Posts Tagged ‘enterprise search’

The Future of Search Doesn’t Come in a Box: The Google Mini Says Goodbye

by Karen Lynn

The future of search doesn’t come in a box.

Last week while many were on vacation, Google abandoned the smallest member of its’ Search Appliance family, the Google Mini. The small blue piece of external hardware was used for smaller data sets with a stable, some might say stagnant, data with slow and steady query rates. If you were a smaller business with search demands that weren’t, well–too demanding, then this piece of hardware could help you for a reasonable price tag.

Search evolves like all technologies do. Developers incorporate emerging technologies into their skill sets, and open source technologies like Lucene Solr have matured into a competitive option for companies of all sizes. IT managers are finally ready to move away from the confines of a Search Appliance in a box and move to a more agile solution that can offer room for growth, a lightweight application, and a healthy and growing community. Without the hefty annual licensing fees of a commercial product, Solr can save small to mid sized companies and startups valuable cash resources to invest in other areas of their respective businesses.

Open source technologies aside, many are speculating if Google will retire some of its other pieces of hardware like the well know GSA (Google Search Appliance). Although Google has a newly released version 6.14 with an updated website to easily explain features. Google continues evolving its enterprise search offerings to include a hosted search solution for e-tailers called Google Commerce Search, along with their standard Google Site Search. Neither of these products come in a physical blue or yellow box, and I wouldn’t expect Google’s next innovation to either.

There’s plenty lively discussion about this in the Enterprise Search Professionals discussion board on LinkedIn.

Mobile Search: Good UX means fewer touches, simple design

by Karen Lynn

Mobile phones are rapidly taking over the scene of web development, significantly impacting commerce, advertising, gaming, entertainment, banking and news. 77% of the world’s population or 5.3 billion people are mobile subscribers. China and India lead the way in overall mobile growth. Virtually every measurable metric concerning mobile phone growth indicates entire economies being influenced by mobile technology. It’s not surprising that search technology is powering mobile growth just as it has it’s larger cousin the desktop.

Mobile search used to be clunky and a pain to use. Until recently, the answer was to miniaturize the website. For a time, people thought mobile search would never be as good as the desktop search. But, as people use their phones for more and more, it has forced designers to consider how to make search, as well as all mobile apps, simple and powerful and built for end users.

The Mobile Only World

Outside the US, countries like India, South Africa and Egypt are  leaders in mobile only--meaning users do not or infrequently use a desktop or laptop to access the Internet–making mobile search their primary mechanism for accessing queried information. Since these are also the countries sporting the most mobile growth, they are driving the need for quality relevant search for the mobile market.

Young and free

Another driving metric in the mobile game are young people. The under 25 crowd use a cell phone as their primary mode of accessing the Internet. Mobile phones, smart phones in particular, are used to do nearly everything. Younger people are more open to conducting transactions online via phone than any other demographic. Shopping, banking, GPS, social media, gaming–mobile access allows mobile subscribers to do everything they need to without restricting the user to an office.

Key differences for UX Impact

Key difference between mobile search and desktop search seem obvious. On a cell phone, the screen is much, much smaller. Users are on the go and may access the Internet between tasks or meetings, instead of being in one area. Access needs to be quick and simple. Mobile search must be designed for a minimum number of touches before users arrive at the end result. If it takes more than 2-3 touches, the user will look elsewhere for answers. Fewer touches mean a simpler design, engineered for the user without a lot of fanfare or complication.

Huge Growth

Google reports that 1 in 7 searches are now done via mobile vs. desktop. Mobile searches have increased fourfold in just the last year. Businesses need a mobile application to ensure they are reaching the inbound web traffic looking for their services and products. Mobile applications need a strong search technology to ensure the consumer can connect with the products or information they are looking for. The companies that build their web solution for the mobile market are the companies who will gain more market share and capture that 14% of customers searching for their products on the mobile web.

For the enterprise, accessing important information inside and outside the firewall is vitally important as more content is built within businesses and accessed digitally. With the mounting demand placed on mobile phones and devices, the performance we’ve come to expect from out desktop needs to be scaled to a smaller screen by simplifying wireframes with sophistication and well thought out design.

Our View
TNR Global’s expertise lies in deep back end knowledge using powerful search technologies to give users fast, relevant search results for enterprise sites and large web portals. Recognizing the need for search to work as powerfully for a mobile application as well as a web application, we have teamed up with talented UX designers specifically in the field of search application design for web and mobile. Whether you are looking for a customized UX front end for your search solution or an out of the box answer for mobile search, TNR can connect you with a total solution to answer your web based and mobile search needs. For a free consultation, contact us.

Selling Search Internally–Part 2–How to get buy in from the staff

by Karen Lynn

You’ve convinced the powers that be that a search solution is a necessary strategy for success and competitive advantage. Congratulations! Nice work. Think your job is done? Not by a long shot.


Ask your staff–what would a good solution look like to them? After you’ve decided to move forward with a search solution, it’s important, no–it’s crucial that you consider strongly the end user. If you have a web portal that you manage, it’s worth polling your typical customer to gather vital data on how they want their experience to be. If you are looking at an enterprise search solution, you need to spend time exploring what your staff wants and needs out of a solution, and ensure your search solution addresses design for them….not a boilerplate solution that only meets some of your needs. Search is an expensive endeavor, if you’re spending the money, you might as well get exactly what you want.


The truth is that if your end user of the solution doesn’t like the solution, they won’t use it. So getting the end user involved in the planning stage of the search project is vital to it’s overall success. If they have input to it’s overall features and design, they will be more invested in using it. Involving users manufactures all kinds of good-will collateral that can help develop better morale and a positive workplace. Doing this early in the process also introduces change more slowly to users–and people rarely react well to lots of radical change.  Making them a part of the process and doing it early with lots of prepping for change can affect overall satisfaction rates with the search implementation after it’s complete.


Once the implementation actually goes live, you’ll need to ensure a training plan is in place and executed to ensure ongoing success.  A successful search solution isn’t just done once it’s implemented.  You need to work to include your whole team in the training process, and allow them to see for themselves how the solution is going to help them in their day to day tasks. If you included your staff in the planning of the design from the beginning, you’ll be much more successful once the solution is deployed, because they were part of the solution all along.

Search and Steel Girders

by Karen Lynn

“Search ties people together…”

This was one of the many themes at the Enterprise Search Summit in Washington, DC last week. It seems like a fairly obvious statement, but it quickly becomes part of the landscape, taken for granted even though the landscape couldn’t function without it. I have compared search function to the steel girders of a skyscraper. When you walk into the building, you aren’t thinking about the beams holding the building up or connecting floors, but without them, you wouldn’t have a building at all (you couldn’t even find the lobby). Other metaphors overheard include oxygen (invisible yet essential), sunlight (lest we remain in the dark) and electricity (everything stops without it).

Attendees of the conference know how important search is to companies, but increasingly, companies are taking search for granted. There is a fundamental gap in communicating the importance and difficulty of implementing a good search platform.

Companies who need search to run on their website or intranet, expect search to work as it does on the Internet, but this is an apples and oranges scenario.

Here are the main disconnects:

  1. Search is easy
  2. Search is cheap
  3. It never has to be touched again

People expect search inside the firewall to function much like Google does outside the firewall. Google exists for end users and is really, really incredible. It Geo-locates, it auto-completes. It uses your browsing history to provide more relevant results. And you had no financial investment in using this really lovely, elegant, useful tool that doesn’t just assist your Internet experience, but facilitates it. But behind the firewall, things are different. Let me explain.

  • Your business content isn’t publicly available or known. I mean, that would be bad, right? It’s behind the firewall for a reason. So keeping it there yet allowing your staff to access certain levels of information takes some architecture and planning.
  • Google has thousands of developers working on this beautiful, incredible technology every day. They finance this by ad content. How many people do you have on your search team? And how much of their day do they really spend on search? What department is being billed for it? Business leaders need to embrace this as a necessary cost of doing business and budget accordingly, or face the crippling result of staff and customers not being able to find the information they need.

  • 80% of your content is unstructured. Meaning, search engines can’t really read it until some love and care is put into cleaning the data. This is a vital, yet time intense process. Our VP of Search Technologies Michael McIntosh says “We spend about 90% of our time on the document processing pipeline, conditioning data to be fed into the engine.” Moreover, unstructured data isn’t a set number. It’s being creating faster than you can blink by your entire enterprise. Processing it is never a done deal.


So if search connects us, hopefully this finds you thinking about search in more realistic terms. Search by itself may look like a simple box, but behind the box is a foundry of girders, cross beams, and structural support that allows you to find what you need to “make money outside the firewall or save money inside the firewall.”

Search Fuels Business Intelligence for Decision Making

by Karen Lynn

“The jungle is dark, but full of diamonds.” said Arthur Miller. The same can be said about the invaluable data inside your business. It’s there, ready to be mined. But unless you have the right tools, you’ll never get to those diamonds.


Content is expanding at an exponential rate. I don’t know anyone in any business who can keep up with the pace of content growth, without the use of powerful search engines to find and extract relevant information. Business analysts expect content to grow 800% over the next 5 years. Business intelligence requires extraction of the right information, and most enterprises have both structured and unstructured data. Structured data is easy for most search engines to search. The rub is in unstructured content–of which there is abundance. Unstructured content is said to account for 70-80% of data in all organizations. This type of content is often in the form of documents, email messages, health records, HTML pages, books, metadata, audio, video, and various other files. All these files have to be “cleaned up” before feeding them through a search engine in order to get results with any kind of value or relevance.


Mining this data is going to be essential for not just the success, but the survival of many businesses. James Kobielus, an analyst at Forrester Research, reports in an interview with ComputerWorld that businesses will increasingly turn to a self-service BI throughout 2011 and beyond. “Increasingly, enterprises will adopt new Web-based interactive querying and reporting tools that are designed to put more data analytics capabilities into the hands of end users,” he said. A good search engine that can find data quickly and easily can “take the burden off IT and speed up the development of reports to a considerable degree,” Kobielus said. The information mined by a search engine tuned to the specific business needs facilities better decision making for people a every job function within the enterprise. “Because every business is a little different, and so many organizations house so much unstructured content, most search engines can’t cover everything that is needed without some customization” said Michael McIntosh, our VP of Search Technologies at TNR Global. “Data conditioning is vital to unstructured content. Without someone paying attention to filtering out the garbage in unstructured content, you’re not going to get a good search result. The last thing a business needs is it’s search results working against them.”


“The jungle is dark, but full of diamonds.” said Arthur Miller. Can your search technology find the gems buried inside your own business?


For more information on how data mining and a customized search engine can move your business forward, contact us for a free consultation.


Living with Bad Enterprise Search: The Costs of Not Finding What Your Business Needs

by Karen Lynn

Do you remember TV Guide? There was a time when TV Guide sat on nearly every coffee table in every living room in America. If you didn’t have a subscription, you would grab it in the checkout line at the grocery store every week. If you wanted to plan out your evening in front of the tube, you would pick it up, thumb through it, read the synopsis of the show, and make an informed decision about watching Dallas or Falcon Crest that evening.


Then everything changed. Not overnight, but let’s fast forward to today. If you are 20, you don’t know what TV Guide is. Most cable packages have a guide built in so you can plan your viewing, record shows you will miss, or call up ones you want to watch, even from last season. Schedules for networks are posted online. And it’s a good thing, because back when TV Guide sat on our coffee tables, there were three networks. How many are there now? Imagine how thick that TV Guide would be.


The explosion of content is not exclusive to television. Businesses have had an estimated 60% growth in digital content per year, and it shows no signs of stopping. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses haven’t upgraded their cable box, so to speak. They are looking for crucial documents and data on a manual dial. The truth is, companies have been living with bad search for a long time. And they’ve been paying for it.


The IDC estimates that 2.5 hours a day per employee are wasted looking for information they need to perform their job, or recreating that information altogether. Additionally, making sound decisions depends strongly on having valid information to make those decisions. Without access to information, bad business decisions are made, and bad business decisions are deadly to the enterprise. Business intelligence efforts can fall short without the right search platform powering fast relevant results. Worst of all, if your customers cannot find the product or service they need on your system, they will go somewhere else for it.


Content Management Systems are gaining in popularity, but what’s powering the search? How well does it deal with unstructured content? Does it give results with the relevance you need to make the best decision? Can your employees find what to need to execute their tasks? Can customers find your products?


Search technology is critical to the mission of any business. It facilitates cash flow, revenue, Business Intelligence (BI), productivity and employee satisfaction. It has an immediate impact of the bottom line of the business. It is an essential ingredient to the successful enterprise on so many levels, to run a business with inadequate search technology is like using an old copy of TV Guide to try and find and decide what to watch.

If you are assessing your search platform and it’s bottom line impact on your business, contact us.  We can analyze your systems and provide a free consultation on the best enterprise search solution for your company.

Building for Enterprise Search: A Systems View, Part 2

by Karen Lynn

When we left off, Michael Klatsky, VP of Systems Administration was telling me how important communication between the systems side and search side of is to developing an enterprise search solution. The process of building, testing, monitoring, adjusting, more testing, and more monitoring ensures systems function that way they are intended to function. Let’s resume our conversation where Michael discusses the tools he uses to ensure the system he’s building works the way the client wants it to. This is the second portion of a two part blog post.
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Tools for BDD: Part 2

Karen: It’s sounding like the Search Team and Sys Admin Team need to have a good relationship and communicate often to ensure the system will accommodate the work the search team does.

Michael: Yes, search sometimes has to construct their scripts to conforms to systems. Testing is run on both sides, but small changes can affect others down the line, so it’s important to incorporate expected behaviors into modeling and monitoring on both applications and systems sides and how they interact with one another.

Karen: How do you make sure that happens?

Michael: We’re exploring some tools to help us make sure the machine will act just as we expect it to, like cucumber and cucumber nagios We’re using certain tools to facilitate the systems behaves in the way that we expect it to. We’re exploring cucumber for basic modeling and for testing. Cucumber is cool for testing because it returns values to you in colors. Red, meaning it failed, yellow meaning there’s problem, and green meaning its good. According to their docs, they instruct you to “keep running it until it’s a cucumber.”

Karen: Ah, I get it.

Michael: Right. And what cucumber nagios does is it takes cucumber and allows you to create a nagios monitoring check script. So if you pass, great, if you god red, nagios will throw an alert to the systems administrator so we have an opportunity to fix it before more is built.

Karen: Sounds like it’s an attentive way to build a system.

Michael: The only way to scale is to have machines do things for themselves. That’s the way to do it.

Karen: To automate.

Michael: Yes. Automation. Not to just set things up to automatically do configuration management beforehand, but to test afterwards to determine that your machine is behaving just as you (and your client) envisioned it.

For more information on how you can plan your enterprise search in cooperation with your systems administration team, contact us for a free consultation.

Building for Enterprise Search: A Systems View, Part 1

by Karen Lynn

I sat down with our VP of Systems Administration, Michael Klatsky to discuss some of his thoughts on how Systems Administration needs to work in concert with the Search Team to implement search technologies for clients. This is the first portion of a two part blog post.

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Karen: You wanted to discuss how your approaching the systems side of search, and using a Behavior Driven Development (BDD) approach. Tell me about that.

Michael: Well, one of the problems we run into when systems brings up machines for enterprise search clusters is the search software (FAST ESP for example) is very particular about it’s environment- more so than many of the more common applications such as the Apache webserver. Properly configured DNS, specific environment variables, specific library versions have to be present. There are ownership and permissions that need to be in place, and performance metrics that must adhere to a given baseline. There can be slow disks can affect performance. There has to be the right amount of memory, and different classifications of systems roles. Currently, we have homegrown scripts that bring up systems, then we have other scripts we run to detect issues. These scripts will tell us if the system is ready for what we need it to do. We also monitor the systems for standard items such as diskspace, memory usage, as well as basic search functionality. For example we’ll run a quick search on say paper clips, and if comes back with results we know it’s running.

That’s what we’ve done historically. But now, we need to bring up larger numbers of machines,and have confidence that they will perform exactly as we expect. Additionally, we have a set of functional tasks that must be available without fail As we bring up clusters of larger numbers of machines, and as we need to be more nimble, how can we ensure that it will respond the way we expect it to?

Karen: This is where Behavior Driven Development comes in, right?

Michael: Right. There is a lot of discussion out there on Behavior Driven Development which would include behavior driven modelling, behavior driven monitoring, behavior driven architecture and infrastructure. So not only does a machine come up and is listening on these ports, but I can bring a machine up, I can go to that machine and I’m able to log in, install certain software, and peform tasks. I can go to another machine and perform a task. So, the question is, how do you model that? How do we ensure the system will behaves as it should?

Karen: So you’re looking at replicating the behavior of these systems so that every time we deploy something it will be the same way.

Michael: Right. And if a change is made, even a small change, we’ll see it right away because a system or service will fail and be able to fix it. Sometimes a service will fail silently. But we test and monitor constantly to ensure the system will do exactly what we expect it to do. It’s all a part of the build process.

Karen: Sounds like a smart approach.

Michael: Yes. And if we make a change, we’ll find out how that change will affect the rest of the system. For instance, we run tests and if something is wrong it should give you an error. For example if you change the location of your SSH keys. You may still be able to get into the machine by SSH, but one little change could make it impossible to SSH from one machine to another in the cluster. So rather than find that out after you begin your manual work on that, we make it part of the build process by constantly monitoring and testing the system as we build it.

Karen: It sounds like building a house and then realizing you have bricks out of place after it’s built.

Michael: Worse, it’s like building a house and realizing you forgot to build a door! At the very least while you are building, you can test, and let me know, “Hey! I don’t have a door to my house!” So that I can fix it before you move in.

There are certain things the search team needs to do to ensure their work will function in the system, like SSHing around the machines in the cluster–they need to be able to do that. There are certain ports that system need to be listening on, there are certain services that need to return a normal range of results. We need to define what a proper operation looks like. We can’t necessarily say that if we search for gold plated paperclips for example, that the search result should show 1000 results every time, that may or may not be the case–we don’t necessarily know if this is a proper result every time, but we should determine if the result returned is within a proper range of normal.

We’re defining what a proper operation looks like and ensure it functions that way. Part of the behavior driven model which is what I’m really interested in, we can set up a natural language looking config file. This config file should describe the actions or behaviors I expect. For example, when I go to ABC.com website and search for gold plated paperclips, I expect to see results. One result should be X. There should be more than Y results. When I return that result, I should be able to click on one result and go to that products feature list. Basically I’m describing how the customer will interact with the search, what I expect the customer to do, and design the system to respond with the customer’s actions in mind.

Karen: So your engineering it with the customer’s behaviors in mind.

Michael: That’s exactly what we’re doing. Then that if I look for a certain item, I get that result, describe the behavior of what the customer should do and make the system behave in cooperation with the customer behavior. We need to determine what right looks like, and have the system behave that way.

Karen: And what right looks like is really different for each client.

Micheal: Yes. You can write in somewhat natural English what that looks like. It’s not magic, but you still have to come up with specification of what right looks like. But you can do a lot of sophisticated things in this manner because you will know you’ll have a website that’s going to perform the way it’s suppose to perform. The bottom line is: Define what your systems should “look” like, deploy those systems using those definitions, and after deployment, test to ensure that those systems “look” like your definition.

For more information on how you can plan your enterprise search in cooperation with your systems administration team, contact us for a free consultation.

Open Source Search: Isn’t It Expensive?

by Karen Lynn

You’ve heard the debate on open source search vs. proprietary search. One question that constantly comes up for prospective clients is “What’s all this going to cost me?”

In these times, it’s a good question. Because proprietary has neatly packaged, practically shrink wrapped plans, it’s much easier to discern how much you will spend on a solution. But how much will it cost? That’s an entirely different question.

I see you cocking your head sideways.

Proprietary search has hidden costs. What if the software doesn’t perform the way you need it to? Does the software understand the nuances of your business? How adaptable is it? How much will it cost to adapt that software to get it to perform the way my business needs it to? Questions like this need to be asked, and answered. Eventually you will ask yourself….why am I paying for all of this? And your developer will ask, “why can’t I access the source code?”

What I’m getting at is this: It is a reassuring feeling for a customer to see what a package costs, to understand what services you will get with a solution, and to anticipate what the licensing fee will cost on an annual basis. If it’s your job to research a solution and present findings to your executive team to make a decision, then proprietary search, on the surface, seems a more secure choice. But rarely, if ever, are these solutions a perfect fit for the customer. It’s like buying a Ferrari, with all the brand recognition and polish a Ferrari offers, and not ever driving it past second gear, or cutting the wheel more than 15 degrees, or getting a chance to have your trusted mechanic look under the hood. This is why open source is such a good solution for businesses who want their IT to move quickly.

We’re hearing more buzz about companies waking up to the agility of an open source solution. Most recently, with the acquisition of Autonomy by HP, the industry is telling stories of ex Autonomy customers migrating to Solr (open source search) with only the annual licencing budget to finance the migration. Without an annual expenditure of cash for licensing, and the freedom of not being under a licensing agreement, companies quickly recoup the initial expenditure of a migration.

What kind of car does your company drive?

If you are examining the different choices for implementing search technology in your organization, contact us.  We’re happy to talk to you about the best solution for your business.


Migration Still Looms Large on the Horizon for FAST ESP Customers

by Karen Lynn

Microsoft acquired FAST all the way back in 2008 and then in early 2010 disclosed it’s plans to stop updating the FAST product on a Linux operating system after 2010, making FAST ESP 5.3 the latest and greatest, and very last update Linux users will see involving any improvements to the proprietary search platform. It was clear to anyone on Linux that a migration would need to occur, and as content grows, depending upon the size of your organization, that migration should probably happen sooner than later.

Buzz about migration ensued–an inevitable certainty for many companies, especially ones with huge amounts of data. But how many companies have jumped in with both feet? I had the opportunity to speak with an open source search engine expert who, along with the industry, believed that the move from Microsoft was a windfall for anyone in the business of enterprise search design and implementation. However, she admitted “we haven’t seen as large a response as we expected.”

This isn’t exactly surprising to everyone. “It’s coming” says our VP of Search Technologies, Michael McIntosh. “Corporations have an enormous investment in FAST ESP and it makes sense that they would be reluctant to move to something new until they absolutely have to.” That means, when their licenses expire.

“They will likely weigh the performance and support, or lack thereof, for the FAST ESP technical team with the timing of renewing a license and wait until they absolutely have to change to something else,” says McIntosh.

The purchase of Autonomy and the shift of HP from hardware to software could signal a recognition from Goliath HP the kind of growth opportunity enterprise search software offers, and that the “great shift” from FAST ESP to another search platform is very much on the horizon.

But as the clock continues to tick, companies using FAST ESP should be strategizing for migration now. “It’s an enormous undertaking to migrate an entire search solution from FAST to another platform. Designing a non-trivial search solution to fully meet your needs from scratch is hard enough on its own. If you are migrating an existing solution, it is very unlikely that you will find a one to one mapping of all of the features in a new search engine that you have come to depend upon with your existing implementation. Solving challenging issues like that requires both creativity and expertise to address your needs.” says McIntosh. If a need for migration is eminent, there will be a real need for expertise in the field of enterprise search on both proprietary and open source platforms, depending upon several factors like size, in house talent, and growth expectations.

How is your company preparing for the discontinuation of support of FAST ESP?  Need guidance?  Contact us for pointers, analysis, or architecture for a full migration.