Tag Archives: cloud

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

The Time Has Come to Approach Search Differently

Anyone in the search / eDiscovery business lives and breathes search – we think about all day, every day because it is our livelihood.  At X1, we have many customers making real progress with enterprise search, so there can be the perception that organizations have learned to address the very real challenge of helping employees find information.  Thus, it can be surprising to run into research that shows just how bad the traditional approach to enterprise search is.

I came across the “Enterprise Search and Findability Survey 2014” on the Findwise website.  It is very interesting reading and really confirms that a new approach to enterprise search is needed.  Some of the key points, from my perspective, are;

  • Almost half of the survey respondents in large organizations (1,000 employees or more) find it difficult or very difficult to find information.
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their existing search applications.
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents believe it is very important to improve the ability to find the right information.

Simply put, traditional enterprise search did not work.  Too many employees complain about not being able to find what they are looking for.  The search solutions deployed over the last 15 years focused on IT requirements rather than end-user requirements.  These tools required end-users to tag and rate their search results, something end-users have neither the time nor the emotional investment to do.  This very point is something that Marcus Stimler, CTO of Capgemini UI, points out on the webinar we did earlier this month – the reliance of traditional search tools on end-users to tag information leads to a lack of findability.  This survey just confirms that fact.

It is not all doom and gloom, however, as many X1 customers know.  There is a better way to approach enterprise search and it begins with the end-user.  In today’s business world, end-users know what they want.  They demand good experiences with technology.   A web page with links to search results will not cut it in the enterprise.  Users need a single-pane-of-glass view to all of their information – email, files, SharePoint, archives like Symantec Enterprise Vault, and other enterprise repositories that users might access.   X1 Search 8 provides just that – a user-friendly interface to all information that lets workers use their brains to find what they are looking for.

Beyond the desktop, X1 Rapid Discovery indexes other sources of content – either on-premise or in the Cloud – and makes the information available alongside a user’s local content.  Perhaps the beauty of this approach lies mostly with its simplicity.  Workers are happy because they can find information.  IT is surprisingly happy because they have a search tool that is easily deployable, as opposed to the traditional complex science project.  This overall happiness is a result of a new approach to enterprise search starting with end-user requirements and extending outward.  It is a subtle difference, but a meaningful one that will drive the results of future findability surveys to a new level.

For more on our perspectives on why enterprise search initiatives often fail, while X1 is invariably successful, please download this short treatise. This was inspired by direct feedback from many successful X1 install sites.  In a nutshell, X1 addresses users’ personalized requirements for business productivity search.

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A key mistake is to take big data or web search solutions and apply them to the very different use case of business productivity search. The matrix displayed here illustrates the key differences between these use cases.

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Filed under Business Productivity Search, Enterprise Search

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

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

Cloud Search Is Important, But Only A Piece Of The Enterprise Search Puzzle

by Barry Murphy

In an earlier post, I described the importance of having the ability to quickly search for information stored in the Cloud.  The post pointed out that Cloud search is somewhat more complicated than one might think at first glance because the speed of search is affected by how close the index lives to the actual data in the Cloud infrastructure.  One comment I received was that Cloud search can be fast and simple if the Cloud vendor promises a certain service level for query times and results.  That can address part of the issue around search (although IaaS providers – what we are truly talking about when we say “Cloud” – are typically not interested in guaranteeing SLAs for things like search because they allow customers to provision their infrastructure set to enable fast search with products like X1 Rapid Discovery).  Even if a Cloud vendor were to guarantee phenomenal search SLAs, the issue of unified enterprise search of all information still remains.

The reality is that enterprises and government agencies store information in “hybrid” environments that encompass on-premise systems within corporate data centers, virtualized systems that companies operate, and Cloud-based repositories.  Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2017, half of mainstream enterprises will have a hybrid cloud.  And, research from NetApp shows that organizations will be managing data across multiple cloud environments, not just a single provider, per se.

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These are exciting developments.  As organizations embrace more modern infrastructures, there are many benefits to be had.  What we need to remember, however, is that business professionals still need to quickly find and take action on their information assets to do their jobs.  As that information gets further scattered, enterprise search will take on increased importance.  Workers don’t care if their data is stored on-premise or in the Cloud as long as they can quickly find it in an easy-to-use interface.

The challenge for today’s organizations is that information now lives in multiple infrastructures – on-premise, virtual, Cloud, or most frequently, a hybrid of all of these.  Current approaches to including Cloud-based data in enterprise search and eDiscovery require downloading a copy of the data to search so that it resides alongside other local content.  Unfortunately, that defeats the purpose of storing the data in the Cloud in the first place.

This takes me back to my original point:  Cloud search is very important.  But, Cloud search cannot simply exist in a vacuum.  An effective enterprise search solution will combine on-premise search capabilities that can talk to search in the Cloud – without requiring downloading the cloud-based information in order to search across all data.

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Filed under Cloud Data, Enterprise Search