Monday, March 23, 2009

A Data Base is just another source, a tribute to Molière’s play “le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”


A lot has been said about the convergence between Business Intelligence and Enterprise Search. I've discussed this with many customers and partners wondering if yes or no, like Mister Jourdain who was speaking in prose without knowing it, Sinequa was already doing Business Intelligence. My view is that sometimes we talk about Business Intelligence when it would be more fair to talk about DataBase Offloading.

« Database Offloading » means using a search engine to query and use the content of a database. The database was designed to manage transactions, and not to optimize access to its content in order to rapidly populate third party applications. For example, a database where all the transactions of a bank are stored and managed contains information that could be accessible in order to give an immediate unified view of a given customer's history.

  • The "IT 1.0" solution was to copy the database content in a datawarehouse, then allow querying of this datawarehouse. This solution was the result of technical limitations or hard facts inherited from the past (cost of hardware, databases performance,…). Today this looks too heavy and costly for the job done.
  • The "IT 2.0" solution is to use an Enterprise Search engine to index the database content and therefore facilitate access to relevant information. Some parameterization may be necessary to complete this. The search engine must be precise, robust and scalable, completely designed using Web standards in terms of architecture and technology. Moreover, a next generation Enterprise Search engine will also be able to generate distributions on quantitative criteria related to a specific column. Sinequa allows this approach. A pioneer of this intelligent solution is Jean-Paul Figer, former CTO of Cap Gemini and today running his own IT architecture company; he promotes this in a REST styleJ (cf. sorry this is in French. REST, un style plus qu'un standard). Jean-Paul Figer has been able to take advantage of the disruption brought by search technologies and he can divide the cost of a project by 10 or more; more important he can reduce the time of implementation. A good Enterprise Search engine, like Sinequa, contributes in this case to huge improvements in productivity. However, this approach is not properly addressing Business Intelligence but more specifically « Database Offloading » and application rewriting in REST.

I'll conclude this post underlying that a second step is possible, when a Search Bus with good management of security rights is available: expand applicative possibilities to content beyond the database perimeter, indexing information from less structured sources, and therefore contributing to a 360° vision of the customer (or any other relevant subject). Here again, scalability, security management, connectivity, make all this possible.

The idea of this post came from the post of Adriaan Bloem, Analyst at CMS, who explains that using a search technology to access the content of a database at a lower cost is smart, but has more to do with « Database offloading » than with Business Intelligence.

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