Tag Archives: 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.

 

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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

With Search, What Are We Looking For?

by Barry Murphy
Needle haystack

Recently, I was contacted by an X1 user and fan and he asked me, “why isn’t X1 more famous?”  His point was that X1 Search 8 solves a problem that every company has – people can’t find their information.  They are unable to find that one email or document that they know exists, but that they just can’t remember where they put it.  This X1 fan happens to be a consultant that works with many, many companies and reported that, no matter what client he visits, all have workers that constantly complain about not being able to find what they are looking for.

It can be a marketer’s nightmare to have someone ask why your product is not more famous, but it was a question I had already been giving some thought to.  Part of the challenge when it comes to the “search market” is that most people think of Google when they think of search.  Google is easy to use and helps everyone navigate the Internet much more efficiently.  But, web search is a much different beast than search within a company.  The reality is that 80% of what business workers are looking for exists in their email, file shares, desktop folders, or SharePoint sites.  The worker knows the content exists, has an idea of what he/she is looking for, but simply doesn’t know where it is.  But, when enterprise search solutions were first rolled out, they were built like web search solutions – as if someone wasn’t really sure what they were looking for.

The misperception that the Google search paradigm can apply within the enterprise resulted in enterprise search solutions improperly conflating several search use cases.  But, web search and big data analytics – the new search du jour – are very distinct search types that require features and functions specific to their own unique workflows and use cases. Refashioning big data analytics or web search tools for enterprise search is a recipe for failure and certainly not an end-user driven requirement.

Big Data and the business intelligence (BI) tools built to address Big Data are hot topics.  And BI can deliver some very good information to workers that are managing structured processes.  Every company has deployed some kind of BI tool, but – as our consultant fan let us know – every company still has the problem of business workers not being able to find information.  That is because, when it comes to business worker search, the human brain is the most powerful analytical engine for business productivity search.  Other search solutions have sophisticated algorithms that try to predict things like document taxonomy classifications.   That can be useful at times, but not to enable search for the business worker because the interface and workflow are not designed for business productivity search.  Additionally, analytics-driven solutions require a lot of hardware to make those algorithms churn.

There is a more cost-effective way to solve the problem and ensure that business workers will stop complaining – deploy a search solution with a user-friendly interface that allows humans to use their brain to filter and sort through their information assets.  X1 Search 8 can do that – and do it in today’s virtualized and Cloud-heavy environments.  It is time to realize what business workers are really looking for when they turn to search tools – the one document they know exists that has the information necessary for them to do their jobs in any given moment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Desktop Search, Enterprise Search, Hybrid Search

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.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cloud Data, Enterprise Search

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Desktop Search, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Access