SRCH2: Out-Googling Google

By Arnold, Stephen E. | Information Today, July-August 2013 | Go to article overview

SRCH2: Out-Googling Google


Arnold, Stephen E., Information Today


Have you taken Samuru for a search test-drive? What about Ark, Q-Sensei, Shodan, or YaCy?

With Google dominating search, we can ask the question whether there is room for other search systems. blekko, DuckDuckGo, and Yandex have captured more media attention than some of the search newcomers. If I include companies positioning their technology as discovery, there's another layer of options, such as Agilex, Connotate, Palantir, Recorded Future, and Visual Analytics.

There is a perception that search and related disciplines such as content processing, discovery, and predictive analytics are stagnating. It's true that Google has a grip on the popular imagination. The company is even the star of a motion picture; Hollywood actors (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) play salesmen who land internships at Google in 20th Century Fox's The Internship. And yet search is still a bustling discipline.

In spring 2013, an aggressive public relations and marketing campaign pushed SRCH2 into my over-flight monitoring system. The Next Web's coverage of SRCH2 stressed that the firm was founded by former Google professionals. Investors in the company include a who's who of savvy groups, including Data Collective, Horizon Ventures, TenOneTen Ventures (Gil Elbaz's company), Clark Landry (SHIFT), Taher Haveliwala (Kalfix Corp.), as well as some high-profile angels. "SRCH2's goal is to make enterprise search 'instant'," according to The Next Web. We know that snappy response time can be difficult in web and enterprise settings; network bandwidth, computing resources, and inefficient software can make some search systems trigger high blood pressure among users.

A Killer Combination

SRCH2 reports it is ready for prime time. Intrigued, I talked to the founders about the company and interviewed Chen Li, a graduate of Stanford University and a former Google employee, in May 2013.

Chen Li explained the problem he wanted to solve:

   In many ways, Google's unveiling
   of "Instant Search" in
   2010 provided consumers with
   a powerful example of what
   search could do for them. But
   extending that idea out to different
   internal and external
   corporate search boxes, on a
   wide variety of platforms and
   devices, has been difficult.
   Customizing existing search
   tools to deliver some version
   of "rich search" functionality
   has proven to produce an end-product
   which is complex, brittle,
   and slow. SRCH2 offers
   clear differentiation when you
   also consider complexity and
   time to market. When you add
   in-memory performance to this,
   SRCH2 offers a killer combination
   for these use cases.

The idea is that SRCH2 is purposefully built to deliver a Google-style solution to enterprise licensees. Google tried to put "Google in a box" with its Google Search Appliance. Though the appliances are still available, the features have lagged behind what Google offers to its consumer customers.

The ideas that infuse SRCH2's system have been percolating for 10-plus years. Chen Li first published work in the field while he was a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford more than a decade ago. His Ph.D. advisor was Jeffrey Ullman, who is now an investor and advisor at SRCH2. Chen Li's own research focused on the challenges around fast access to data. In 2012, the ACM Special Interest Group on Management of Data honored him with its Test of Time Award, and, in early May 2013, Chen Li received the 10-Year Best Paper award from DASFAA (Database Systems for Advanced Applications) in Wu Han, China. Boiling down SRCH2's research efforts is difficult. "We have been investing in research related to databases, search, and big data," according to Chen Li, who was guarded about the licensees of SRCH2's technology and noted the following:

   SRCH2 clients are using
   it in a wide variety of contexts
   and devices. One of the things
   we're very proud of is the
   breadth of uses and use cases. … 

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