Sometimes it pays to be behind in reading industry news. The big news last week was Google’s new patents and plans to enhance search results using metadata and taxonomy embedded in content. This was followed by the news that Business Objects plans to acquire Inxight, a Xerox PARC spin-off that has produced a product line with terrific data visualization tools, highly valued in the business analytics (BI) marketplace.
I had planned to write about the convergence of the enterprise search and BI markets this week until I caught up with industry news from April and early May. This triggered a couple of insights into these more recent announcements.
In April an Information Week article noted that Google has, uncharacteristically, contributed two significant enhancements to MySQL: improved replication procedures across multiple systems and expanded mirroring. Writer Babcock also noted that “Google doesn’t use MySQL in search” but YouTube does. I believe Google will come to be more tied to MySQL as they begin to deploy new search algorithms that take advantage of metadata and taxonomies. These need good text database structures to be managed efficiently and leveraged effectively to produce quality results from search on the scale that Google does it. Up to now Google results presentation has been influenced more by transaction processing than semantic and textual context. Look for more Google enhancements to MySQL to help it effectively manage all that meaningful text. The open source question is will more enhancements be released by Google for all to use? A lot of enterprises would benefit from being able to depend on continual enhancements to MySQL so they could (continue to) use it instead of Oracle or MS-SQL server as the database back-end for text searching.
The other older news (Information Week, May 7th) was that Business Objects was touting “business intelligence for ‘all individuals’” with some new offerings. BO’s acquisition announcement just last week, that they plan to acquire Inxight, only strengthens their position in this market. Inxight has been on the cusp of BI and enterprise search for several years and this portends more convergence of products in these growing markets. Twenty-five years ago when I was selling text software applications, a key differentiator was strong report building tool sets to support “slicing and dicing” database content in any desired format. It sounds like robust, intuitive reporting tools for all enterprise users of content applications is still a dream but much closer to reality for the high-end market.
With all the offerings and consolidation in BI and search, the next moves will surely begin to push some offerings with search/BI to a price point that small-medium businesses (SMBs) can afford. We know that Microsoft sees the opening (Information Week, May 14th) and let’s hope that others do as well.
Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) announced the public beta of Adobe ColdFusion 8 software. ColdFusion 8, designed for developers building dynamic Web sites and Internet applications, addresses day-to-day development challenges to increase developer productivity, integrate with complex enterprise environments, and deliver rich and engaging application experiences for users. The ColdFusion 8 public beta is a feature complete preview. ColdFusion 8 leverages Adobe Flex technology and Ajax-based components. The new ColdFusion 8 development environment also features advanced Eclipse-based wizards and debugging. The ColdFusion 8 Server Monitor lets developers identify bottlenecks and tune the server for better performance. ColdFusion 8 integrates with a broad range of platforms and systems, including integration with .NET assemblies, support for Microsoft Windows Vista and new J2EE servers including JBoss. ColdFusion 8 also delivers significant performance gains over ColdFusion MX 7 and earlier versions of the product. Additionally, ColdFusion 8 applications interact with Adobe PDF documents and forms. The ColdFusion 8 public beta is immediately available at Adobe Labs at http://labs.adobe.com or through Adobe’s hosting partner, http://www.hostmysite.com/cf8
Curl, Inc. announced the availability of the public beta version of the Curl Run Time Environment (RTE) for Macintosh. The Curl RTE, a key component of the Curl Rich Internet Application (RIA) Platform, is the engine that executes Curl applications and displays their user interfaces. The Mac Beta release of the RTE is intended for customers looking to run their Curl Windows and Linux-developed applications on the Macintosh. The Curl RTE is part of the Curl RIA platform that allows developers to implement, complex enterprise Web-based applications. In addition to the RTE, the Curl platform consists of two other main components: the Curl Language, an object-oriented programming language that integrates rich text formatting, GUI layout and presentation scripting; and the Curl Integrated Development Environment, which includes tools for developing and debugging Curl applications and a Visual Layout Editor and numerous code examples. The Mac Beta RTE obeys standard Macintosh user interface conventions and supports the full range of features that are supported by the Curl Windows and Linux RTE products. The Curl RTE can run on Power PC and Intel Macintoshes with operating systems of OS 10.3 and later. The Beta version can execute applications developed for the most recent version of the Curl RIA platform, Version 5.0. The Mac Beta RTE can be downloaded free of charge. http://www.curl.com/
Looks like some really interesting stuff will be coming out of Google that will profoundly change both enterprise and consumer search experiences and markets. Lynda Moulton’s post over on our Enterprise Search Blog is a good place to start on what, as of last week, has emerged – thanks to Steve Arnold – about Google’s nearer-than-you-might-think plans.
Steve Arnold of ArnoldIT struck twice in a big way last week, once as a contributor to the Bear, Stearns & Co. research report on Google and once as a principal speaker at Enterprise Search in New York. I’ve read a copy of the Bear Stearns report, which contains information that should make IT people pay close attention to how they manage searchable enterprise content. I can verify that this blog summary of Steve’s New York speech by Larry Digman sounds like vintage Arnold, to the point and right on it. Steve, not for the first time, is making points that analysts and other search experts routinely observe about the lack of serious infrastructure vested in making content valuable by enhancing its searchability.
First is the Bear Stearns report, summarized for the benefit of government IT folks with admonitions about how to act on the technical guidance it provides in this article by Joab Jackson in GCN. The report’s appearance in the same week as Microsoft’s acquisition of aQuantive is newsworthy in itself. Google really ups the ante with their plans to change the rules for posting content results for Internet searches. If Webmasters actually begin to do more sophisticated content preparation to leverage what Google is calling its Programmable Search Engine (PSE), then results using Google search will continue to be several steps ahead of what Microsoft is currently rolling out. In other words, while Microsoft is making its most expensive acquisition to tweak Internet searching in one area, Google is investing its capital in its own IP development to make search richer in another. Experience looking at large software companies tells me that IP strategically developed to be totally in sync with existing products have a much better chance of quick success in the marketplace than companies that do acquisitions to play catch up. So, even though Microsoft, in an acquiring mode, may find IP to acquire in the semantic search space (and there is a lot out there that hasn’t been commercialized), its ability to absorb and integrate it in time to head off this Google initiative is a real tough proposition. I’m with Bear Stearn’s guidance on this one.
OK, on to Arnold’s comments at Enterprise Search, in which he continues a theme to jolt IT folks. As, already noted, I totally agree that IT in most organizations is loath to call on information search professionals to understand the best ways to exploit search engine adoption for getting good search results. But I am hoping that the economic side of search, Web content management for an organization’s public facing content, may cause a shift. Already, I am experiencing Web content managers who are enlightened about how to make content more findable through good metadata and taxonomy strategies. They have figured out how to make good stuff rise to the top with guidance from outside IT. When sales people complain that their prospects can’t find the company’s products online, it tends to spur marketing folks to adjust their Web content strategies accordingly.
It may take a while, but my observation is that when employees see search working well on their public sites, they begin to push for equal quality search internally. Now that we have Google paying serious attention to metadata for the purpose of giving search results semantic context, maybe the guys in-house will begin to get it, too.