Category Archives: 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 Cloud Data, Best Practices, IaaS, Information Management, Virtualized Environment, Desktop Search, Information Access, Records Management, Enterprise Search, Corporations

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

Barry Murphy Joins the X1 Team

Last week, I said goodbye to my time at the eDJ Group, a company in good hands that will continue to provide top notch eDiscovery and information governance consulting at a level of depth very few can match.   This week begins my new adventure as Senior Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy at X1, and I am very excited about the opportunity.

Many have asked why I chose to join X1 and I want to take this space today to explain the reasons.  As an analyst for the past four years, I have had the chance to see – up close and personal – the challenges that enterprise IT and business people are trying to address.  One that comes up consistently is the ability to quickly find information in a world where the volume of it is increasing so rapidly.  While search might seem relatively simple, I can tell you that many clients pull their hairs out due to frustration with enterprise search deployments.

Thus, the first thing that hit me about X1 was the number of X1 customers whose top point to make about that product is that “it just works.”  Business people like the ease of use and clean, single-pane-of glass view of their information, Legal teams like how X1 Rapid Discovery makes eDiscovery more efficient and less costly, and IT teams like that the product can be deployed in increasingly virtualized environments.

Part of the attraction to X1, for me, is the fact that the company can address such a range of solutions via a powerful search engine.  It is not just about eDiscovery, though there is a product for that.  Rather, X1 will power many solutions by providing easy access to information – and the company does it in a way that just works.  It makes me think back to those old BASF commercials – the ones where BASF says, “we don’t make the products you buy, we make the products you buy better.”  I get a feeling that same message can apply at X1; something along the lines of “we don’t make the cloud infrastructure, we make the cloud infrastructure better and more valuable.”

Stay tuned for more details on how X1 will make other solutions better and continue to provide great search products in 2014.  I’m looking forward to this adventure.

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Filed under eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Access, Information Governance, Information Management