Former Autonomy CFO Tosses Legal Flechette at HP

July 22, 2014

I read “Former Autonomy CFO seeks to Block HP-Shareholder Settlement.” You may have to answer some questions to see the document or try to log in to the paywalled Financial Times’ Web site. Yep, that’s the wonky orange newspaper that is a must read in London, but not so much in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky.

The story seems to be straightforward. The former chief financial officer of Autonomy has “filed a legal motion to block” the Hewlett Packard shareholder deal. The idea is that if shareholders agree to let HP off the hook for its acquisition of Autonomy and the fascinating $5 billon write down, then HP will go after Autonomy. The law firm assisting HP will be the same outfit that helped shareholders sue HP for the deal in the first place. Got that?

The Financial Times quoted Mr.Hussein’s legal document about the legal action:

“HP seeks to forever bury from disclosure the real reason for its 2012 write down of Autonomy: HP’s own destruction of Autonomy’s success after the acquisition. And, by the broad bar order it seeks, HP seeks to absolve itself of its own responsibility for its losses.”

The FT did not include the link to the actual filing. You can find it at this link.

The issue, according to the Autonomy CFO’s document is that HP is using the shareholder settlement to bury certain facts about HP’s handling of Autonomy. Autonomy’s argument is that HP fumbled the ball after it conducted due diligence and bought Autonomy.

Autonomy wants HP to provide proof that Autonomy fooled HP, its Board, and its consultants. The idea is that Autonomy allowed these folks to review the financials, the marketing collateral, and other sources of information before deciding to buy Autonomy for $11 billion.

I am no longer surprised by the claims and counter claims. Several observations:

First, search and content processing as business sectors generate a disproportionate amount of thrashing. HP analyzes Autonomy. HP buys Autonomy. HP sues Autonomy. Shareholders sue HP. An individual no longer employed at HP Autonomy sues HP. Etc., etc. Fast Search was the leader in post sale legal maneuvering. Autonomy seems to be following the “fast” track now.

Second, HP bought Autonomy and then said it was tricked. Remember this is not like buying a bagel. Autonomy bought a company with thousands of customers and hundreds of million in revenue. If a bagel is bad, I either demand a different one or walk to another bagel shop.

Third, the acquisition took place three years ago. In that time, the enterprise search sector has been subjected to considerable pressure. Just  check out the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant, G00260831. Notice that Elasticsearch (the fastest growing search system) is not in the Gartner analysis. The Gartner enterprise search report appears to mirror the nature of the enterprise search market itself. The HP Autonomy matter AND the preceding Fast Search & Transfer matter have, in my view, contributed to a general malaise for the search and content processing software. The equation in my mind works like this: Buying a search system = Trouble.

Net net: With the parties to the matter allowing their attorneys to put the pedal to the metal, there will be more excitement in the near future. Billing functions at law firms have steamrollers to operate.

Stephen E Arnold, July 22, 2014

Swiftype

July 22, 2014

Each search software company has their own blend on improving search and increasing accuracy. Swiftype uses the slogan “the easiest way to add great search to your Web site” and while its search software may fulfill that statement, it is something other search companies claim as well. The questions then, are it true and what makes Swiftype different from its competition? The latter is easier to answer than the former. Instead of focusing on one section of the search market, Swiftype provides solutions for a variety of Web sites including WordPress, startups, knowledge bases, mobile, publishers, ecommerce, and even open source.

“Swiftype is a hosted software service that eliminates the need to create your own search software from scratch, making it possible for any website owner or mobile app developer to add great search to their product. Features include powerful relevance algorithms, customizable search result ordering, fast auto complete with typo protection, real-time analytics and more. Exceptionally simple to integrate into your existing software, but also remarkably flexible, Swiftype can be extensively customized to match the specific needs of your business.”

The support for the Web site variety is in Swiftype’s favor, but the company also offers real-time analytics and developer support. Search is still in its infancy for mobile devices, but Swiftype has dedicated an entire area that optimizes search for apps on different smartphone brands and mobile Web browsers. Swiftype already supports a hefty client list: Twitch, Twilio, TechCrunch, and Shopify. Swiftype is proving to be a big player in search. Maybe they’ll be blazing new trails and leave its competition behind.

Whitney Grace, July 22, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Search and Data-Starved Case Studies

July 19, 2014

LinkedIn discussions fielded a question about positive search and content processing case studies. I posted a link to a recent paper from Italy (you can find the url at this link).

My Overflight system spit out another case study. The publisher is Hewlett Packard and the example involves Autonomy. The problem concerns the UK’s National Health Service” and its paperless future. You can download the four page document at http://bit.ly/1wIsifS.

The Italian case study focuses on cheerleading for the Google Search Appliance. The HP case study promotes the Autonomy IDOL system applied to medical records.

the HP Autonomy document caught my attention because it uses a buzzword I first heard at Booz, Allen & Hamilton in 1978. Harvey Poppel, then a BAH partner, coined the phrase. The idea caught on. Mr. Poppel, who built a piano, snagged some ink in Business Week. That was a big deal in the late 1970s. Years later I met Alan Siegel, a partner at a New York design firm. He was working on promotion of the Federal government’s paperless initiative. About 10 years ago, I spent some time with Forrest (Woody) Horton, who was a prominent authority on the paperless office. Across the decades, talk about paperless offices generated considerable interest. These interactions about paperless environments have spanned 36 years. Paper seems to be prevalent wherever I go.

When I read the HP Autonomy case study, I thought about the efforts of some quite bright individuals directed at eliminating hard copy documents. There are reports, studies, and analyses about the problems of finding information in paper. I expected a reference to hard data or some hard data. The context for the paperless argument would have captured my attention.

The HP Autonomy case study talks about an integrator’s engineers using IDOL to build a solution. The product is called Evolve and:

It sued 28 years of information management expertise to improve efficiency, productivity and regulatory compliance. The IDOL analytics engine was co-opted into Evolve because it automatically ingests and segments medical records and documents according to their content and concepts, making it easier to find and analyze specific information.

The wrap up of the case study is a quote that is positive about the Kainos Evolve system. No big surprise.

After reading the white paper, three thoughts crossed my mind.

First, the LinkedIn member seeking positive search and content processing case studies might not find the IDOL case study particularly useful. The information is more of an essay from an ad agency generated in-house magazine.

Second, the LinkedIn person wondered why there were so few positive case studies about successful search and content processing installations. I think there are quite a few white papers, case studies, and sponsored content marketing articles crafted along the lines of the HP Autonomy case study. The desire to give the impression that the product encounters no potholes scrubs out the details so useful to a potential licensee.

Third, the case study describes a mandated implementation. So the Evolve product is in marketing low gear. The enthusiasm for implementing a new product shines brightly. Does the glare from the polish obscure a closer look.

At a minimum, I would have found the following information helpful even if presented in bullet points or tabular form:

  1. What was the implementation time? What days, weeks, or months of professional work were required to get the system up and running?
  2. What was the project’s initial budget? Was the project completed within the budget parameters?
  3. What is the computing infrastructure required for the installation? Was the infrastructure on premises, cloud, or hybrid?
  4. What is the latency in indexing and query processing?
  5. What connectors were used “as is”? Were new connectors required? If yes, how long did it take to craft a functioning connector?
  6. What training did users of the system require?

Information at this level of detail is difficult to obtain. In my experience, most search and content processing systems require considerable attention to detail. Take a short cut, and the likelihood of an issue rises sharply.

Obviously neither the vendor nor the licensee want information about schedule shifts, cost over or under- runs and triage expenses to become widely known. The consequence of this jointly enforced fact void helps create case studies that are little more than MBA jargon.

Little wonder the LinkedIn member’s plea went mostly ignored. Paper is unlikely to disappear because lawyers thrive on hard copies. When litigation ensues, the paperless office and the paperless medical practice becomes a challenge.

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2014

What Most Search Vendors Cannot Pull Off

July 19, 2014

I recently submitted an Information Today column that reported about Antidot’s tactical play to enter the US market. One of the fact checkers for the write up alerted me that most of the companies I identified were unknown to US readers. Test yourself. How many of these firms do you recognize? How many of them provide information retrieval services?

  • A2ia
  • Albert (originally AMI Albert and AMI does not mean friend)
  • Dassault Exalead
  • Datops
  • EZ2Find
  • Kartoo
  • Lingway
  • LUT Technologies
  • Pertimm
  • Polyspot
  • Quaero
  • Questel
  • Sinequa

How did you do? The point is that French vendors of information retrieval and content processing technology find themselves in a crowded boat. Most of the enterprise search vendors have flamed out or resigned themselves to pitching to venture capitalist that their technology is the Next Big Thing. A lucky few sell out and cash in; for example Datops. Others are ignored or forgotten.

The same situation exists for vendors of search technology in other countries. Search is a tough business. And when former Googlers like Marissa Meyer was the boss when Yahoo’s share of the Web search market sagged below 10 percent. In the same time period, Microsoft increased Bing’s share to about 14 percent. Google dogpaddled and held steady. Other Web search providers make up the balance of the market players. Business Insider reported:

This is a big problem for Yahoo since its search business is lucrative. While Yahoo’s display ad business fell 7% last quarter, revenue from search was up 6% on a year-over-year basis. Revenue from search was $428 million compared to $436 million from its display ad business.

Now enterprise search vendors have been trying to use verbal magic to unlock consistently growing revenue. So far only two vendors have been able to find a way to open the revenue vault’s lock. Autonomy tallied more than $800 million in revenue at the time of its sale to Hewlett Packard. The outcome of that deal was a multi-billion dollar write off and many legal accusations. One thing is clear through the murky rhetoric the deal produced. Hewlett Packard had zero understanding of search and has been looking for a scapegoat to slaughter for its corporate decision. This is not helping the search vendors chasing deals.

Google converted Web search into a $60 billion revenue stream. The fact that the core idea for online advertising originated with the pay-to-play company GoTo which then morphed into Overture which THEN was acquired by Yahoo. Think of the irony. Yahoo has the technology that makes Google a one trick, but very lucrative revenue pony. But, to be fair, Google Web search is not the enterprise search needed to locate a factoid for a marketing assistant. Feed this query “how me the versions of the marketing VP’s last product road map” to a Google appliance and check the results. The human has to do some old fashioned human-type work. To find this information with a Google Search Appliance or any other information retrieval engine for that matter is tricky. Basic indexing cannot do the job, so most marketing assistants hunt manually through files, folders, and hard copies looking for the Easter egg.

Many of the pioneering search engines tried explaining their products and services using euphemisms. There was question answering, content intelligence, smart content, predictive retrieval, entity extraction, and dozens and dozens of phrases that sound fine but are very difficult to define; for example, knowledge management and the phrase “enterprise search” itself or “image recognition” or “predictive analytics”, among others.

I had a hearty chuckle when I read “Don’t Sell a Product, Sell a Whole New Way of Thinking.” Search has been available for at least 50 years. Think RECON, Orbit, Fulcrum Technologies, BASIS, Teratext, and other artifacts of search and retrieval. Smart folks cooked up even the computationally challenged Delphes system, the metasearch system Vivisimo, and the essentially unknown Quertle.

A romp through these firm’s marketing collateral, PowerPoints, and PDFs makes clear that no buzzword has been left untried. Buyers did and do not know what the systems actually delivered.  This is evidence that search vendors have not been able to “sell a whole new way of thinking.”

No kidding. The synonyms search marketers have used in order to generate interest and hopefully a sale are a catalog of information technology jargon. Here is a short list of some of the terms from the 1990s:

  • Business intelligence
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Content governance
  • Content management
  • Customer support then customer relationship management.
  • Knowledge management
  • Neurodynamics
  • Text analytics

If I accept the Harvard analysis, the failing of enterprise search is not financial fiddling and jargon. As you may recall, Microsoft paid $1.2 billion for Fast Search & Transfer. The investigation into allegations of financial fancy dancing were resolved recently with one executive facing a possible jail term and employment restrictions. There are other companies that tried to blend search with content only to find that the combination was not quite like peanut butter and jelly. Do you use Factiva or Ebsco? Did I hear a “what?’ Other companies embraced slick visualizations to communicate key information at a glance. Do you remember Grokker? There was semantic search. Do you recollect Siderean Software.

One success story was Oingo, renamed Applied Semantics. Google understood the value of mapping words to ads and purchased the company to further its non search goals of generating ad revenue.

According to the HBR:

To find the shift, ask yourself a few questions. What was the original insight that led to the innovation? Where do you feel people “don’t get it” about your solution? What is the “aha” moment when someone turns from disinterested to enthusiastic?

Those who code up search systems are quite bright. Is this pat formula of shifting thinking the solution to the business challenges these firms face:

Attivio. Founded by Fast Search & Transfer alums, the company has ingested more than $35 million in venture funding. The company’s positioning is “an actionable 360 degree view of anything you need.” Okay. Dassault Exalead used the same line several years.

Coveo. The company has tapped venture firms for more than $30 million since the firm’s founding in 2004, Coveo uses the phrase “enterprise search” and wraps it in knowledge workers, custom service, engineering, and CRM. The idea is that Coveo delivers solutions tailored to a specific business functions and employee roles.

SRCH2. This is a Xoogler founded company that like Perfect Search before emphasizes speed. The alternative is better than open source search solutions.

Lucid Works. Like Vivisimo, Lucid Works has embraced Big Data and the cloud. The only slow downs Lucid has encountered has been turnover in CEOs, marketing, and engineering professionals. The most recent hurdle to trip up Lucid is the interest in ElasticSearch, fat with almost $100 million in venture funding and developers from the open source community.

IBM Watson. Based on open source and home grown technology, IBM’s marketers have showcased Watson on Jeopardy and garnered headlines for the $1 billion investment IBM is making in its “smart” information processing system. The most recent demonstration of Watson was producing a recipe for Bon Appetit readers.

Amazon’s search approach is to provide it as a service to those using Amazon Web services. Search is, in my mind, just a utility for Amazon. Amazon’s search system on its eCommerce site is not particularly good. Want to NOT out books not yet available on the system. Well, good luck with that query.

After I stopped chuckling, I realized that the Harvard article is less concerned with precision and recall than advocating deception, maybe cleverness. No enterprise search vendor has approached Autonomy’s revenues with the sole exception of Google’s licensing of the wildly expensive Google Search Appliance. At the time of its sale to Oracle, Endeca was chugging along at an estimated $150 million in revenue. Oracle paid about $1 billion for Endeca. With that benchmark, name another enterprise search vendor or eCommerce search vendor that has raced past Endeca. For the majority of enterprise search vendors, revenues of $3 to $10 million represent very significant achievements.

An MBA who takes over an enterprise search company may believe that wordsmithing will make sales. Sure, some sales may result but will the revenue be sustainable. Most enterprise search sales are a knee jerk to problems with the incumbent search system.

Without concrete positive case studies, talking about search is sophistry. There are comparatively few, specific, return on investment analyses for enterprise seach installations. I provided a link to a struggling LinkedIn person about an Italian library’s shift from the 1960s BASIS system to a Google Search Appliance.

Is enterprise search an anomaly in business software. Will the investment firms get their money back from their investments in search and retrieval?

Ask a Harvard MBA steeped in the lore of selling a whole new way of thinking. Ignore 50 years of search history. Success in search is difficult to achieve. Duplicity won’t do the job.

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2014

Jepsen-Testing Elasticsearch for Safety and Data Loss

July 18, 2014

The article titled Call Me Mayble: Elasticsearch on Aphyr explores potential issues with Elasticsearch. Jepsen is a section of Aphyr that tests the behaviors of different technology and software under types of network failure. Elasticsearch comes with the solid Java indexing library of Apache-Lucene. The article begins with an overview of how Elasticsearch scales through sharding and replication.

“The document space is sharded–sliced up–into many disjoint chunks, and each chunk allocated to different nodes. Adding more nodes allows Elasticsearch to store a document space larger than any single node could handle, and offers quasilinear increases in throughput and capacity with additional nodes. For fault-tolerance, each shard is replicated to multiple nodes. If one node fails or becomes unavailable, another can take over…Because index construction is a somewhat expensive process, Elasticsearch provides a faster database backed by a write-ahead log.”

Over a series of tests, (with results summarized by delightful Barbie and Ken doll memes) the article decides that while version control may be considered a “lost cause” Elasticsearch handles inserts superbly. For more information on how Elasticsearch behaved through speed bumbs, building a nemesis, nontransitive partitions, needless data loss, random and fixed transitive partitions, and more, read the full article. It ends with recommendations for Elasticsearch and for users, and concedes that the post provides far more information on Elasticsearch than anyone would ever desire.

Chelsea Kerwin, July 18, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Bing Search: Will It Be Forgotten

July 17, 2014

I read “Bing Implements ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Ruling, Asks Applicants ‘Are You Famous?’” My reaction to is that search is Google. Microsoft wants to be compliant with the European Union. The Register took a different view of the situation. In a story “Forgotten Bing Responds to Search Index ECJ Rule: Hello? Remember Us?” People don’t want to be in the Google index but don’t seem to think about Bing index.

Microsoft wants respect. “Microsoft to Cut Up to 18,0000 Jobs over Next Year.” some of these soon0to-be-RIFed employees may create blogs and other online content. Microsoft executives may want to make some content about itself go away.

The comment by Daniel Ives, an analyst with FRB Capital Markets, explain the situation like this:

“Under the Ballmer era, there were many layers of management and a plethora of expensive initiatives being funded that has thus hurt the strategic and financial position the company is in, especially in light of digesting the Nokia acquisition,” says Ives. “Nadella is using today as an opportunity to make sure that Microsoft is ready and well positioned to embark on its next chapter of growth around mobile and cloud.”

What strikes me is that the observation can apply to Amazon and Google equally well. As these companies expand, generating new revenues and delivering meaningful profit becomes more and more difficult.

Microsoft’s plight may be a harbinger for other firms as well. Search is a bit of a muddle at Microsoft and time may be running out for Bing to become a substantial contributor to Microsoft’s financial position.

Stephen E Arnold, July 17, 2014

Xoogler Under Pressure: The Yahoo Soap Opera Renews for Another Quarter

July 16, 2014

When Chris Kitze and I started The Point (Top 5% of the Internet), we admired the Yahoo Directory. Our goal was much narrowed than Yahoo’s. We focused on putting Web sites in the Point directory that meet our criteria for family friendly and young student friendly sites. That was in 1993 or 1994. The site was a hit and we sold the company to CMGI, and the Point ended up at Lycos. That deal was pretty successful for me, and I learned three things in the wild and wooly, pre crash Internet era 20 years ago.

First, selling ads was difficult. In the early days, there were no solid guidelines for how big an ad could be. Blinking and flashing were annoying, but there was not user backlash with these lame attempts to attract attention. Proving from log data who clicked and other details required scripts and machine resources to grind through the huge files our Sparcs happily pumped out. I learned that ads were indeed good money. But the 1993 Internet required our team to be the digital equivalent of Roman trireme rowers. I don’t recall much time off, and it was hard work.

Selling ads is hard work. The landscape is altered by the process. There’s no guarantee there’s gold in them thar riverbeds. Source: http://bit.ly/1wuH5ef

Second, advertisers were reluctant to pay up front. A problem Google solved with its “account” method. We were stupid. We sent an invoice, the usage data, and waited for the check to come in the mail. Basic lesson: collecting for any online service can be difficult. When times are tough, advertisers shuffle priorities and our invoices filtered to the bottom of the stack. Collections were painful.

Third, making pages in 1993 was a time consuming affair. We experimented with many technologies, toolkits, and even systems like the incredibly sluggish Cold Fusion were tested in 1995. We learned that the best way to create Web pages in the early 90s was to code ‘em up, shake ‘em out, and let ‘em loose. I repeatedly asked myself, “Why did I agree to put resources into a family friendly online service?”

I read two “real” news stories this morning. Neither has been connected in the blog posts and news streams flowing into my Oversight service. Let me point to each and then offer a handful of observations. I would suggest you keep the three factoids I learned from the Point (Top 5% of the Internet) start up.

The first item is “Yahoo Misses In Q2 With Revenue Of $1.04B, EPS Of $0.37.” At a time when newspapers and magazines are gasping for oxygen, Yahoo seems to have no turbocharger to activate. One Alibaba follows its dream, Yahoo has only its in hand properties and acquisition opportunities to produce another Klondike Gold Rush. The write up said:

Yahoo reported its second-quarter financial performance, including revenue (excluding traffic acquisition costs, or TAC) of $1.04 billion and non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.37. Revenue including TAC was $1.08. Analysts had expected the company to earn $0.38 on revenue of ex-TAC of $1.08 billion.

The quote to note about Yahoo earnings is:

The company stated in its release that revenue growth is its “top priority,” and that it is “not satisfied with [its] Q2 results” in that context.

The second reports presents some good news for Microsoft. True, the write up does not mention the impending layoffs or the dismal device market share that this former monopoly now has. “Microsoft to Surpass Yahoo in Global Digital Ad Market Share This Year.”

Unlike some “experts” I view information about online advertising with considerable skepticism. I don’t think the individual numbers presented an “facts” are important. What struck me as important is this statement:

Yahoo’s push to maintain its position as a top global ad seller will take another hit in 2014, according to new projections from eMarketer. Though Yahoo’s ad revenues will be back in the black this year, increasing its global digital ad revenues by 2.7% after a decline of 2.1% in 2013 to reach $3.53 billion, the company’s share of the $140.15 billion digital advertising market will fall from 2.86% to 2.52%.

Microsoft—believe it or not—appears to be doing better than Yahoo in the ad battle.

The big point in my opinion is that Yahoo has racked up falling ad revenue and will continue to lost online advertising market share, not because other vendors like Microsoft are doing a bang up job. I seem to recall that the Xoogler running Yahoo saw only happy faces in the revenue a few months ago. Like IBM’s slowing arcing down numbers, Yahoo appears to be riding a fading wave.

Several observations:

  1. Xooglers do not automatically generate money. In fact, Google’s revenue comes from its magical online search results ad system. (Anyone remember GoTo.com and Overture?) I bet Yahoo does.
  2. Selling online advertising is as difficult today as it was in the era of The Point (Top 5% of the Internet). Google’s approach relies on advertisers who will deposit money to be spent, so some of the collection hassle is ameliorated.
  3. Yahoo has been in turn around mode for a long time. Maybe AOL and Yahoo should get married and produce fat, happy revenue.

Now about the Yahoo search system. I find the results less than satisfying. I can’t figure out how to look at Louisville-related news. I continue to have difficulty logging into my for fee Yahoo mail account when I am out of the country. I suppose I am the Lone Ranger in my view of Yahoo. That’s okay but I see declines as due to more users than myself.

Stephen E Arnold, July 16, 2014

Yandex Starts Local Search App

July 16, 2014

Russia’s answer to Google is Yandex. Yandex is continuously searching for ways to boost its product offerings beyond basic search and now they created their own version of Yelp. TechCrunch says in the article “Yandex’s New Local Search App, Yandex.City, Goes Where No Yelp Has Gone Before” that Yandex wants to tap into the growing middle class who own smartphones. Popular US based local search apps have limited or zero presence in Russia and the local competition is very small. Yandex could easily have the monopoly on local app search for Russia, but they aim to take it to Ukraine, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

What will Yandex’s new app do?

“Yandex.City will link up with Yandex’s extensive mapping operation, which includes not just maps but navigation features to get you there, to provide results based on a user’s specified location. Just as it is with Google, advertising is very much the bread and butter of Yandex’s business, and from what we understand it will use Yandex.City to push geo-targeted and search-related ads to users.”

Yandex.City will mostly likely use technology from the geolocation startup KitLocate the Russian search engine purchases earlier in 2014.

This is a strategic business move for Yandex to compete with Google and other search engines, add more services, and increase its advertising business. If Yandex offers a better product than its foreign competitors then it will beat everyone out. People tend to trust a product that speaks their own language over foreign blasts.

Whitney Grace, July 16, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

An Enterprise Search Case Studies Is Like Hunting for Digital Truffles

July 15, 2014

The job hunters, experts, and consultants in the LinkedIn enterprise search discussion groups have been looking for positive use cases related to enterprise search. Finding a success story that one can verify is similar to hunting truffles. Keep you eye on the pig, or the truffle will disappear.

I did come across one use case published in the Italian Journal of Library and Information Science. You can find it at http://bit.ly/1juFaWi. The title of the paper is “Using a Google Search Appliance (GSA) to search digital library collections: a case study of the INIS Collection Search.” The problem search system was BASISPlus, now a product marketed and mostly “frozen” by OpenText.

The original version of BASIS was created at Battellle Memorial Institute in the late 1960s. Battelle spun out BASIS and Information Dimensions was the result. In 1998, OpenText bought BASIS, and I don’t think there has been much modernization of the system in the last couple of decades.

Yep, that’s an old school mainframey type system. A colleague and I used BASIS when it was an Information Dimensions’ product to provide data management, report, and search functionality to a Bell Communications Research (a chunk of what was Bell Labs) system that was used by the seven Baby Bells for a number of years.

My team and I loved big iron and FORTRAN. We stuffed the IBM MVS TSO system with some tasty BASIS sausage in 1983.

Well, the use case explains that BASIS was not the solution today’s users required. The fix was to license the Google Search Appliance. You can get a taste of the GSA’s license and fail over cluster costs at www.gsaadvantage.gov. Prepare yourself for sticker shock.

Keep in mind that “positive” has a spectrum of meanings determined by the reader’s context. The solution is the Google Search Appliance. You know this product as a search toaster…sort of. The advantages and disadvantages section of the use case hammers on the good parts and tiptoes around the thorns.

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2014

Funnelback Demonstration: Australian Government Grants

July 15, 2014

I saw a link to what seems to be an implementation of the Funnelback search system. Some folks see Funnelback as an alternative to the Google Search Appliance (a comparison that eludes me) or Elasticsearch (a little closer to the mark in my opinion).

Navigate to http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au. Enter a query. I used the term “aboriginal.” The results demonstrate that Funnelback has implemented some features that I associate with the 1998-2001 version of Endeca and a Google style results list.

Here’s the variant of what Endeca called “Guided Navigation”:

image

Here’s the Google style results list:

image

For a discussion of how one can integrate Squiz Matrix (a content management system) with Funnelback, navigate to the Squizsuite discussion board.

Years ago, I learned that Funnelback was a project of a university/Australian government project. Funnelback popped out of its incubator program and became part of Squiz in 2009. Even though Squiz flies the open source flag, Funnelback is a commercial product.

My Overflight archive shows that when I provided a profile of Funnelback to Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I received inputs from someone. When the profile was published, the wizard responsible for Funnelback complained that the profile did not reflect his view of the system.

Since that initial interaction with Funnelback and its resident wizard, I have kept the system on my back burner. Getting one’s ducks in a row can be helpful when a third party is writing about a search system for inclusion in a monograph about information retrieval.

My recommendation is to talk with licensees and then, if possible, use the system and run some tests. Accepting a statement that Funnelback is an alternative to the Google Search Appliance is a stretch based on my experience. Is Funnelback comparable to Elasticsearch? The answer is that Elasticsearch has about $100 million in venture funding, outfits who make access to Elasticsearch a cloud solution that requires less fiddling than an on premises solutions, and developers coming out of the woodwork. See, for example, this Search Wizards Speak interview.

Marketing does not equal employee satisfaction with a search system. Testing and analysis are often useful, not the baloney generated by some of the wizards who advise potential licensees. One outfit is selling my work via Amazon without my permission, without a valid contract with me, and without sharing the fee for a report based on my work. When “wizards” run companies, caution is advised.

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2014

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