Category Archives: Information Access

Amazon Re:Invent – With the Cloud, Avoid Mistakes of the Past

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Amazon Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. Over 13,000 people took over the Palazzo for deep dive technical sessions to learn how to harness the power of Amazon Web Services (AWS). reinventThis show had a much different energy than other enterprise software conferences, such as VMworld.  Whereas most conferences feature a great deal of selling and marketing by the host, Amazon Re:Invent was truly more of a training show. Cloud architects spent a lot of time in technical bootcamps learning how AWS works and getting certified as administrators.

That is not to say that there was no selling or marketing going on; the exhibition hall featured myriad vendors that augment or assist with AWS deployments and solutions. The focus on the deep technical details, though, does point out the fact that we are still in the very early days of the cloud. Most of the focus of the keynotes was about getting compute workloads to the cloud – there was not a lot of mention of moving actual data to the cloud, even though that is certainly beginning to happen.  But, that is how the evolution goes. IT departments need to be comfortable moving workloads to the cloud as they begin to leverage the cloud. Building this foundation is also important to Amazon – the goal would be for many companies to completely outsource the IT data center.

It is important, however, to proactive plan for information management as more workloads and, importantly, data move to the cloud.  As the internet first emerged, companies dove into new technologies like email and network file shares only to create eDiscovery nightmares and make it virtually impossible to find information within digital landfills. It is key to learn from those mistakes rather than to repeat them when leveraging cloud-based technologies. In order to ensure both that end-users are happy with search experiences on data in the cloud and that Legal can do what they need to do from an eDiscovery standpoint. This means providing business workers with unified access to email, files, and SharePoint information regardless of where the data lives. It also means giving Legal teams fast search queries and collections. 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.

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. eDiscovery is also a major concern – I’ve worked with organizations that moved data to the cloud before planning how they would handle eDiscovery. That left Legal teams to clean up messes, or more realistically, just deal with the messes. By thinking about these issues before moving data to the cloud, it is possible to avoid these painful occurrences and leverage the cloud without headaches. At X1, we look forward to working closely with Amazon to help customers have the search and eDiscovery solutions they need as more and more data goes to AWS.

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Filed under Cloud Data, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, Enterprise Search, Hybrid Search, Information Access, Information Governance, Information Management

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

Seeing The Full Picture On Hybrid Cloud

If it seems that a lot has been written about hybrid cloud lately, that’s because there has – it is one of the hottest topics in the technology world, if not the hottest.  hybrid cloudThe 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.

These benefits (there are many more, but the list would be too long) have IT departments excited to leverage hybrid cloud.  As organizations gain experience with hybrid cloud, we are seeing more and more written about it.  Most of what is written focuses on the hard-core IT issues.  Industry blogs often dig deep in the ability to port applications from on-premise to the cloud and back without requiring re-architecting the apps or hitting major bumps in the workload function.  Or, they might be about the ability to migrate server workloads to the cloud.  This is clearly important stuff, but it is only painting half the picture.   No one is talking much about where the information feeding these applications lives, or about how to ensure the information is accessible as needed.

This is why we need to see the full picture on hybrid cloud.  The reality is the information will live all over the place and business workers will need unified access to it, without having to know the location.   We should be talking about hybrid search equally as much as we talk about the other issues related to hybrid cloud. This is because end-user search experience is extremely important to executing successful IT projects.  We have seen this up-close-and-in-person in the VDI market.  Many organizations rolled out virtual desktops to employees and followed the best practice of turning off Windows indexing.  When users went to search for their information, they were unable to do so and revolted.  That is a lose-lose scenario.  The solution, in that case, is X1 Search Virtual Edition – the only search solution that is architected specifically for VDI environments.

The lesson from VDI is simple:  do not forget the business workers that will need to do their jobs (which tends to require finding their important emails and files quickly and efficiently).   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.  If we learn from that lesson as we venture into the hybrid cloud, we can avoid the nightmares that come when users are less than thrilled with the solutions IT rolls out to them.  If we think about hybrid search now, IT departments embracing hybrid cloud can be heroes to the C-Level executives tracking performance and to the business workers they serve.

 

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Filed under Cloud Data, Hybrid Search, Information Access, Information Governance, Information Management, Virtualized Environment

Why the “Google Paradigm” Has Damaged Enterprise Search

by Barry Murphy

In last week’s post about what we are looking for with enterprise search, I mentioned what we call the Google paradigm.  A reader asked me to be more specific about what the Google paradigm actually is and it’s a worthy request.  The Google paradigm is actually a summation of the resulting perceptions based on the popularity of Google; those perceptions are that enterprise search is as easy as Google web search, and that a central index of an enterprise is the right way to do enterprise search.  The result of these perceptions is an approach to enterprise search that has not solved the problem of allowing business workers to easily and quickly find the information they are looking for.

It is important to note that web search is not the same as enterprise search, and therein lies the major problem with the perceptions caused by the Google paradigm.  Google is an excellent tool for informational web search – I use it frequently when researching various topics that I need to learn more about.  The point is that Google is for Web search, which uses organic linking (looking at the number of sites that link to a particular page) to determine the rank order of results.  That approach provides zero value in the enterprise because the users typically have more than an inkling of what they are looking for, and perhaps have specific criteria they know are relevant, and thus require an interface that allows them to quickly filter the result down to a manageable number.

But, in reality, enterprise search is often synonymous with Google – the web search paradigm.  There is a tendency to think of search as easy.  After all, Google completes search queries for users; it is easy to assume that technology will eventually just know what users are looking for and offer it up to them.  This message is reinforced in the age of Big Data and business intelligence.  There is a fascination with the stunning dashboards we see in CRM and SFA applications.  There is a belief that analytics will replace any need to search and find information.

While analytics will certainly help many business processes, its biggest impacts will be in feeding structured data into business processes and informing those responsible for the process of performance.    There is much value to be had in that and the Big Data market prospers as a result.  Despite the availability of advanced business intelligence tools, though, business workers still struggle to find the one email or document necessary to complete the next urgent task.  People waste hours looking for it, only to most likely recreate all that work when they can’t find what they need.  Organizations lose millions of dollars per year to this lost productivity and typically don’t even know it.  Companies implement traditional enterprise search to help employees, but only make searching more frustrating because those solutions do not leverage the power of the business worker’s brain.

Web search – the Google paradigm – has allowed us to take search for granted.  When doing a web search, however, users are typically searching for something authored by someone else and the system is using programmatic analysis to conduct the query.  For a business worker, though, search is very different.  The worker has a sense of what they are looking for because it is very specific to them – the method of analysis is personal, not programmatic.  Web search is inquisitive in nature.  But, the web search approach – which has been pushed on users by IT for years – does not work well for business workers looking for the information needed to do their jobs.

The Google paradigm also ignores the challenge of scalability.  Indexing the enterprise for a centralized enterprise search capability requires major investment.  In addition, centralization runs counter to the realities of the working world where information must be distributed globally across a variety of devices and applications.  The amount of information we create is overwhelming and the velocity with which that information moves increases daily.

 

Google_data_center

Google Data Center (Click to enlarge)

 

The image above is of a Google Data Center (one of more than several dozen that power the internet).  Look at the sheer magnitude of just what it takes to power those Web searches we are all so used to.  This illustrates exactly why it is so hard to “Google the enterprise.” And yet many people, and even CIOs, think doing so should be easy.  Such has been the approach to scaling traditional enterprise search solutions in the enterprise.  And while Google obviously has solid software to drive its web search, hardware and sheer computing power on a massive scale are essential components of Google’s success.

The only “successful” enterprise search deployments – as judged by customer references – tend to exist only in a very specific type of organization: highly regulated, with deep pockets.  These organizations can make enterprise search work because, due to regulatory and Legal drivers, they have unlimited budget for hardware to make the solution scale.  They are also able to invest in double digit FTE’s to implement and maintain the system over time.  But, these organizations represent “the 1%.”  Most organizations do not have the budget or human resources needed to make traditional enterprise search work.

There will always be hardware investments required to make productivity search work, but such investments do not need to be heavy in the way that traditional solutions have been.  Rather, organizations should look at more flexible options that mirror the realistic IT environment they live in.  That environment typically includes a hybrid of on-premise, virtual, and cloud-based infrastructure and content spread across multiple repositories.  Rarely – if ever – is content centralized.  As such, a good productivity search solution will allow access to the content that business workers need the most while leaving as little footprint with IT as possible.

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Filed under Desktop Search, Enterprise Search, Information Access, Information Governance, Information Management

As Desktop-as-a-Service Gains Traction, Do Not Overlook Productivity Search

by Barry Murphy

Oftentimes, federal government agency IT departments are technology early adopters because of mandates to cut costs and increase efficiencies and business agility. It is not surprising, then, to see FCW.com pointing out that agencies are embracing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Benefits of VDI include simpler and more automated systems administration, better control over security (always a big factor for government agencies), and lower costs for client-side support. Those “hard” benefits are only part of the story – VDI also enables worker mobility (especially important to the Department of Energy) and helps enable more “green IT.” Because VDI provides a zero client environment, it can reduce the required power consumption per desktop, thereby reducing the environmental impact of the agency’s IT systems. This is perhaps more of a soft benefit, but a necessary one nonetheless.

As the FCW article states, there are now two options for deploying VDI: on-premise and through the Cloud, as Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). There are good market options in both directions, with on-premise providers like Citrix and VMWare, and DaaS providers such as Amazon (with its Workspaces offering) and the aforementioned VMWare (with its Horizon offering). Whichever direction an organization chooses for its VDI, it is critical to remember that business worker adoption and acceptance is the key to ROI. In my experience, one thing that scares business workers when moving to VDI is the potential loss of easy access to their information assets. With VDI, it is a best practice to turn off Windows indexing, and that can leave a business worker without the ability to search for his or her information.

DaaS

With VDI in the Cloud, the DaaS provider will want to manage virtual computing resources diligently – also meaning that desktop indexing will likely be turned off. And with government agencies increasingly storing information in the Cloud, it can make search of that data a challenge. There is an opportunity to ensure a better business worker transition in these environments – build in productivity search requirements up front. Business worker access to information is an important component of easing any kind of end-user angst when transitioning to a new desktop environment. Providing these workers with unified access to common information like email, files, and SharePoint will help with change management and user acceptance. And it is important to stress again – without the end-users, there is no ROI on these VDI projects. Therefore, the upfront productivity search requirements should include a search solution that supports VDI environments and that is deployable in the Cloud, like X1 Rapid Discovery.

The move is on to VDI in the federal government, and industries like financial services and professional services are also in the midst of VDI roll-outs. These early adopters will set the trend of many industries. If the early adopters require excellent business worker productivity search experiences, acceptance of these new technologies will be much smoother and more successful. And that is good for everyone – VDI vendors and customers.

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Filed under Best Practices, Cloud Data, Corporations, Desktop Search, Enterprise Search, IaaS, Information Access, Information Management, Records Management, Virtualized Environment