Enterprise search plans focus on security first

In an era where relationships between data management and network security are increasingly significant issues, enterprise network managers require corporate search applications that navigate through growing avalanches of information and still maintain hierarchical-based network access when searching for files.

Brian Babineau, analyst with Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, says that current practices for organizations managing data rest on understanding the value of both indexing all forms of data and being able to find information.

“I think it has to be handled at an identity and access management security layer of when you log on to your PC, you automatically authenticate into the application that you need to do your job. One of those applications will be a business intelligence or enterprise search platform, so when you authenticate your permissions are passed through and then when you conduct a search, you don’t have to re-authenticate. Now, all of this leads to the question, who can search what and what types of results can they see? This is where identity and access management and role-based access on top of these search platforms are required,” Babineau says.

Babineau says that while the benefits to companies using enterprise search technology, such as Google’s OneBox for Enterprise, are numerous, there’s sometimes hesitation in adopting such organizational methods due to concerns over network security.

“They [companies] don’t want to have the wrong people have access to the wrong data. There’s a balancing act that says we want to have these tools within our business but we want to make sure we have controlled access to the tools. You have to make sure that hierarchical structure goes across all those enterprise search products up through that one search portal.”

So what are search companies doing to help make a network manager’s life a bit easier when it comes to search and security?

San Francisco, Calif. and Cambridge, England-based Autonomy Inc. is one organization impacting the enterprise search market. Stouffer Egan, CEO for Autonomy (U.S.), says his company has to adjust its approaches for what he calls meaning-based computing — the idea that the meaning in the document, when conducting enterprise search, matters.

“In those enterprise environments where you have a very big business, they have tens, if not a hundred, repositories where their enterprise information lives, and each of those has a different security model. From Autonomy’s perspective, those security rights are there for a reason. They need to be worked within. It’s our job as an enterprise vendor to honour and leverage each and all of those security models in our layer as to provide search-based applications,” Egan says.

Autonomy employs the use of Connectors that feed what the company calls the Intelligent Data Operating Layer. These Connectors allow searches across wider area networks of data storage, called repositories, where an individual performs a search and all search results are returned from different categories of information. Further, Autonomy’s Import API allows companies to develop their own Connectors to support proprietary repositories.

Matthew Glotzbach, Head of Products for Google Enterprise, is involved in Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc.’s OneBox for Enterprise. He says OneBox allows companies to engage in secure searches across most business applications.

OneBox, launched last April, breaks down enterprise silos in a user-centric manner with Native file-system crawling, employing a UI design and utilizing REST-based API. Capable of search reaches of 30 million documents, the Google OneBox uses a security apparatus of user authentication, with standard SAML interfaces and Native LDAP authentication.

“We’re really spanning the entire market. The good news about the search market is that every company, no matter the size, has a search challenge. They all have more information than they know what to do with,” Glotzbach says.

“Even though there are more requirements and more complexities with Global 1000-style accounts, the need is still the same, they want fast, easy to use search. They like the appliance approach, because it is a plug-and-play type model. They don’t want to have to go through the ERP systems of the 80’s and 90’s and go through five-year deployments, they want to get this up quickly.”

Babineau says many companies are considering the Google OneBox for Enterprise.

“Google is very good at indexing HTML files. Through the OneBox, they’ve been able to create partnerships with other indexing and search players, so you can have a unified interface across Word docs, Excel files and HTML files. It’s [Google OneBox] good enough, they’ve done a good job at partnering with other search platforms so they can present the content that is indexed by other search platforms.”

Egan says that search and security issues are vastly different for internal searches, mostly due to the sheer number of data conduits that contain different types of information available internally. While outside information searches of, for example, an online jobs web page, involve many requests to a single Web site or database, searches internally require much more resources and time on the part of network managers.

“The security requirements in an enterprise are very robust and doesn’t just mean numerically. It means you’ve got lots of employees who have different rights to different combinations of all the sources of enterprise information. Meeting that requirement inside of a large enterprise is a very scale-oriented security problem. Inside the enterprise, the complexity of searching rises greatly.”

For Babineau, enterprise search is a form of data management that is still very much in its infancy — a better way for companies to organize and secure data but not necessarily the magic bullet in completely integrating active directories with filtering identity and access management. At least, not yet.

“Customers know this is going to be a getting-your-toe-in-the-water, get comfortable and understand what you can do and how you can do it, so customers can utilize the technology without shooting themselves in the foot. So I think it’s a touch-and-go, see what we can do kind of experience, because it is all relatively new.”

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