The more I research The Cloud and how eDiscovery will be enabled in it, the more I realize how little of the full story has been told. Last week, we reported on X1 Discovery becoming part of the Amazon AWS (Amazon Web Services) ISV (Independent Software Vendor) program. Amazon’s ISV program for AWS is very new and if you search for eDiscovery on the ISV site, you won’t get a lot of results. In fact, I don’t think even Amazon understands just how much potential there is to be the only public Cloud provider with a robust cadre of eDiscovery solutions at the fingertips of customers. That could be a differentiator, especially for serial litigants or regulated companies that want to leverage Cloud-based solutions.
As I searched the AWS site for eDiscovery stories, I came across another vendor already doing interesting things in the public Cloud with Amazon: Nextpoint. The company has partnered with Amazon since 2007 and Amazon published a case study in 2010 about how Nextpoint has essentially built its capabilities on the Amazon Cloud infrastructure. The benefit of doing this for Nextpoint is multifold:
- Leverage Amazon’s security features (both digital and physical) – web sessions are transferred over HTTPS protocols between application users and AWS to enable secure connections. Firewalls are enabled using the native EC2 Security Groups. AWS has successfully completed a Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70 (SAS70) Type II Audit. Physical access to AWS data centers is tightly monitored.
- Can offer flexibility and scale. Nextpoint can increase processing power by 50x in order to complete time-sensitive tasks for customers. Nextpoint can automatically provision capacity, process data, and then de-provision the capacity once their client’s processing is complete.
- Price competitiveness. Because AWS is pay-as-you-go, Nextpoint does not have the ongoing data center costs that its competitors might.
Outside of giants like HP/Autonomy or IBM, it is hard to imagine that many companies will be able to provide cloud-based solutions for eDiscovery with the economics that public Clouds like Amazon AWS can deliver. Last August, Craig Ball proffered the eDiscovery should live in the Cloud – and for the advanced processing of data that is likely true, at least from a cost perspective. EDD processing costs have fallen dramatically over the past several years and to remain competitive, service providers need to have an edge with margins. It would seem logical that the fastest way to margin would be through a public Cloud infrastructure. eDJ will be investigating the economics of this further as we begin our research them around the role of service providers in eDiscovery.
The public Cloud providers bring economies of scale; third party vendors bring solutions that can leverage the scale, but also meet more specific requirements. With Nextpoint, for example, the architecture is really more of a Virtual Private Cloud with very granular control over security and how data is managed. As the reality of eDiscovery sets in, I expect Amazon to start pushing the ISV ecosystem harder and giving it more publicity.
In reality, there will remain some FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) around The Cloud and how much security there is and how much control organizations have over their data. There will be debate over exactly what “The Cloud” is and some will get lost in semantics. There will be some confusion over what one means when referring to eDiscovery in The Cloud, simply because the eDiscovery lifecycle extends far and wide (on-premise collection and preservation still have to happen, remember).
All that said, there is a wonderful opportunity for vendors like Amazon and their ISV partners to get out ahead of the problem with a message about how eDiscovery can be efficiently enabled in Cloud-based applications. The corporate market may not realize how badly they need efficient eDiscovery in The Cloud, and so now is the time to start telling the story and making sure the solutions are in place.
eDiscoveryJournal Contributor – Barry Murphy