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

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