An Interview with Nicolas Maquaire
A search engine must be able to connect to content. Most organizations have information in standard file formats like Word or Excel. But organizations often have content in proprietary systems like an Ironsides ERP running on an aging AS/400. Even smaller firms learn that data in accounting software can stump some enterprise search and content processing systems.
EntropySoft exists to make connecting a search or other content processing system to a source file painless. The firm has been growing rapidly because vendors and search system customers want to move information between systems. Without the right connector, the systems are like two people speaking mutually unintelligible languages.
I spoke with Nicolas Maquaire of EntropySoft on March 19, 2009. The full text of this interview appears below.
Would you tell me about your company and where it fits in the search and content processing landscape?
In the Search Market, connectors are needed to read / retrieve / modify / index content. Search engines need to access all content, despite content fragmentation and numerous separate content repositories. This fragmentation is our main business driver. EntropySoft has developed specific features for the search market in its connectors.
EntropySoft is a connector factory. We have more than 30 read/write connectors for unstructured data, possibly the biggest portfolio on the market.
Our connectors enable most of the features of popular content-centric applications such as Alfresco, IBM FileNet P8, Hummingbird DM, Interwoven TeamSite, IBM Lotus Quickplace, Microsoft SharePoint etc... The extensive support of features and the size of the connector portfolio make this technology perfect OEM material for many software industries.
On top of the read / write connectors, EntropySoft has two technological layers (Content ETL and Content Federation) that are also available as OEM components.
The following leading global organizations integrate EntropySoft connectors: Attivio, Endeca, Coveo, Exalead, Kazeon, IDS Scheer, Image Integration Systems.
What's your background and what attracted you the search sector? What's the history of your company? Are you looking for investment capital, an IPO, or organic growth?
My co-founder Raphaël Jean and I have more than twenty years experience in Enterprise Content Management and software development. Raphaël Jean participated in the development of several content management systems.
EntropySoft was created four years ago and focussed on connectivity right from the start. We started with a few major direct clients (Total, BNP) who used our Content ETL for Records Management and our Content Federation Server to reorganize the accesses to FileNet, Lotus Notes and other applications.
About two years ago, we were contacted by Endeca who wanted to use our connectors to increase their search capacities across repositories. The contract was quickly signed. As a consequence, we switched our business model to an OEM business model, and are now reselling our technology to (mainly US) software vendors, who integrate it in their solution.
The Search Market is our main market, with numerous software vendors and a vital need to access all possible repositories.
Now we only do OEM, ie all our components are available for licensing and inclusion in third-party solutions.
Today about 90% of our revenue comes from the US market.
EntropySoft is self-funded and is currently not looking for investment capital.
Consolidation and vendors going out of business like SurfRay seem to be a feature of the search sector. How will these business conditions affect your company?
What's your strategy for 2009?
The search sector is very dynamic, with new companies appearing regularly and new search areas and disruptive innovations being developed (semantic search for example). The market is therefore a galaxy of innovative companies who need our connectors so as to concentrate on their core business and specificities. Our objective for the search market is to become the industry standard for connectivity. We are already supplying connectors to a good number of leaders in the search market. We want to increase our market share for connectors supply on the search market in 2009.
Our general strategy for 2009 is to increase our presence in all content-centric markets.
Specifically for content connectors, we have two strategies:
- A horizontal strategy, developing new connectors for new applications
- A vertical strategy, developing new connectors for the same applications
As we are delivering our technology to different software industries, each one has respective constraints (Search is different from BPM, which is different from DLP, which is different from e-discovery). This means different technologies and different architectures, to give our clients the best architecture and the best solution for their market. This is why we have multiple connectors for a same application.
Microsoft has signaled that it will include the Fast ESP system with some of its server products. Does this signal an end to the standalone search or search utility solution?
The search market is multi-faceted. More and more search engines are included in various vertical products, but are also developed as stand-alone. To different needs, there are different answers.
However, whatever the trend, as far as EntropySoft is concerned, the need for connectivity seems to be increasing.
Where does your company fit amidst the Microsoft, Autonomy, Endeca,and Google search horse race?
Some of these racehorses are boosted by EntropySoft connectors.
Sometimes, doped horses win races!
Search appliances are often criticized as one trick ponies. Does your software / system work with these devices?
One-trick ponies have the right to take performance-enhancers too! Prices might be steep for them though.
Our technology can be used in many configuration. Our connectors are already being used in appliances on other markets.
Is your system designed for on premises installations? Cloud solutions? Both?
Our technology was designed so as to be usable by the largest possible customer base and we have connectors for Enterprise applications.
Would you give me a couple of use cases -- that is, examples -- of your software in action?
- Our Content ETL can be used to interact with all content-centric applications in a company and be able to interconnect all the applications with the corporate records management platform. All content processes are designed graphically. This is what Total, the 4th biggest oil company in the world, is doing.
- Our Content Federation Server can be used to reorganize the accesses to content repositories, as well as build a virtual repository where business logic access is possible. Content Federation Server therefore shields the user from multiple application complexity. This use case is illustrated by BNP Paribas, the 6th biggest bank in the world, who is using it this way.
- Our connectors are used by various technology products to simplify the integration with many content-centric applications. Examples of this are Attivio, Endeca, Kazeon, IDS Scheer in their respective markets.
What's the typical cost of your firm's software?
Regarding pricing, we have customers in different markets who have different business models (license, subscription, all-you-can-eat, document-volume, pay per click.). We are always flexible on pricing models, as we are looking to expand into new markets.
Our most common pricing model is to have a fixed price per connector regardless of the application. Prices of connectors may vary, depending on expected volume of sales and number of connected repositories.
Our partnerships include our priceless content-centric application expertise.
What are the benefits of using your connectors and not those developed by a contractor?
The market for content integration is complex. Building a single connector for a specific use case seems nonsensical to us. If you develop many connectors, interoperability then becomes reality. Thanks to its 30+ (and growing!) connectors, EntropySoft is becoming a one-stop-shopping point for connectivity and interoperability.
For the past four years, EntropySoft has acquired valuable knowledge on all popular content-centric systems. EntropySoft connectors have been market-tested for years. EntropySoft connectors are put to work daily in critical business conditions, and EntropySoft unique in-house developed testing system allows fast implementation of customer-driven connectors improvements. Cross-portfolio testing and validation is applied to all connectors on a day-to-day basis. We are confronted daily with multiple work environments and architecture configurations. On very different markets, the EntropySoft team has built up a wealth of experience, confronting theory and reality everyday. EntropySoft brings to software vendors and its technological partners robust connectors and unequalled expertise on most content-centric systems.
Most of the high end search systems include connectors for such systems as SharePoint and Lotus Notes. Most systems include some type of transformation utility. What's involved in getting your firm to develop a connector to pull data from an IBM MVS TSO system?
EntropySoft.s roadmap for connector development is customer-driven. As soon as we have a specific request, it will be a pleasure to develop this connector.
I remember the Outside In technology. Now I think that technology is owned by Oracle. Your company and a handful of other specialized in connectors and related software. Is there room for growth in this sector? What is your firm doing to maintain its growth rate?
I believe there is room for growth in this sector, as it is multi-faceted.
We have a unique position on the market as the biggest Enterprise connectors factory and we are very excited about the upcoming innovations and perspectives.
Search is a confused space. A recent consultant report argues that search is stable. What's your view of this market sector? Why?
The search market is a growth sector as far as we are concerned. Connecting to an ever-increasing number of repositories and enabling as many features as possible of underlying applications is becoming more and more crucial for search companies. Accessing info is crucial and we believe the market has growth potential.
As you look forward, can you describe in general terms some of the new features that you will be introducing this year?
We just announced total .NET compliance for all our connectors. Their total number will be above forty before the end of the year.
We shall have a new improved version of our Content ETL in the next few weeks.
The economic climate is affecting organizations throughout the world. Aside from the economy, what are the major trends that you see in search and content processing over the next nine to 12 months?
Search and act strategies could become a major short-term trend. Our connectors are all read / write, therefore we are judiciously positioned for it.
We also see an increasing need to move content for Knowledge Management and Content Lifecycle management. Fragmentation is increasing the complexity of such actions, and even more so in the extended enterprise or beyond the firewall. We see the same trend in Supply Chain Management, with complex instantaneous content transfers between different enterprises.
Take a look at EntropySoft's Web site. Even if you don't need a connector to hook a mainframe file into your search system, the company can assist you with a range of content transformation tasks.
Stephen E. Arnold, March 25, 2009