Cloud Search: Not As Simple As You Think

By Barry Murphy

Corporations and Government agencies are moving data to the Cloud in droves.  No matter which analyst firm you look to on Cloud storage adoption, you will find consistent results:

  • Forrester Research reports that 40% of enterprises surveyed indicated they have already rolled out workloads on public clouds or have near-term plans to do so and that the number will increase to 50% this year.
  • IDC predicts that from 2013–2017 public IT cloud services will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.5%, five times that of the IT industry as a whole.
  • Gartner says Cloud Computing Will Become the Bulk of New IT Spend by 2016 and that spending on public Cloud services will have a CAGR of 17.7% from 2011 – 2016, with spending on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) itself will have a CAGR of 41.3% in that time period.
  • In eDJ Group’s recent Cloud services adoption fast poll, Greg Buckles found that less than 5% of respondents reported that all information is kept on-premise on company infrastructure and cloud services are not being actively considered.

Cloud-icon_magnifying-glassNo matter where data is being stored, though, the fact remains that the ability to search that data will be critically important.  Workers still demand unified access to email, files, and SharePoint information, and they want fast-as-you-type search results regardless of where the data lives.  In addition, Legal teams require that search queries and collections execute within specific time-frames.  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.

Lest you think this is not a big deal, consider the following story.  When I was at eDJ, we worked with a very large enterprise client that wanted to move its collaboration system to the Cloud.  The problem was that the Cloud system the client was contracting with could not meet the Legal Department’s requirements for speed of query results and collection.  This significantly slowed down the movement to the Cloud until the client had worked with the Cloud vendor to ensure that search and collection could execute at the necessary speeds.  The delay frustrated an IT team anxious to reap the promised benefits of the Cloud and cost the project team significant man-hours.

This story highlights the need to granularly define search and eDiscovery requirements before moving data to the Cloud.  Most “cloud search” solutions pass queries through connectors, and then the Cloud vendor needs to figure out where in its vast data center the index lives, find the content, return the query result, and then the customer will need to download all the content.  The result is a slow search and another copy of the data downloaded on premise, which basically defeats the purpose of moving to the Cloud in the first place.

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.

 

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Filed under Cloud Data, Enterprise eDiscovery, Enterprise Search, Information Access, Virtualized Environment

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