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Icon_blog_forum_small Perfect search
Brian de Haaff
2/4/2008 12:31 pm

We are passionate about our vision of finding answers for business. Others want to help find information and make it accessible. At Paglo, we ensure that companies find answers. And our strategy is simple: Search. Search is the best solution for solving problems that require ad hoc investigation. It’s ideally suited to solve problems where waves of heterogeneous data must be discovered and correlated to answer complex questions.

Search has transformed consumer behavior, but has yet to fundamentally change how business is managed. We are focused on doing just that, starting with the world’s first search engine for IT. We help make IT administrators into heroes by enabling them to discover all of their IT data and, through the use of search, to solve their technology management problems.

We have a notion of what the Perfect Search Engine for business would be, and that’s what we’re aiming for. It will always be a work-in-progress, but working towards it sets our course. Our goal is to give companies a new tool for getting business done. Imagine being able to ask any question and to get an exact response. Imagine that the answer is specific to you and your business, and informed by a larger community. And imagine that the answer is informed by history and is quantitative.

We believe that Search can become the new interface for business. We are a long way from Perfect Search, but we have a number of innovations to help us get much closer. Let’s take a look at what the Perfect Search Engine will look like:

There are databases, documents, and infrastructure in businesses today (in addition to the human beings). Universal Search means that the Perfect Search Engine will automatically collect information about all of the above. It will not be limited to just one type of information or one part of the organization. The Perfect Search Engine should collect information about the entire business environment, as well as allow users to easily add additional information to be indexed.

Many questions have perfect objective answers — yet search engines of today have taught us to be satisfied with only pointers to attempt to locate the quantitative answer ourselves. Why not make the process even more efficient? Imagine if you could ask a specific question like “How many Dell computers do I have?” and receive an exact answer. Or “How many machines are infected with the latest virus?” The Perfect Search Engine must return both simple text and rich quantitative results.

Time is of vital importance when answering questions, because we often need to know when something happened. The Perfect Search Engine will maintain state and understand change. It will record when information is discovered, and have perfect recall. It will allow queries to be constrained by time, for example; “Show me all of the servers running between April 23 and May 30.” By maintaining time as an axis, results can also be returned as trends that highlight changes over time.

Today the process of Search is mostly an impersonal one that is fraught with inefficiency. Your success in finding what you are looking for is gated by your knowledge of how to search and by what has been indexed. We believe that there is a better way to quickly find what you are looking for: we think of it as “social solving.” Social solving is the ability for users to save searches and queries for community use. And the flip side: the ability for users to search for queries and searches saved by others. Think of it as a search engine for searches. The idea is that you access any query that’s been saved and made public, and run it against your own data. Since the concept is the same, any saved query can be used against any set of data. This is especially helpful when you need a query to unravel a complex relationship — such as between users and the applications they have installed on their desktops. The permutations are endless, but if someone has already figured out the query, you can use it against your own set of data. The Perfect Search Engine will have a community of users interacting in innovative and mutually beneficial ways.

We could also call this Customizable. You need the ability to transform how your data is indexed and how it is returned. You need to be able to control how data is presented, based on your own preference and circumstances. Because successful businesses are managed through data analysis, the same queries are often run hourly, daily, or weekly. The Perfect Search Engine should support rich views into the data that are built from queries (which are constantly updated) that are meaningful to you and your organization.

Business search is different than consumer search in a number of key ways. Most importantly, the indexed data should be controllable by the user. You should be able to add data, remove data, or export it at any time. And for this to be possible, the Perfect Search Engine must be open. It starts with a discovery crawler, which must be extendable if the search engine is truly going to offer universal search, since there are always new types of data to be indexed and legacy sources to be tapped. The index itself must also be accessible so you can dump new data directly in and export it at will. This openness also lends itself to additional value added third-party applications and other mashups that you can control as well.

Search is changing how we conduct business and how we operate at work in general. Increasingly, it will become the “go-to tool” for finding answers to complex business questions, just as we use it in our daily lives as consumers to find the phone number of the local restaurant, look up a movie start time, or to re-discover that long lost friend. We have a long way to go and much to do on our journey to pursue the Perfect Search Engine. The opportunity is tremendous, and the journey promises to be a thrilling one.

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