Another Good Enough Challenge to Proprietary Enterprise Search

December 8, 2014

The protestations of the enterprise search vendors in hock for tens of millions to venture funders will get louder. The argument is that proprietary search solutions are just better.

Navigate to “Postgres Full-Text Search Is Good Enough!” This has been the mantra of some of the European Community academics for a number of years. I gave a talk at CeBIT a couple of years ago and noted that the proprietary vendors were struggling to deliver a coherent and compelling argument. Examples of too-much-chest-beating came from speakers representing and Exalead and a handful of consultants. See, for example, http://bit.ly/1zicaGw.

The point of the “Postgres Good Enough” article strikes me as:

Search has became an important feature and we’ve seen a big increase in the popularity of tools like Elasticsearch and SOLR which are both based on Lucent. They are great tools but before going down the road of Weapons of Mass Search, maybe what you need is something a bit lighter which is simply good enough! What do you I mean by ‘good enough’? I mean a search engine with the following features: stemming, ranking/boost, multiple languages, fuzzy search, accent support. Luckily PostgreSQL supports all these features.

So not only are the proprietary systems dismissed, so are the open source solutions that are at the core of a number of commercialization ventures.

I don’t want to argue with the premise. What is important is that companies trying to market enterprise search solutions now have to convince a buyer why good enough is not good enough.

For decades, enterprise search vendors have been engaged in a Cold War style escalation. With each feature addition from one vendor (Autonomy), other vendors pile on more features (Endeca).

The result is that enterprise search tries to push value on customers, not delivering solutions that are valued by customers.

The “good enough” argument is one more example of a push back against the wild and crazy jumbles of code that most enterprise search vendors offer.

The good news is that good enough search is available, and it should be used. In fact, next generation information access solution vendors are including “good enough” search in robust enterprise applications.

What is interesting is that the venture funding firms seem content to move executives in and out of companies not hitting their numbers. Examples include Attivio and LucidWorks (really?). Other vendors are either really quiet or out of business like Dieselpoint and Hakia. I pointed out that the wild and crazy revenue targets for HP Autonomy and IBM Watson are examples of what happens when marketing takes precedent over what a system can do and how many customers are available to generate billions for these big outfits.

Attention needs to shift to “good enough” and to NGIA (next generation information access) vendors able to make sales, generate sustainable revenue, and solve problems that matter.

Displaying a results list is not high on the list of priorities for many organizations. And when search becomes job one, that is a signal the company may not have diagnosed its technological needs accurately. I know there are many mid tier consultants and unemployed webmasters who wish my statements were not accurate. Alas, reality can be a harsh task master or mistress.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2014

Blast toward the Moon With Rocket Software

December 8, 2014

YouTube informational videos are great. They are short, snappy, and often help people retain more information about a product than reading the “about” page on a Web site. Rocket Software has its own channel and the video “Rocket Enterprise Search And Text Analytics” packs a lot of details into 2.49 minutes. The video is described as:

“We provide an integrated search platform for gathering, indexing, and searching both structured and unstructured data?making the information that you depend on more accessible, useful, and intelligent.”

How does Rocket Software defend that statement? The video opens with a prediction that by 2020 data usage will have increased to forty trillion gigabytes. It explains that data is the new enterprise currency and that it needs to be kept organized, then it drops into a plug for the company’s software. The compare themselves to other companies by saying Rocket Software makes the enterprise search and text analytics as simple as a download and then it will be up and running. Other enterprise searches require custom coding, but Rocket Software explains it offers these options out of the box. Plus it is a cheaper product without having to sacrifice quality.

Software usage these days is about functionality and ease of use for powerful software. Rocket Software states it offers this. Try putting it to the test.

Whitney Grace, December 08, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Attivio Is Now an Oracle Competitor, Not a Search Vendor

December 7, 2014

I read “Oracle Competitor Attivio Promotes Stephen Baker to CEO.” Quite a surprise because Attivio is a search-and-retrieval company with a layer of analytics wrappers. Founded by former Fast Search & Transfer executives, the company ingested more than $30 million in venture funding and now has to generate a return for the stakeholders.

I am not sure if Oracle perceives Attivio as a competitor. MarkLogic, an XML data management vendor, also positioned itself as an Oracle competitor. After hitting a wall at about $60 million and grinding through some new presidents, MarkLogic is keeping a low profile in the markets I track.

Now Attivio may be following this MarkLogic path. Two of the founders of Attivio are moving up. Below Ali Riaz and Sid Probstein is Stephen Baker. Mr. Baker also was a Fast Search & Transfer professional. He worked at RAMP Holdings afar a stint at Reed Elsevier where he was responsible for—wait for it—search.

Attivio co-founder Will Johnson is now the chief technology officer. Mr Johnson is another Fast Search alum. He has worked at GetConnected as—wait for it—a search architect.

My thought is that saying Attivio is a competitor to Oracle is one way to connect semantically with “Oracle.”

But as MarkLogic’s trajectory has demonstrated, there is more to saying a company is “like” Oracle than generating revenue on the scale of Oracle.

Both Attivio and MarkLogic are information access companies. Both want to generate more revenue for their stakeholders. Perhaps a management shift will do the trick.

My view is that if Oracle thought either Attivio or MarkLogic offered a unique, high value service, Oracle would have acquired these companies. Oracle may buy Attivio and MarkLogic. I think the catalyst would be generating and demonstrating rapid revenue growth, expanding margins, and a track record of sustainable revenues. i look forward to a glowing analysis of each firm by IDC’s “expert” Dave Schubmehl in the next month or so. Maybe saying something does make reality change?

Stakeholders want a payback. Management change is a precursor to even more significant activity to benefit those who pumped tens of millions into what may be an old-school approach to information access.

Stephen E Arnold, December 7, 2014

A New Spin on Search: Enterprise Listening Platforms

December 6, 2014

In my Yahoo Alert this morning, I saw an item which puzzled me.

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When I clicked on the link, I was shown this item from Yahoo Finance: “Independent Research Firm Ranks Visible Technologies as a Leader in New Enterprise Listening Platforms Report/”

The article from MarketWired informed me:

In addition to securing a Leadership ranking among a pool of 11 enterprise listening software and service providers, Visible received among the second highest rankings in the Strategy category. Its road map was cited as including “self-service research tools and additional automation of client-specific data.” The report also stated that “Visible marries an intuitive dashboard that enables users to uncover insights and refine search with high-quality consulting.”

Yep, search is part of the Forrester “enterprise listening platform” functionality. I must admit that the azure chip consultants will resonate with this phrase. I am not sure what it means. I think I get the search part, but the mashing up dashboards, social media, advanced data processing capabilities, and partnership plans amuses me.

Whatever floats one’s boat and boosts one’s revenues is okay with me. I am not sure what Simpson’s mathematics means but it generates revenues and apparently helps sell newspapers.

Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2014

Verity as a Magnet: Great Sales Lead Idea

December 5, 2014

I scanned a machine generated summary of search news. I spotted this story:

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I navigate to the link and saw:

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I clicked the Verity link, which I assumed would be a 404. I was sent to this page:

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Yep, good old www.hp.com.

Marketing 2014.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2014

Start Your Search Engines…Go!

December 5, 2014

What does predictive analytics have to do with formula 1 racing? Everything, says Computer World UK in “McLaren’s F1 Predictive Analytics Snapped Up By KPMG.” Formula 1 is to Europe as NASCAR is to the United States. It is one of Europe’s most popular sports and a lot of high-end technology is used to make the sport more exciting. McLaren is a top team and KPMG, a tax and advisory firm purchased its predictive analytics. KPMG will then use the analytics software to improve audits and advisory services.

“Simon Collins, KPMG’s UK chairman said: ‘McLaren has honed sophisticated predictive analytics and technologies that can be applied to many business issues. We believe this specialist knowledge has the power to radically transform audit, improving quality and providing greater insight to management teams, audit committees and investors.’”

McLaren is also renowned for its software being used to make split level decisions. The software’s potential is untested and its capability to help more industries is about to take off from the start line.

Whitney Grace, December 05, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

HP Autonomy: Tax Methods and a Sidewalk Guarantee

December 3, 2014

I watched Dr. Mike Lynch on CNBC explain, quite patiently, that Hewlett Packard struggles with accounting procedures. He pointed out that HP created a document that explains how a rebasing exercise created the magical billions written off the $11 billion purchase price of Autonomy.

The story gets some legs in “Document Raises Questions on HP’s $8.8bn Write Down of Autonomy.” Note that this a Financial Times’s document and you may have to pay to view it, assuming it is still online when you read this blog post. The link I am providing plunked me in the middle of a wonky “slide show” with the article stuck on the lower edge of the PowerPoint.

The write up reports that Mike Lynch was fired and a team of HP professionals started work on a rebasing exercise. My thought is that if one is going to spend $11 billion, one might want to do one’s homework BEFORE turning over the cash and buying the company.

Dr. Lynch is quoted by the FT as saying:

“The document was completed a month after HP made those allegations and any future valuation of the company would have had to include them. HP’s own court filings repeatedly assert the rebasing analysis includes the effects of the allegations,” he said.

In terms of time, HP purchased Autonomy in October 2011. Autonomy had discussed selling with other companies. Autonomy tapped the expertise of Frank Quattrone and his colleagues at Qatalyst Partners. Oracle posted some information about the Quattrone pitch deck in September 2011. You may be able to snag a copy at http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/features/please-buy-autonomy-503330.html.

Autonomy is unique among vendors of enterprise search systems. It was the first company to generate revenues from enterprise search in excess of $600 million. At one time there were more than 60 vendors competing directly with Autonomy. Some like Convera and Siderean Software ran into financial difficulty. Others like Fulcrum Technologies, iPhrase, Exalead, ISYS Search Software, and Vivisimo among others were able to find buyers before the market contracted more. Most vendors of enterprise search either scrambled to reposition themselves or develop technologies that positioned the companies to provide something other than search which was by 2008 accelerating on a path to becoming a low value utility.

HP, as I recall, performed due diligence. After doing the MBA and CPA thing, the company paid $11 billion for a company that after 15 years of invention, innovation, great marketing, and savvy acquisitions was at full sail. At the time of the deal, proprietary search was under assault from open source options that were simply “good enough.” HP bought at a time when valuations of search companies was not just softening, valuations were downright mushy.

HP, I assume, is smarter and more informed than I. HP bought Autonomy, and HP quickly demonstrated its buyer’s remorse. The groaning and moaning about Autonomy not being worth $11 billion is becoming a bit tiresome.

I envy Dr. Lynch for his ability to maintain his poise and temper. I am not sure I would have advised HP to purchase Autonomy. I know what happened to AltaVista, which HP converted into jet fuel for Google. I know that the company has been plagued by management upheavals and products that seem to have wandered from the HP way. Ink is profitable, but it is not a refined scientific instrument. Now HP’s senior manager is garnering some attention due to Pando.com’s write up “Documents Show How eBay’s Meg Whitman and Pierre Omidyar Conspired to Steal Craigslist’s Secrets.” If true, I wonder how reliable HP is today when it comes to presenting facts in a fair and accurate manner.

Exalead commanded a sale price of about $200 million. Oracle paid about $1 billion for Endeca. Microsoft paid $1.2 billion for Fast Search & Transfer. Vivisimo went for a modest $20 million. Now along comes HP dragging the history of its mishandling of AltaVista.com and ponies up $11 billion. I found that number pretty darned amazing, and I have done work with some pretty crazy investment bankers over the years. HP paid the equivalent of the purchase price of nine Fast Search & Transfers, a company that landed in hot water for its financial methods. HP paid the equivalent of buying more than 50 Vivisimos. Consider $20 million or $1.2 billion versus $11 billion. Yowza. What the heck were the consultants advising HP using as a valuation scorecard?

My view is that HP wants its money back. I remember when I bought a 1955 Oldsmobile from a used car dealer on the bad side of Peoria, Illinois. I asked, “Does the car come with a warranty?”

The dealer looked at me and said, “See that sidewalk? When you drive the car off the lot and hit the sidewalk, you get a sidewalk guarantee.”

I had no idea what a sidewalk guarantee was. I asked, “What’s a sidewalk guarantee?”

The dealer replied, “When you cross that sidewalk, you are responsible for any problems with the car.”

HP is now struggling to understand “sidewalk guarantee.”

Stephen E Arnold, December 3, 2014

Searchblox Uses ElasticSearch to Power Multilingual Search

December 3, 2014

The article titled Multilingual Search—Easy to Setup and Manage For Your Website on Searchblox discusses the difficulty of multilingual search. If you think search in English only is complicated enough, consider global corporations that must make search possible in any number of languages, all with their own sets of synonyms and double meanings. Cross-language search is particularly difficult, given that the existence of terms that have different meanings in different languages (occasionally with hilarious results.) The article explains,

“SearchBlox provides a simple solution that takes care of setting up search for non-english languages and supports 25+ languages out-of-the-box. Each collection is tied to a specific language which enables you to tune the stop words, synonyms and meta data handling without complicated configuration. SearchBlox lets you search across multiple languages at the same time and display them together taking out the complexities of handling encoding. SearchBlox lets you index multilingual documents like word, pdf, excel and ppt files…”

SearchBlox uses Elasticsearch as an engine. The article lists all of the languages supported by Searchblox, from Arabic and Bengali to Kannada, Slovak, Romanian and Telugu all the way down to Thai and Turkish. Encoding and displaying search results has always been a challenge in multiple languages, but Searchblox guarantees full search capabilities in the whole list of languages.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 03, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Recommind Placed on the Deloitte 2014 Technology Fast List Sixth Year in a Row

December 2, 2014

The article titled Recommind Ranked Among Fastest Growing Companies in North America on Deloitte’s 2014 Technology Fast 500(TM) on Consumer Electronics Net announced that Recommind, software application provider, has garnered a spot on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500. This is the sixth consecutive year that Recommind has earned a place on the list of the fastest growing tech companies in North America. The article states,

“The companies ranked on the 2014 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 continue to set the bar for their industry higher each year,” said Eric Openshaw, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. technology, media and telecommunications leader. “There are so many exciting products and smart thought leaders driving this list. We congratulate the Fast 500 companies and look forward to seeing them continue their momentum into 2015.” Recommind attributes success to its innovations in enterprise data management solutions…”

At this rate, Recommind seems to be poised to be the next Fast Search or Autonomy IDOL. Customers include AstraZeneca, The US Department of Energy, Cisco, and Marathon Oil, among others. In order to be considered for the Deloitte listing, companies must own “proprietary intellectual property” the sale of which contributes the majority of the company’s revenue. Recommind is a leader in unstructured data management solutions as well as Discovery technology.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 02, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Useful Tip for Elasticsearch Admins

December 1, 2014

Short honk: Elasticsearch continues to outpace the other open source search vendors. I know that some of the companies with venture funding folks breathing down their necks say otherwise. Keep in mind that there is a difference between performing and saying one is able to perform. Elasticsearch delivers functionality that we find valuable. Also, from the information flowing through my Overflight system, Elasticsearch works. Really!

A useful security configuration article offers helpful tips. Navigate to “Elasticsearch: Dealing with Complex Permissions.” The short article provides some code snippets that you will find instructive.

Stephen E Arnold, December 1, 2014

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