainable, organic revenues. Enterprise search positioning has not been able to achieve this goal with consistency. The processes and procedures for cognitive computing remind me of Legos. One can assemble the blocks in many ways. The challenge will be to put the pieces together so that a hardened, saleable product can be sold or licensed.

Is there a market for Lego airplane assembled by hand? Vendors of components may have to create “kits” in order to deliver a solution a customer can get his or her hands around.

An unfamiliar function with a buzzword can be easy to sell to those organizations with money and curiosity. Jargon is often not enough to keep stakeholders and in the case of IBM shareholders smiling. A single or a handful of Lego blocks may not satisfy those who want to assemble a solution that is more than a distraction. Is cognitive computing a supersonic biplane or a historical anomaly?

This is worth watching because many companies are thrashing for a hook which will lead to significant revenues, profits, and sustainable growth, not just a fresh paint job.

Stephen E Arnold, April 16, 2015

Exorbyte Pivots and Slows Twitter Stream

April 16, 2015

I was doing a routine check of search vendor Web sites. I noticed that Exorbyte, a search vendor recognized as a Deloitte Technology Fast 50 company in 2o10, has pivoted from eCommerce to identify resolution. What I find interesting is that there are some similarities with WCC Group’s strategy. That company focuses on the human resource and government approach to human information.

Here’s the new look for the Exorbyte Web site:

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Exorbyte, like other search vendors, is responding to market signals for security related functions. Coincident with this shift, Exorbyte slowed its stream of Twitter posts. There is considerable chatter about smart software like IBM Watson (Thomas or Sherlock version?). Exorbyte is another example of a vendor with search as a core function and with a positioning that does not evoke the associations of European enterprise search vendors which have been a source of some consternation.

Stephen E Arnold, April 16, 2015

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