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Archive for the ‘Data Management’ Category

I suggest that if you are interested in intelligent Enterprise search that you listen to  Steve Akers being interviewed by BeyeNetworks – it is a long session but well worth the time.  

Steve discusses a number of things including the challenges faced by Enterprises, how Digital Reef solves these problems and some customer use cases.  There were also two slides that I thought was a great overview of the Digital Reef solution:

Discover

  • Automatically identify and index all unstructured data
  • Provide tools to find and understand the data: 
  • Boolean searches (freeform, fuzzy, metadata, phrase, proximity)
  • Similarity searches using example files
  • Email thread reconstruction
  • Exact and near duplicate identification 
  • Pattern expression recognition
  • Organize the data using automatic classification 

 Manage

  • Transform files into common file types
  • Collect and move data
  • Manage data retention policies

 

Designed for Scale and Security

  • Grid-based, distributed architecture provides performance and resiliency
  • Multi-tenant, role-based security model
  • Easily deployed and maintained
  • Indexes and prepares the full content and metadata of up to 10TBs of data in 24 hours with a standard configuration

 

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Some of you may remember the big buzz around Information Life-cycle Management or ILM.  EMC pushed the concept of ILM a few years back and many of their competitors followed them down this winding road.  You know that marketing campaigns are working when customers talk about ILM strategies using some of the same language as their vendors.  I witnessed this fairly extensively with ILM but the reality never matched the rhetoric.  

On some measure ILM has been successful.  A number of customers went to a multi-tier storage environment.  Some never moved data but actually became smarter about where they placed it to begin with.  Others would actually move data at either the volume level or if they were using file systems – at the file or file system level.  During this time a number of technologies and vendors came and went and when the dust settled there was modest levels of ILM but nowhere near the promise of the hype.  

The term ILM is rarely used these days and it is not going to open any doors for you.  However, just because we never reached the nirvana of ILM doesn’t mean that there wasn’t real value in the concept.  

In my view, the goal of ILM was to move data transparently to the appropriate storage tier balancing performance, protection and cost.  And the end result of implementing ILM included significant cost reductions and better utilization of your expensive IT infrastructure.  

But the mega-hype around ILM actually over-complicated it and created confusion.  There was and is no magic application or technology that could just make it all happen with a push of a button.  However, with the combination of people, process and technology there are great strides that can be made.  In fact, I know of IT professionals that have saved tons of money by implementing some form of ILM.  I submit that some level of ILM – regardless of what you call it – should be a requisite part of every data center.  In fact, it should be as fundamental a part of the data center as disaster recovery.

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The recent announcement of Digital Reef and Microsoft FAST is an important one.  At first glance it might be a bit confusing since both companies provide search capabilities.  Digital Reef does provide a search engine and additionally they offer capabilities that make their search smarter than other solutions and they also have features that live above the search stack. 

As a result Digital Reef can be a totally turn-key solution and also work with other third party search and indexing engines in order to protect the investment that customers have already made.  If an organization has already indexed tons and tons of content – then why go through the process again?  In addition to their own indexing capability, Digital Reef also will leverage existing popular indexes – in this case the FAST index – and bring the Digital Reef federation, performance, scalability, archiving and similarity engine to Microsoft FAST and SharePoint customers.

Digital Reef is a search and indexing solution but it is much more – if it wasn’t then why bother building a new company?  Digital Reef is Enterprise-class search and an information application with the goal of providing relevant data to its users – rapidly and efficiently.

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I came across an article on Digital Reef that I think has some excellent points.

Here is an excerpt:

“…it turns out that Digital Reef has built something fairly new and interesting, a “similarity search engine” for big corporate networks that can start with one document—say, a Word or Excel file—and find others that resemble it.

That could be very useful if, for instance, you were a compliance officer at a big health plan and you wanted to see whether any of your employees had unsecured patient records sitting around on their laptop hard drives (which would be a big violation of federal healthcare privacy regulations). Just plop an example of a patient record into the Digital Reef system, and it will scour the network for other examples. Or say you were a lawyer at a big firm writing a brief in an employment case and you wanted to find out whether any of your colleagues working on similar cases in the past had already assembled the relevant citations. You could simply submit your entire draft to Digital Reef, and see what washed up.”

The author, Wade Roush does an excellent job of explaining the value of the Digital Reef similarity engine.  He cites two examples but the possibilities are numerous.  The power of similarity helps with discovery, compliance, efficient workflow, research, analysis, etc.

http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2009/03/03/digital-reefs-similarity-based-search-helps-corporate-data-speak-for-itself/

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One of the persistent puzzles surrounding mergers and acquisitions (“M&A”) activity is its propensity for failure. In fact, hundreds of studies suggest that fifty to eighty percent ofmergers and acquisitions are failures. Thus, while the goal of an M&A deal is that the whole is worth more than the party, the converse is frequently true. An important determinant of any M&A transaction’s post integration success is data due diligence. In today’s M&A environment, where transaction experience substantial scrutiny and technology plays a crucial role, data due diligence is tantamount.

Nonetheless, merging or acquiring companies often fail to perform adequate data due diligence and fail to consider the electronically stored information (“ESI”) and data storage systems of the target company or merging counterpart. This oversight presents substantial risks and can cause substantial post-integration problem and, in turn, increase the likelihood of M&A failure.

Creating an E-Discovery Checklist

One of the crucial ways that in-house and outside counsel can fail to conduct proper data due diligence is by ignoring potential eDiscovery issues as part of the M&A deal.

Why is this important?

eDiscovery issues may well affect the value of the company being acquired, the cost and difficulty of merging the two companies, or heighten litigation risk going forward. Corporations and law firms have fine-tuned due diligence checklists to account for various traditional business risks such as legal, contractual, regulatory, securities, financial and undisclosed liabilities, yet eDiscovery is noticeably absent.

This failure of counsel to conduct data due diligence on a target company’s e-discovery issues, e.g. preservation and cost obligations regarding its ESI, can cause substantial losses for the acquiring company, impacting the expected return.

An e-discovery checklist could have many elements and would vary with respect to the industry and company, but regardless, it should account for:

  1. The state of the target company’s ESI, ensuring that it has been thoroughly identified, categorized, and sourced;
  2. Existing preservation and litigation holds;
  3. The cost of preserving data for existing or anticipated legal holds;
  4. and Both structured and unstructured data

I would like to hear your comments on this checklist, including additions. More thoughts on M&A coming in future posts.

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As many of you may know Microsoft acquired FAST Search and Transfer in 2008 for a sizable sum of money ($1.2 billion).   For those of you that aren’t familiar with FAST, there were a fairly successful search and indexing company that was used by Enterprise end user companies.  From the onset there seemed to be a real desire to marry FAST with Microsoft SharePoint and after some twists and turns that is still the strategy – see this Beyond Search blog entry for more insights.

Certainly it makes sense for Microsoft to integrate FAST with SharePoint but what about the rest of the Enterprise?  Yes, Microsoft wants to have all unstructured content be stored in SharePoint but since that hasn’t happened yet and it may never be a fully realized goal – it is important to have Enterprise search be heterogeneous. 

One thing that many readers may not know is that FAST did a great job partnering with storage vendors including EMC and HDS – just to name two of the biggest.  It is uncertain what is going to happen with these relationships based on the fact that Microsoft seems to be focused on making FAST work only with Microsoft products.

It appears that Microsoft still really doesn’t know what to do with its consumer or Enterprise search strategy.  They have a ton of smart people, lots of resources at their finger tips, etc, etc.  However, search software seems to be a perpetual stumbling block.

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In March of this year, a court noted that a corporation’s failure to adopt appropriation information polices can results in potentially costly legal sanctions. While sanctions themselves may or may not be substantial, the legal fees leading up to the sanctions will likely to be weighty. See, Phillip M. Adams & Assoc. L.L.C. v. Dell, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26964 (N.D. Utah. Mar. 27, 2009). This decision and other recent holdings serve notice that it is in technologist’s best interest to bring potentially sub-standard retention policies or irresponsible data retention practices that may result in loss of data to the attention of their legal and business archiving/eDiscovery counterparts. The courts, by holding corporations responsible, are certainly acting within the dictates of logic. A corporation deploying a solution that seamlessly allows for additional search, preservation, or production burdens without imposing additional burdens individual employees may be in a stronger position to assert that they fall within the ambit of safe harbor.

Technologists who knowingly withhold such information from their legal and business counterparts, place their employers and their employment at risk. While many grey areas exist as to what constitutes a failure of policies/practices to synchronize with systems, there seems to be clarity on one thing: when policies and practices are in-place, but the systems fail to retain data, a potentially sizable legal problem may arise for the entity.

Technologists are not policy or legal experts, but it is arguably within their domain of expertise to inform the legal and business creators of these policies about the technological feasibility. Moreover, it is evident that a company’s position around discovery is a great deal stronger when a particular employee is responsible for the execution of the preservation, search, and production of information. However, the reality is that placing additional burdens on already overworked employees is a fiction and the information is not likely to be preserved. In addition, companies that elect to place the burden for implementing data retention or preservation orders on their employees–effectively placing the operational execution of preservation, search and production at the mercy of an individual employee’s practice–are making a potentially bad decision.

The extent of personal liability for an individual responsible for ensuring that the corporation policies, practice, and systems operate to some standard is still yet to be established. Irrespective of the legal finding, it can potentially impact your attractiveness to an employer.

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