Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Barry Murphy. Published: 2013-05-09 10:03:14  Information Governance (IG) is an incredibly complex task thanks to the distributed ways in which companies create and store information.  The holy grail of IG is centralized management of distributed information assets.  Much like the King Arthur’s grail, this IG grail is difficult, if not impossible, to find.  Enterprise Content Management (ECM) approaches have not worked and enterprise search has not proven to impact the high costs associated with such activities as eDiscovery.  That doesn’t stop vendors from trying to create solutions that will get us closer to finding that holy grail, as I was reminded of during a recent vendor briefing.I heard from Acaveo about the company’s new Smart Information Server.  Acaveo’s goal is to make metadata the foundation of IG.  By taking a scrape of metadata from distributed information sources, the Smart Information Server aims to give organizations a central tool from which to manage policies, control storage, and conduct activities like defensible deletion.  The product leverages the indexes of the data sources (e.g. SharePoint) when it gets time for things like keyword search.This concept is not necessarily new; the likes of Kazeon (now part of EMC) and StoredIQ (now part of IBM) delivered similar functionality to the market a decade ago.  While those “thindex” applications did provide some value for specific projects, they were unable to fulfill the promise of centralized information governance.  The advantage that Acaveo has with its approach is multifold:

  • Acaveo is not trying to overreach and be all things to all people.  The first-generation thindex products came to market during boom times.  The companies received a ton of venture funding and promised to solve every problem that unstructured content presented: storage management; compliance; privacy; security; eDiscovery; and knowledge management.  Companies weren’t ready for such an over-arching solution and, quite frankly, the technologies weren’t ready for prime time.  Issues of performance and scalability dogged those first-generation solutions.  Acaveo is focusing on tight use-cases, e.g. defensible deletion and offering a flexible rules engine (more on that later) so that customers can leverage the product for discreet projects rather than some broad IG program.
  • While Acaveo does mention scalability as a differentiator (something that always induces a healthy dose of skepticism from analysts), it is an important component of such a solution given the issues that the first-generation products ran into.  The only way to truly judge scalability is through customer success stories and Acaveo’s product is brand new to the market – we will have to wait and see if users report better scalability than first-generation products.  The potential advantage that Acaveo has in this regard is the benefit of learning from the mistakes the first-generation products made when it came to scalability.  Many of those appliance-based products simply couldn’t scale past a certain amount of data, or searches would break down when data sets were too large.  If Acaveo can avoid those problems, the message of scale might resonate with potential customers.
  • Acaveo’s Smart Information Server provides a bit more flexibility in handling and leveraging metadata. Any custom field in SharePoint, standard or custom property from Exchange, or extended file attribute can be leveraged along with any attributes from Active Directory.  The application thus offers a variety of ways to interrogate unstructured data, which means that the rules engine can better target information assets.  And, the rules engine itself can be tailored for specific use-cases such as defensible deletion (e.g. targeted data filtering, multi-user workflows to ensure permissions), which makes the product immediately more usable for real projects (our recent IG survey showed that defensible deletion is one of the more common projects underway).

While this application may not be a novel new way to conduct centralized IG, it is possible that the “return of the information server” could gain traction this time around.  The concept is already proving successful with vendors like Nuix winning customers in North America and developing a reputation as an easy-to-use and scalable tool.  The challenge for Acaveo will be competing with vendors like Nuix that have larger channels and salesforces and more advanced partnerships already developed.  There is always room for more competition, though.One way that Acaveo looks to differentiate itself early on is support for Cloud-based information repositories.  Already, the Smart Information Server supports Office 365 and the company is working on support for Box.net.  The ability to govern Cloud repositories simultaneously alongside on-premise repositories will be important in the near-term.  Those considering Acaveo, or any other information server provider, will need to look closely at how the Cloud repository connectors work.  I think Acaveo’s approach has potential; the road for the company will be uphill, though, given the deeper pockets of potential competition.  The applicability of the Smart Information Server to multiple, discreet IG projects and the flexibility of the rules engine to make policy management simpler and more straightforward could help Acaveo gain some traction with reference customers and make a bigger push in the market.  I, for one, am interested to see what level of success the company can have.eDiscoveryJournal Contributor and Lead Analyst – Barry Murphy

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