Tag Archives: virtualization

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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Filed under Desktop Search

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

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.

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Filed under Desktop Search, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Access

Defining Truly Cloud-Capable eDiscovery Software

Last week we discussed the challenges of searching and collecting data in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud deployments (such as the Amazon cloud or Rackspace) for eDiscovery purposes.  Today we discuss what is needed for eDiscovery and enterprise search vendors to provide a truly cloud-capable solution and provide a decoder ring of sorts to cut through the hype.  For there is a lot of hype with the cloud becoming the latest eDiscovery hot button, with vendor marketing claims far surpassing actual capabilities.

In fact, many eDiscovery and enterprise software vendors claim to support the cloud, but are simply re-branding their long-existing SaaS offerings, which really has nothing to do with supporting IaaS. Barry Murphy of the eDiscovery Journal aptly identified this marketing practice as “cloud washing.” Data hosting, especially where the vendor’s manual labor is routinely required to upload and process data, does not meet defined cloud standards. Neither does a process that primarily exports data through APIs or other means out of its resident cloud environment to slowly migrate the cloud data to the vendor tools, instead of deploying the tools (and their processing power) to the data where it resides in the cloud. In order to truly support IaaS cloud deployments, eDiscovery and enterprise search software must meet the following three core requirements:

1.         Automated installation and virtualization:  The eDiscovery and search solution must immediately and rapidly install, execute and efficiently operate in a virtualized environment without rigid hardware requirements or on-site physical access. This is impossible if the solution is fused to hardware appliances or otherwise requires a complex on-site installation process. As hardware appliance solutions by definition are not cloud deployable and with enterprise search installations often requiring many months of man hours to install and configure, whether many of these vendors will be able to support robust IaaS cloud deployments in the reasonably foreseeable future is a significant question.

2.         On-demand self-service: In its definition of cloud computing, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) identifies on- demand self-service as an essential characteristic of the cloud where a “consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.”

Many hosted eDiscovery services require shipping of data to the provider or extensive behind the scenes manual labor to load and configure the systems for data ingestion. Conversely, solutions that truly support cloud IaaS will spin up, ingest data and fully operate in an automated fashion without the need for manual on-premise labor for configuration or data import.

3.         Rapid elasticity: NIST describes this characteristic as capabilities that “scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.” This important benefit of cloud computing is accomplished by a parallelized software architecture designed to dynamically scale out over potentially several dozen virtualized servers to enable rapid ingestion, processing and analysis of data sets in that cloud environment. This capability would allow several terabytes of data to be indexed and processed within 2 to 4 hours on a highly automated basis at far less cost than non-cloud eDiscovery efforts.

However, many characteristics of leading eDiscovery solutions fundamentality prevent their ability to support this core cloud requirement. Most eDiscovery early case assessment solutions are developed and configured toward a monolithic processing schema designed to operate on a single expensive hardware apparatus. While recently spawning some bold marketing claims of high speeds and feeds, such architecture is very ill-suited to the cloud, which is powered by highly distributed processing across multitudes of servers. Additionally, many of the leading eDiscovery and enterprise search solutions are tightly integrated with third party databases and other OEM technology that cannot be easily decoupled (and also present possible licensing constraints) making such elasticity physically and even legally impossible.

So is there eDiscovery software that will truly support the IaaS cloud based upon these requirements, and address up to terabytes of data?  Stay tuned….

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Filed under Cloud Data, Enterprise eDiscovery, IaaS