Enterprise search

Analysis of enterprise-specific search technology (as opposed to general web search). Related subjects include:

February 1, 2007

What’s interesting about the FAST venture in BI

FAST is annoying me a bit these days. It’s nothing serious, but travel schedule screw-up’s, an annoying embargo, and a screw-up in the annoying embargo have all hit at once. So I’ll keep this telegraphic and move on to other subjects.

And as another example of how this wasn’t the smoothest PR month for FAST, Steve Arnold somehow got the false idea that they were getting out of true text search altogether.

January 26, 2007

FAST said to be pursuing BI

Dave Kellogg thinks FAST will be ineffective and defocused because of its efforts in business intelligence. I can’t comment on whether that analysis is brilliant, self-serving, or both, because anything I’ve been told on the subject is under embargo.

Embargos were a crucial PR tactic when Regis McKenna exploited them for the original rollout of the Macintosh in 1984. But I suspect that in many cases they’ve quite outlived their usefulness. If I wait between the time I’m briefed and the time the embargo is up to write something, my thoughts about it get fuzzy. If I write something at the time and put it on ice, it may be obsolete because of what other people write in the mean time.

More and more, if something is embargoed, I wind up not writing about it at all.

EDIT: Point #4 of my post on the mismatch between relational databases and text search is pretty relevant here.

January 22, 2007

41 differences between web and enterprise search

Based on a patent application, SEOmoz has discerned 65 aspects of the Google ranking algorithm.* I counted only 24 that really had much at all to do with enterprise search. This leaves 41 or so focused on spam/SEO-fighting and/or on-page linking issues that have no enterprise parallel. And for more depth, here’s a long article from another SEO site, on a specific phrase-concurrence spam-fighting technique that has no apparent applicability to trusted corpuses.
*I highly recommend this link. It is by far the best single-page overview of web search algorithmic issues I’ve ever seen.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating — web search and enterprise search (or search of a constrained corpus) are very different technical problems.

November 11, 2006

Text mining and search, joined at the hip

Most people in the text analytics market realize that text mining and search are somewhat related. But I don’t think they often stop to contemplate just how close the relationship is, could be, or someday probably will become. Here’s part of what I mean:

  1. Text mining powers search. The biggest text mining outfits in the world, possibly excepting the US intelligence community, are surely Google, Yahoo, and perhaps Microsoft.
  2. Search powers text mining. Restricting the corpus of documents to mine, even via a keyword search, makes tons of sense. That’s one of the good ideas in Attensity 4.
  3. Text mining and search are powered by the same underlying technologies. For starters, there’s all the tokenization, extraction, etc. that vendors in both areas license from Inxight and its competitors. Beyond that, I think there’s a future play in integrated taxonomy management that will rearrange the text analytics market landscape.

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October 22, 2006

Enterprise-specific web search: High-end web search/mining appliances?

OK. I have a vision of one way search could evolve, which I think deserves consideration on at least a “concept-car” basis. This is all speculative; I haven’t discussed it at length with the vendors who’d need to make it happen, nor checked the technical assumptions carefully myself. So I could well be wrong. Indeed, I’ve at least half-changed my mind multiple times this weekend, just in the drafting of this post. Oh yeah, I’m also mixing several subjects together here too. All-in-all, this is not my crispest post …

Anyhow, the core idea is that large enterprises spider and index a subset of the Web, and use that for most of their employees’ web search needs. Key benefits would include:

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October 3, 2006

Two own-dogfood text-based bug-tracking applications

Last July I wrote about Google’s text-based project management system. Dave Kellogg of Mark Logic offers links to discussion of a related Google project, and adds news of his own — Mark Logic built a text-based bug tracking system in its own MarkLogic technology.

September 1, 2006

Why the BI vendors are integrating with Google OneBox

I’m hearing the same thing from multiple BI vendors, with SAS being the most recent and freshest in my mind — customers want them to “integrate” with Google OneBox. Why Google rather than a better enterprise search technology, such as FAST’s? So far as I’ve figured out, these are the reasons, in no particular order:

The last point, I think, is the most interesting. Lots of people think text search is and/or should be the dominant UI of the future. Now, I’ve been a big fan of natural language command line interfaces ever since the days of Intellect and Lotus HAL. But judging by the market success of those products — or for that matter of voice command/control — I was in a very small minority. Maybe the even simpler search interface — words jumbled together without grammatical structure — will win out instead.

Who knows? Progress is a funny thing. Maybe the ultimate UI will be one that responds well to grunts, hand gestures, and stick-figure drawings. We could call it NeanderHAL, but that would wrong …

August 3, 2006

Principles of enterprise text technology architecture

My August Computerworld column starts where July’s left off, and suggests principles for enterprise text technology architecture. This will not run Monday, August 7, as I was originally led to believe, but rather in my usual second-Monday slot, namely August 14. Thus, I finished it a week earlier than necessary, and I apologize to those of you I inconvenienced with the unnecessary rush to meet that deadline.

The principles I came up with are:

I’ll provide a link when the column is actually posted.

August 2, 2006

Introduction to FAST

FAST, aka Fast Search & Transfer (www.fastsearch.com) is a pretty interesting and important company. They have 3500 enterprise customers, a rapidly growing $100 million revenue run rate, and a quarter billion dollars in the bank. Their core business is of course enterprise search, where they boast great scalability, based on a Google-like grid architecture, which they fondly think is actually more efficient than Google’s. Beyond that, they’ve verticalized search, exploiting the modularity of their product line to better serve a variety of niche markets. And they’re active in elementary fact/entity extraction as well. Oh yes – they also have forms of guided navigation, taxonomy-awareness, and probably everything else one might think of as a checkmark item for a search or search-like product.

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July 29, 2006

Analyst reports about enterprise search

Gartner and Forrester have high opinions of FAST. Not coincidentally, you can download both those firms’ recent search industry survey reports from almost any page of www.fastsearch.com. Of the two, Forrester’s is both better and more recent.

Summarizing brutally, the big firms’ consensus seems to be:

Forrester is particularly harsh on Convera. Presumably this has much to do with the fact that Convera did not cooperate well with the survey process. I shall not speculate as to which way the causality runs there – but I should note that Convera was quite cooperative with my research last week.

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