End-User Computing & Search Go Hand-In-Hand

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by Barry Murphy

Last week, John Patzakis here at X1 blogged about the VMworld 2014 event and how it has become the Comdex for enterprise IT.  I was at the show and it was very clear that end-users are the future of IT.  The trend has been talked about for quite some time and is commonly called the consumerization of IT.  The heat around that topic has tended to focus on devices and not as much on what is behind information access on those devices.  But, as BYOD takes off and mobility becomes increasingly important, enterprises care more and more about the flow and availability of information.  Why?  Because easy access to information is critical to the end-user acceptance of enterprise IT offerings; when users cannot quickly find what they are looking for, they reject what IT rolls out to them.  Without that end-user acceptance, there is no chance for a positive ROI on any IT project.

End-user experience is so key that VMware has named a division of its company “End User Computing.”  That EUC unit made several major acquisitions in the last year, including Airwatch and Desktone.  This is because technology providers need to win the battle with end-users.  For an example of a company that built its business on the backs of end-users and leveraged those relationships to bully its way into enterprise IT, look no further than Apple.  As VDI users have learned, it is critical to bake search requirements into virtual desktop deployments from the get-go in order to ensure an optimal user experience.  And, as Brian Katz points out in his blog, the same thing will hold true with mobile – usability will be key.  That is why we at X1 are so excited about the future.  X1’s user interface for search is second to none.  And, users actually rave about it.

In my days as an industry analyst, I rarely had technology users raving about the tools they were using.  And, I never ever had an enterprise search user tell me that their solution solved the challenge of finding information quickly.  The rabid users of X1 have been an eye opener for me.  In fact, an X1 customer recently polled its users and virtually every user said that X1 is easy to learn and use (no easy feat for a piece of enterprise software) and over 70% of users described their experience with X1 as very positive or positive.  Those numbers are unheard of in terms of technology satisfaction.

With what I’ve learned from my days as an analyst and in my time here at X1, I’ve come up with some ways to approach enterprise search in a way that is both IT and user-friendly.  We will share the knowledge in a webinar on October 9 at 1pm ET / 10am PT.  We’ve titled it, “Making Enterprise Search Actually Work by Putting User Experience First.”

In this “no-death-by-PowerPoint” webinar, attendees will not only learn, but actually see how to deploy enterprise search solutions in ways that make both end-users and IT departments happy.  This webinar will demonstrate both why and how to put end-user experience first.   Specifically, attendees will learn:

  • Why the human brain is the best analytical engine for business productivity search
  • How federation can save IT time, money, and headaches
  • How to best deploy search solutions in all IT infrastructures
  • How to achieve ROI on enterprise search in ways never seen in the past
  • That search can be like BASF – it can make many other technology deployments better, including VDI, SharePoint, and Enterprise Vault

I will be presenting on this webinar and will be joined by some special guests to be named later.  Come learn why search and end-user computing go hand-in-hand.

Register for the webinar here >

 

 

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Filed under Enterprise Search, Hybrid Search, Information Access, Information Management

VMworld Recap: Major Disruption in Store for Enterprise Search & eDiscovery

by John Patzakis

VMworld

Last week we attended and exhibited at VMworld 2014 in San Francisco, VMware’s annual conference that brings together over 25,000 thought leaders, subject matter experts, technology providers and IT professionals to immerse themselves in the latest in virtualization and cloud technology. VMworld is now essentially the modern-day COMDEX, spread out among the sprawling Moscone Center. The difference is that VMworld’s exclusive focus is the enterprise, and more specifically the modern and trending IT enterprise. VMworld is where the forward thinking enterprise CIOs are now, and where everyone else will be in the next 2-4 years.

In the opening keynote, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger — who recently explained to the Wall Street Journal that “we are in the period of the greatest tectonic shift in the IT industry in the last 30 years” — emphasized the trend of “frictionless IT” running the enterprise where “everything is virtualized” utilizing a hybrid mix of on-premise virtualization, public and private cloud.  Frictionless IT involves a model where pools of virtual machines — comprising virtual desktops and servers running in either the public cloud or a private cloud — are managed by IT administrators enterprise-wide from a single console, without physically touching any hardware. This allows for virtual desktops, servers and supporting applications and software upgrades to be rolled out and managed on a highly automated basis, including having resources moved from private to public clouds and back again, all with a few mouse clicks.

So given the importance of this conference to the present and future of enterprise IT, it was highly notable that X1 was the only enterprise search provider present among more than 400 exhibitors. It is actually surprising that no other search vendors were here given how quickly attendees ‘got it.’  They understood that search is the elephant in the room for VDI and other enterprise-stored data and quickly responded positively to X1’s message. The reason for our competitors’ absence, in my opinion, is that nearly all the current enterprise search software vendors, as well as eDiscovery tools, represent legacy technology that does not support deployment into highly virtualized environments. Traditional enterprise search solutions are limited to either appliances or arduous manual on-site installations, neither of which can operate in true virtual environments. In other words, they represent a very high degree of friction, with entrenched architectures that must be completely re-written in order to support virtualization and the new frictionless IT paradigm.

And the thing about truly supporting cloud and on-premise virtualization is that enterprise software vendors cannot fake it with enterprise CIOs and their staff. For instance, there is a high degree of “cloud-washing” in eDiscovery, where vendors host their own attorney review systems on a SaaS basis, and thereby claim they are cloud innovators. And while there is a legitimate but limited use case there, a complete process baked into the enterprise and its information management DNA needs to encompass integrated preservation, collection and early data assessment — including first pass review. Such an eDiscovery system must be on premise and will not survive unless it truly operates in a virtualized environment, whether in the public or private cloud.

Solutions that truly support virtualization are VMware-ready certified, and can also be quickly and remotely installed into the public cloud through a readily available machine image, such as an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) for the Amazon Web Services cloud. In essence, major enterprise software now has to effectively install almost as easily as a mobile phone app.

As an aside, another notable observation that I believe is highly indicative of this “tectonic shift” was the near complete absence of the major systems integrators, with the exception of Capgemini. Most of the other top 10 SIs were completely absent and the few others there had a very minimal presence. This is, again in my opinion, because most of these systems integrators thrive on a “friction” model (think nine-month enterprise software installation), and are struggling to adapt to the new world order.

In our recent discussions with folks at Amazon Web Services, they recounted amusing stories of companies asking to send hardware appliances or teams of expensive consultants to AWS data centers to index and manage their data for enterprise search and eDiscovery purposes. Both scenarios are non-starters for public cloud architectures. This is where X1 is leading the charge for both enterprise search and eDiscovery.

We are very excited about our partnership with VMware, and the hundreds of contacts and new and existing customers we connected with at the show. And more exciting things are to come. Stay tuned for exciting announcements in the coming months. In the meantime, I recommend you start making plans for VMworld next year.

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VMworld 2014 Hot Topics – VDI, Hybrid Cloud & Mobility

VMworldNext week, the VMworld conference kicks off and all of us at X1 are excited.  VMworld gives X1 the opportunity to introduce our newly-minted VMware Ready products – X1 Search 8, X1 Search 8 Virtual Edition, and X1 Rapid Discovery – to VMware users.  Perhaps more importantly, though, the conference is an opportunity to hear where the world is moving with regard to several hot topic areas:  VDI; hybrid cloud; and mobility.

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.  There look to be some compelling sessions at the show about customer successes using VDI that will show not only that the benefits of VDI are real, but also how others can learn from those successes to continue to drive VDI adoption.  At our booth, X1 will continue to remind folks building unified search into VDI requirements early on can optimize VDI deployments.  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.  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.

Hybrid cloud is a combination of a private IT infrastructure and a public cloud.  The public and private cloud infrastructures then communicate over an encrypted connection and can port data and applications back and forth.  Hybrid cloud is hot because it delivers real benefits:  increased speed of access time and reduced latency because of an on-premise, private infrastructure that is accessible directly as opposed to through the internet; more flexibility to have on-premises infrastructure that can support the average workload and to leverage the public cloud when the workload exceeds the power of the private cloud component; and more flexibility in server designs that can lower the costs of storage.  X1 will detail to booth visitors how unified search of information no matter where it lives – cloud, on-premise, hybrid – can make hybrid cloud environments more user-friendly.  Products like X1 Rapid Discovery enable hybrid search that lets IT glean all the benefits of hybrid cloud while ensuring end-users are happy with their ability to find information.

Mobility is an important topic and complementary to both VDI and hybrid cloud.  VDI and hybrid cloud environments will enable business professionals to be mobile and productive.  One of the keys to productivity is fast, easy access to information – and that is exactly what X1 provides.  The architecture for X1 Search 8 Virtual Edition stands to enable better access to information on more and more devices.  We are excited for VMworld because it means the opportunity to meet further with the VMware Airwatch team and understand how X1 can continue to partner with VMware in new and innovative ways.

If you are going to be at VMworld, please come see X1 at Booth #2436.  We would be happy to show you our products and how they can complement existing or planned VMware investments.

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Filed under Corporations, Desktop Search, Enterprise Search, Hybrid Search, Uncategorized

Social Discovery: An Interview With Howard Williamson

This week’s blog is something new for X1 – a Q & A with Howard Williamson, the General Manager for X1’s market leading Social Discovery product.  Howard is an experienced digital forensics expert and began his career in law enforcement, which gives him a unique perspective on the practice of social discovery.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Howard this week on what is a very hot topic – social discovery.

Why Social Discovery?

Howard:  I remember back in the mid-1990’s there was a real feeling of excitement around digital forensics.  It was the cutting edge of the forensics field and the work was really fun.  Social media is now what digital forensics was in the mid to late 1990s – it’s the cutting edge of where investigation and intelligence is right now.  The work is fun because there are lots of challenges; the fun part is taking the practice from good to great.  That is what attracted me to the opportunity at X1 – because X1 Social Discovery can make the practice great because the product addresses the challenges of defensibly collecting a high volume, diverse data set like social media.

How does the law enforcement background complement this role?

Howard:  Ultimately, the goal of social discovery is to collect data in a manner that allows it to be used in criminal or civil litigation.  Knowing how that process works is critical.  The law enforcement background gives that experience of defensible collection across many different types of digital evidence.  And, on the criminal side of things, the standards of defensibility are quite high, so carrying that over to the civil side means that X1 will always meet high authenticity standards.  I bring that high bar from the digital forensics world to this brave new world of social media.

What’s new about this practice?
Howard:  The nice thing about now versus the mid-1990s is that we are now using purpose-built tools like X1 Social Discovery rather than co-opting system administration and network tools like we did in the early days of computer forensics.  That makes the Modern evidenceprocess more efficient and more complete.
Rather than using a sledgehammer to put a nail in, we are using a hammer.  The tool is built specifically for social discovery and therefore makes the practice more efficient.  Whereas in the early days of digital forensics, collection procedures where often made up on the fly, with Social Discovery, the approach is much more structured and systematic.  At X1, with our experience, we are certainly able to think and react on the fly to new challenges, but with a purpose-built tool, we can do so much more efficiently.  And, in the eDiscovery world, efficiency and defensibility are two very important things.

Are you seeing social discovery specialists pop up? 

Howard:  What we are seeing is that digital forensics professionals and intelligence professionals are implementing social discovery into their processes and procedures.  There are not “specialists” in social media; rather, the social discovery tool allows more people to collect this type of data as part of a broader job.  They are also doing things like mobile forensics and other digital forensics.  Thus, X1 Social Discovery has become an important tool in their toolkit.  The tool actually makes it easier to bring social media content into the collection because the professional doesn’t have to dive deep into things like mobile operating systems.  It becomes easier to be an expert in social collection because the product makes it simple to collect and analyze.

Do you think that Social discovery is a mainstream practice now?

Howard:  It absolutely is.  The evidence of that is our business.  X1 has nearly 500 paid install sites and nearly 4,000 end users conducting social discovery.  These users got ahead of the curve and have social media integrated into their processes.  The growth opportunity is still huge because it is inevitable that case law will force everyone to take social media more seriously, in the way that the Enron case put a spotlight on electronic discovery in general.  Law enforcement got the importance of social media evidence early on.  Even though a more typically cautious industry, police departments see that social media is a critical form of evidence and have built it into collection processes.  This is how most areas of forensics have evolved.   There is an attitude that, if it’s good enough for criminal law, it’s good enough for civil court.  That is part of what’s exciting for X1 – we have a great base of law enforcement customers putting the product through the paces.  X1 Social Discovery is truly battle-tested and no other solution works quite as well.  We are nicely positioned as the social discovery leader in a mainstream market with high growth potential.

What should we look for in the next year of social discovery?

Howard:  I would expect to see the big social networks continue to gain traction.  I don’t foresee a new behemoth social network to challenge the popularity of Facebook and Twitter.  From an app perspective, self-destructing messaging looks to remain popular as privacy becomes more of a concern.  Forensics will play a large role in determining whether those messages are truly destroyed or actually discoverable.

X1 will continue to build out connectors to more and more social networks and improve reporting and deliverables.  There will be more ability to analyze the data within the investigation platform.   What X1 wants to enable is people to do their jobs within a given workflow.  Some users will want to collect and review social media directly within X1, and the tools enables them to do that.  Others have examiners collect the data, but then move to a review tool where litigators can look at it.

Big thanks to Howard Williamson for sharing his time with us.  If you have questions about social discovery, please contact us at info@x1.com for more information.

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Catch Howard’s lecture at HTCIA’s Annual Conference, Tuesday, August 26, where he will cover Social Media Collection and Review >

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Best Practices, Social Media Investigations, Uncategorized

The “Desktop” Of The Future

In talking with a business acquaintance recently, a question came up about the future of desktop search:  what happens when the desktop is no longer the interface of choice for business professionals?  It’s a great question, and one I clearly have a vested interest in given X1’s status as the leading desktop search engine.  The reality is that today’s workers access their information from a variety of interfaces across many devices.  What we need to do is think of the desktop less in a literal sense and more in terms of being a user interface for information.

Since the dawn of the PC, the desktop has been the user interface for most business professionals to access information and do their jobs.  The future of that desktop no longer lies in accessing it on a PC, or even a laptop or mobile device.  Given the speed of innovation, it is useless to try and forecast what the “desktop” will look like beyond a five-year timeframe.  Already, there are stories emerging about the desktop being built into things like tabletop coffee tables.  It is absolutely fun and inspiring to see developments like this and to know we are making forward progress in the tech world.  At the same time, we need to make sure that information – which will be stored in a variety of locations, too – is accessible to the business professional no matter what the desktop looks like in the future.

That is why X1’s Search 8 Virtual Edition is so exciting.  The flagship product, Search 8, represents years of experience providing a beloved user interface to a business profession’s most critical information – email, files, SharePoint, etc.  When the product first came out nearly a decade ago, most of that information was stored locally.  Thus, a local index could live on the desktop and X1 could provide fast-as-you-type search results and filtering on that local index.  Given the evolution of the desktop and the variety of devices accessing that desktop, a local index is not always a possibility.  That’s where Search 8 Virtual Edition comes in.  The client interface is decoupled from the index, which can live anywhere (typically off on a server farm).

VDI image

This allows IT teams that have invested in desktop virtualization (VDI) to turn off Windows indexing (necessary to save virtual resources) and still provide business professionals the ability to find their information.  Desktop virtualization enables many of the things that businesses value highly – especially security and mobility – and comes in its own variety of flavors.  VDI can be either on-premise and through the Cloud, as Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS).  Increasingly, DaaS offerings such as Amazon Workspaces are becoming more enterprise ready and promise to deliver desktops in a “whenever, wherever” fashion (and, as I’ve posted about before, a good search experience will be crucial to getting the most out of DaaS).

That Search 8 Virtual Edition helps enable an optimal experience with desktop virtualization and DaaS is a great thing, but the value does not stop there.  The same concept – allowing the index to be decoupled from the client interface – will enable great search experiences for mobile, which is the next big stomping ground for enterprise IT.  And, X1 is the only search vendor providing this capability.  We know that the concept of the desktop could live anywhere.  And, our customers want to be able to use X1 Search 8 even if they are unable to have a local index on their machine or device.

The term “desktop search” is already out there and meaningful to many people, so it’s not about changing what we call this market.  Rather, it’s about changing the mindset – realizing that the desktop is not just the screen on your PC, but rather the gateway to all of your important information needed to do your job.

 

 

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