Cloud Search: Not As Simple As You Think

By Barry Murphy

Corporations and Government agencies are moving data to the Cloud in droves.  No matter which analyst firm you look to on Cloud storage adoption, you will find consistent results:

  • Forrester Research reports that 40% of enterprises surveyed indicated they have already rolled out workloads on public clouds or have near-term plans to do so and that the number will increase to 50% this year.
  • IDC predicts that from 2013–2017 public IT cloud services will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.5%, five times that of the IT industry as a whole.
  • Gartner says Cloud Computing Will Become the Bulk of New IT Spend by 2016 and that spending on public Cloud services will have a CAGR of 17.7% from 2011 – 2016, with spending on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) itself will have a CAGR of 41.3% in that time period.
  • In eDJ Group’s recent Cloud services adoption fast poll, Greg Buckles found that less than 5% of respondents reported that all information is kept on-premise on company infrastructure and cloud services are not being actively considered.

Cloud-icon_magnifying-glassNo matter where data is being stored, though, the fact remains that the ability to search that data will be critically important.  Workers still demand unified access to email, files, and SharePoint information, and they want fast-as-you-type search results regardless of where the data lives.  In addition, Legal teams require that search queries and collections execute within specific time-frames.  But, Cloud search is slow, as indexes live far from the information.  This results in frustrated workers and Legal teams afraid that eDiscovery cannot be completed in time.

Lest you think this is not a big deal, consider the following story.  When I was at eDJ, we worked with a very large enterprise client that wanted to move its collaboration system to the Cloud.  The problem was that the Cloud system the client was contracting with could not meet the Legal Department’s requirements for speed of query results and collection.  This significantly slowed down the movement to the Cloud until the client had worked with the Cloud vendor to ensure that search and collection could execute at the necessary speeds.  The delay frustrated an IT team anxious to reap the promised benefits of the Cloud and cost the project team significant man-hours.

This story highlights the need to granularly define search and eDiscovery requirements before moving data to the Cloud.  Most “cloud search” solutions pass queries through connectors, and then the Cloud vendor needs to figure out where in its vast data center the index lives, find the content, return the query result, and then the customer will need to download all the content.  The result is a slow search and another copy of the data downloaded on premise, which basically defeats the purpose of moving to the Cloud in the first place.

If a customer wanted to speed up search, it would have to essentially attach an appliance to a hot-air balloon and send it up to the Cloud provider so that the customer’s index could live on that appliance (or farm of appliances) in the Cloud providers data center, physically near the data.  There are many reasons, however, that a Cloud provider would not allow a customer to do that:

  • Long install process
  • Challenging pre-requisites
  • 3rd party installation concerns
  • Physical access
  • Specific hardware requirements
  • They only scale vertically

The solution to a faster search is a cloud-deployable search application, such as X1 Rapid Discovery.  This creates a win-win for Cloud providers and customers alike.  As enterprises move more and more information to the Cloud, it will be important to think about workers’ experiences with Cloud systems – and search is one of those user experiences that, if it is a bad one, can really negatively affect a project and cause user revolt.

 

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Filed under Cloud Data, Enterprise eDiscovery, Enterprise Search, Information Access, Virtualized Environment

Search as a Desktop Virtualization Enabler

Desktop_virtualizationby Barry Murphy

 

Too often, search is taken for granted.  When I first started doing research on eDiscovery in the cloud, the prevailing attitude was, “as long as information is searchable, eDiscovery is taken care of.”  Sadly, many organizations have learned the hard way that it is not that easy.  There is much more to search than meets the eye.  But, most organizations do not figure that out until it is too late – until search does not work in the desired manner or at the required speed.

eDiscovery is not the only area where search is overlooked and becomes an issue.  In fact, search is a critical function for today’s knowledge worker.  Despite the importance of information access, unified search of workers’ most critical assets (email, files, desktop content, and SharePoint) is not always a huge requirement of IT organizations.  It is to end-users, however, and that is one of the reasons that X1 has had such success with the Search 8 product – it has a user-friendly interface that provides simple, fast access to the information assets users need the most.

The lesson that I have taken away from being involved in the search market is that search as a standalone application may not seem sexy, but it provides a real return on investment.  It also allows organizations to ensure that investments in other technologies are optimized.  This fact can be seen especially in virtual desktop (VDI) environments.  Desktop virtualization promises many benefits: lower IT costs; streamlined administration of IT assets; and end-user flexibility in terms of accessing the desktop from anywhere.  Given the popularity of BYOD, the consumerization of IT, and the need for mobility to support telecommuting, VDI is becoming more and more important.

It is the little details of IT projects, however, that can have big impact on results.  Some organizations find that the cost savings anticipated from VDI are less than expected because of high disk resources necessary to support Windows indexing on the virtual desktop.  Or, best practice is followed and Windows indexing is turned off – and then users are unable to search for information on their desktops.  There are two possible outcomes from this, and both are bad:  either users are rendered unproductive because they cannot easily find information or they simply reject the virtual desktop and find ways around the system.

In order to ensure that VDI deployments meet expectations, organizations can build unified search into requirements early on.  At the very least, this will help to ensure that end-users are more receptive to the virtual desktop and allow them to remain productive.  Getting end-users to buy in is often half the battle when deploying new technology.  As I mentioned, though, search is often an afterthought – an issue that only comes up after a VDI deployment where end-users complain or reject the solution outright.  That is why it is important to make search a requirement early on.

When it comes to VDI environments, a good search solution must decouple the search UI from the indexing service.  Otherwise, indexing will require virtual desktop computing resources and cut into VDI cost savings.  The goal is to minimize the RAM usage and search client footprint on the virtual desktop.   It sounds simple, but traditional search solutions are not architected for this.  We at X1 are doing a webinar with Citrix on this very issue – enabling lightning-fast search in VDI environments.  The webinar is on April 10, 2014 at 1pm ET / 10am PT.  Please click here if you would like to join us to learn how to use search to enable optimization of desktop virtualization deployments.

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Filed under Desktop Search, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Access

Federal Government Agencies Face Information Management Challenges, Too

by Barry Murphy

Many moons ago, one of my first projects as an analyst with Forrester Research was to find the answer to a seemingly simple question: what is the industry standard for storing new types of electronic information such as X-rays and other images?  The client was a government agency that needed to store these records long-term and anticipated potentially needing to produce them in court many years in the future.  fed image 2As such, the agency needed to know how to store and find these records.  The answer proved to be anything but simple – in reality, the answer was that there was no “standard” for storing this new type of content.  My investigation into the topic led me to find this new market called eDiscovery and the rest is history.

The experience was interesting because it was my first foray into working with the Federal government.  I went into the experience with the assumption that Federal agencies would somehow be more advanced in their information management efforts.  Records management, after all, was (and still is) very important in government.  But, government agencies are just like other organizations – struggling to keep up with exploding volumes of digital information, under the gun to respond to information requests (whether it is in response to Congressional inquiries, regulatory requests, or litigation), and dealing with the needs for more modern IT infrastructure elements like Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

The only difference between government agencies and other organizations is that agencies may be under even more stringent rules for complying with investigations and for dealing with digital information management.  President Obama’s Managing Government Records directive mandates that agencies manage electronic information as stringently as paper records have traditionally been managed.  Agencies are under even more of a microscope than corporations, yet face the same information management challenges.  Information assets are scattered across email, file systems, disparate SharePoint sites, and Cloud-based repositories.  In addition, some agencies adopt newer IT infrastructure elements such as virtualization and cloud computing to stay relevant.  For example, the Department of Energy deployed a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in order to enable worker mobility (Source: Zurier, Steve. Agencies Deploy VDI with an Eye Toward BYOD. Fed Tech Magazine, March 18, 2013). VDI allows agencies to implement initiatives like BYOD while maintaining top-notch security.

Keeping up with modern IT infrastructure, while simultaneously responding to thousands of information requests each year – whether it is in response to Congressional inquiries, regulatory requests, or litigation – is a challenge.  Before assuming that government agencies have the process under control, consider this: according to Deloitte’s Seventh Annual Benchmarking Study of Electronic Discovery Practices for Government Agencies, only 59% of respondents believed their agencies were effective in deploying eDiscovery capabilities compared to 73% in the previous year (Source: Deloitte’s Seventh Annual Benchmarking Study of Electronic Discovery Practices for Government Agencies, Spring 2013).

Why the drop in confidence?  Part of the reason is that traditional search and eDiscovery products fail to effectively support agencies’ IT environments in a way that creates a true solution.  Rather, traditional products have agencies creating centralized eDiscovery labs that require copying information from various systems to a central eDiscovery location.  This is both time-consuming and expensive.  To learn how to address information management challenges in federal agencies, click here to download a whitepaper that outlines the critical problem, its legal compliance implications, and compelling solutions that help agencies develop built-in search and eDiscovery capabilities that reduce costs and improve operational productivity.

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Filed under Information Management, Records Management