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Friday, March 27, 2009

Unified Access for Enterprise Content: Is Search Technology the Key?

While many suppliers of enterprise content technology are struggling to define a path towards growth this year, one arena that continues to hold its own in the face of adverse market conditions is enterprise search. According to IDC analyst Sue Feldman, one of our most trusted sources of content technology intelligence, the enterprise search market grew by approximately 22% in 2008, not even pausing for breath in the fourth quarter. Enterprises around the world are seeking out ways to get more "bang for their buck" from their information resources, trying to corral all of their knowledge assets into easily accessed collections through search technologies.

Feldman notes that vendors are starting to gain traction with a concept called “unified access” — the ability to pull content from a variety of internal and external sources into a single platform. As the company which has been trying to "unify everything" for our OEM partners for years, the fact that vendors are beginning to focus on pulling together disparate content sources through search engines and other technologies comes as no surprise. The main question is, are most enterprise-oriented content and technology companies truly ready to supply their clients what they need to provide truly unified access to content? And, perhaps more to the point, do they really understand what is required for successful unified access from both a content and a technology perspective?

What seems to be happening is that many technology companies which have been focused on "nuts and bolts" enterprise technology issues such as data storage, document management and networking are beginning to discover that there are strong pressures from their client base to deliver more than nuts and bolts and software for the princely sums that their products and services have commanded in the past. Some of these companies have been thinking of themselves as "information companies" for many years, but then discovering that there is a gap between what their own particular flavor of technology can deliver to their clients and what their clients really consider to be valuable information services. Managing files or databases is one thing: pulling together every conceivable information resource needed into a cost-effective framework that meets everyone's group and individual needs for information is quite another.

And the needs of enterprises for information don't stop at merely federating the right search engine results into a common framework. Sue Feldman mentions in a recent report that enterprise content users are particularly keen to get subscription content melded in with internal and Web resources far more effectively than in the past. It's an "on demand" world today, making subscriptions for fixed collections of content for fixed groups of users less attractive than being able to extend rights to subscription content to the people who really need it in the "here and now." These are problems that subscription information services wrestle with regularly, but they're generally not the kind of thing that technology companies focus on deeply. Similarly, subscription information services companies generally tread fairly lightly on the really knotty enterprise content integration issues that technology companies focus on regularly.

How does a technology company shoehorn content from thousands of different types of content sources, including any number of subscription information resources, into a cohesive whole that protects the value of their brand? Well, search technologies can play a key role, but it takes more than a simple crawl of easily accessed content sources to pull all of the content that an enterprise needs from internal and external sources into a common framework. Most search engines are geared to handle just a handful of different types of content repositories. In the typical enterprise there may be hundreds and even thousands of different kinds of content sources that need to be brought into a common framework. Even if you were able to crawl all of those sources with one search engine, good luck building a common index for them. The timeliness and size of that index would always be a major design and maintenance compromise.

As the leading source of OEM content integration technologies, MuseGlobal finds itself oftentimes at the intersection of these very thorny issues. Enterprise technology companies need to respond rapidly to client demands for completely integrated content sources that cross many different technology suppliers while maintaining the value of their core technologies in the eyes of their clients. Enterprise information companies need to be able to "play the game" of enterprise information integration successfully with whatever technologies suit their clients best - while maintaining a clearly understandable value proposition to the people using and paying for their content. In both instances the key to a viable solution for both the short term and the long term lies oftentimes in MuseGlobal's ability to unify access to more types of content from more types of content sources than any other content integration technology available today.

That's why MuseGlobal's Smart Connector technologies are so popular these days. Smart Connectors enable connectivity to thousands of different types of content sources on an "on demand" basis from any technology platform, combining in a common format all of the information that someone needs into the most relevant "just-in-time" information that people need based on a single query. Then Smart Connectors can push back to those sources whatever updates that clients may need to post to them.

MuseGlobal has done it hundreds of times for thousands of enterprise installations for nearly a decade. How can enterprise subscription information services ensure that their clients will not lose sight of their services as their complex integration needs threaten to leave their products and services out of the picture? MuseGlobal's ability to integrate not just content sources but complex and multi-layered security and access permissioning into simple and easily administered single sign-ons for their users ensures that their content will be at their clients' fingertips on whatever platform suits them best. Best of all, it's all stuff that we've done again and again - we've ironed out pretty much all of the big issues that most companies will face in staring down the challenges of unified access to content.

It turns out that although search solutions are a big part of what people are willing to invest in these days that it takes far more than search alone to meet their expectations. It takes the ability to unify absolutely everything into the freshest and most relevant information resources available, the ability to do it rapidly, cost-effectively and efficiently, the ability to maintain the unity of your content sources with as little work as possible and the ability to keep potentially complex administration needs from turning a beautiful solution into a cauldron of troublesome issues. This is all do-able stuff - or, should I say, done stuff. At least we think so. "Bang for the buck" from unified access is not news to us - it's just what it takes to do unified access right.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is Twitter a Serious Threat to Google? (Should You Really Have to Care?)


The Google search engine has become such a major part of our lives for the past several years that in the minds of many people the debate over who's king of the hill in search on the Web was ended long ago. With recent media ratings showing that nearly two-thirds of all searches in the U.S. are initiated through Google, it doesn't appear that its position as the pre-eminent destination for everyday searching will be in jeopardy any time soon. Or will it?

In recent days there's been quite a bit of twittering in the news about search features surfacing in test mode on Twitter, the broadcast messaging service that's been

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

skyrocketing in popularity over the past several months. In fact, search on Twitter is not really new at all: they purchased the search engine assets of Summize about a year ago and have since supported a separate search of messages with real-time updates - in effect a customizable real-time filtered message feed. The search features surfacing now on Twitter in test mode are largely the repackaging of these already existing capabilities. But with Twitter having the wherewithal to make its search capabilities more visible and integrated with its core messaging service, the question of what happens at the intersection of broadcast messaging and search is becoming more interesting to many people.

Why is the ability to search Twitter messages so important to many people? Well, as the only highly scalable broadcast messaging service currently in play on the Web, Twitter has become a de facto source of breaking news and opinion monitored by many people - including enterprises wanting to understand what's happening in their market sectors. Is there an earthquake in China? You'll hear hundreds of first-hand reports about it first on Twitter, including links to photos and videos snapped by people equipped with mobile access to Twitter.

Want to be the first to hear of news being reported by major media outlets and corporations? Increasingly Twitter is becoming the channel that gets the first headline and link out on the Web from traditional sources of news. How are people reacting to major events? Searching the opinions found on Twitter is now occupying more of marketers' attention in determining where they stand in the battle for influencing their existing and prospective customers. Think of Twitter as the largest and most intelligent sensor network in the world, keeping people in touch with physical, social, financial and professional realities being broadcast for the world to tune into on a moment-by-moment basis.

But as powerful at Twitter may be at delivering the right-now view of the world from hundreds of thousands of points of view every minute, it is in fact just one input that people need to make decisions in their lives. If I want to know if an earthquake is actually happening, I may turn to Twitter for first-hand accounts. If I want those first-hand reports assembled into a cohesive story, I may want to look at mainstream news outlets. If I want to know how I can send aid to the victims, chances are I may turn to Google to research what resources are available. If I want to consider how my corporation is going to be impacted by it, I will turn to my intranet database, email and file management resources. If I want to study emergency preparedness in detail, I may search on Amazon for current books by leading experts. Each input may be important to me on different levels for different purposes.

So if your question is something along the lines of "Who will be the champion of search a few years from now, Google or Twitter?" you're asking the wrong question. The real question should be, "How can I profit from all of the searchable information sources available at any time, no matter where they come from?" Information from Twitter searches and feeds will be most valuable when it's available alongside all of the relevant information sources that can add depth to the insights that its short messages point towards. Having searchable real-time messages from Twitter is a great feature, but if you don't have all of the other information resources available that relate to those inputs, you're only halfway down the path to making great decisions.

That's where MuseGlobal comes into the picture, of course. Our OEM Smart Connector technology can comb through Twitter content as easily and as rapidly as it does more than 6,000 other types of Web and enterprise content sources and search engines, performing data normalization, categorizing and integrating it all on the fly into whatever technology platform, program interface or application that suits your needs. Most importantly, MuseGlobal Smart Connector technologies are not just for listening: your software and services can publish content to Twitter and other platforms as well via MuseGlobal Smart Connectors, enabling a cycle of monitoring, evaluating and responding that can make the most of all of the well-filtered inputs available from your MuseGlobal-connected content sources.

So who will have the best search engine in the world a few years from now? You will - if you have deployed MuseGlobal's highly scalable Smart Connector technology to enable your platform to be configured rapily and reliably to take advantage of whatever searchable and updateable content sources matter most to your audiences. No need to put any guesswork into it; just deploy the solution that's been working at thousands of locations worldwide for our hundreds of OEM clients for nearly a decade. Now that's something worth twittering about!