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HP and Autonomy: Is change coming in enterprise IDOL?

Autonomy, prior to its acquisition by Hewlett Packard in 2011, was arguably the best marketer of search and retrieval. Consider these facts. Autonomy had revenues of more than $800 million a year from its search and content processing businesses. Its capabilities spanned traditional search, video search and fraud detection analytics. Autonomy's marketing savvy pivoted on the clever catchphrase "meaning-based computing," and the company branded its technology as IDOL, shorthand for "integrated data operating layer."

Also, Autonomy moved to adjacent markets more quickly than its competitors; for example, hosted services with its Zantaz buy and content management with its Interwoven acquisition. Autonomy offered sentiment and voice-of-the-customer services before other search vendors had identified those concepts as sources of revenue.

In 2003, when I wrote the first edition of The Enterprise Search Report, a 400-page encyclopedia of the leading vendors in enterprise search, Autonomy was the largest and most visible brand. Almost a decade later, Autonomy remained the largest and most visible brand until Hewlett Packard acquired it.

The future

What will become of Autonomy's enterprise search business, and where are Autonomy, meaning-based computing and IDOL heading? In a June 6 article in The Wall Street Journal by Ben Worthen, HP CEO Meg Whitman is quoted as saying, "I'm not transforming HP into a software company." With 20,000 licensees, Autonomy is a software company. Now Autonomy is without Michael Lynch, the individual who made Autonomy an $800 million gorilla in the enterprise search and content processing sector.

Some background: HP has faced some interesting challenges. There have been some market-imposed hurdles, such as the decline of HP's print-and-ink margins. Traditional desktop and luggable laptop markets have been stomped by mobile devices, not traditional desktop and laptop computers. HP entered and exited the fast-growing mobile device sector with a stock-slamming about-face.

And there have been some governance problems. HP's board of directors found itself engaged in an internal eavesdropping dustup and then blew through two CEOs before selecting Meg Whitman to steer the $100 billion-plus company through a storm-tossed financial sea. One of Whitman's command decisions was to terminate more than 25,000 HP employees to reduce costs at HP.

Setting its sights on big data? 

ReadWriteWeb ran an article June 5—"HP Reveals Post-Acquisition Plans for Autonomy" (http://goo.gl/dNLHj)--that might show some of HP's plans for Autonomy and its IDOL technology. Author Scott M. Fulton writes, "The killer app for big data, according to HP—and thus for Autonomy--is consumer sentiment analytics: the ability to glean from the Web's enormous collection of textual communication the gist of what buyers are saying about a given product or service."

What happened to enterprise search? If this positioning is accurate, HP is moving into big data, analytics and sentiment analysis. Will the new approach bundle Interwoven's content management, Virage's video search and Aurasma's augmented reality, all from Autonomy, in one new product offering?

The key to HP's strategy for big data is called HP Autonomy Optimost Clickstream Analytics. The new Autonomy positioning embraces big data as a way to reduce risk. The article in ReadWriteWeb includes a statement attributed to Andrew Joiner, an executive in a "point position" for the new HP initiative.

Risk assessment

Joiner is quoted as saying, "Imagine if you're a Wall Street firm, and you're communicating with customers, subject to a whole host of regulations and corporate [policies]. If you're trying to assess your risk, you cannot only look at the structure side of the equation. Just because someone sends 50 messages more than another person doesn't necessarily mean that individual has more risk. You have to look at a combination of things: Potentially that person's sending them late at night, and they're a registered person, and they're talking about these types of topics, calling me on a nonreported line, calling me on my personal cell phone--that's a measure of risk. So you have to look at when that person [talks] and who that person is, but then combine that with the topics of the information that are contained in that e-mail, which is the human-friendly information. The combination gives you an assessment of risk."

Is Autonomy Optimost Clickstream Analytics focused on search, semantics and information retrieval? Joiner, according to ReadWriteWeb, said, "Because it is geared toward marketers, we tried to remove a lot of the technical orientation. In other words, we're trying to ensure that from a deployment perspective, it can be done in the cloud, and they can get up and running with clicking and tracking very quickly ... The analytics application answers some of the most difficult questions immediately. For instance, we'd like to have a better understanding of who is coming to your website, not what they're doing or what they're actually clicking on, but who those individuals are. We're taking socio-demographic information about your users-behavior that we can learn. What are they reading on the page? That information then becomes part of the corpus of analysis, so you can ask simple questions of [what will make] your website more dynamic and more personable ... the real questions that you're trying to ask, that traditional structured analytics can't tell you."


I heard Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, refer to "dataveillance" systems. They are systems that perform surveillance using the exhaust from online behavior. Optimost Clickstream Analytics strikes me as an application of hardware and software to perform meta-monitoring of structured and unstructured information.

Autonomy is not one company. It was the most successful of the rollups in the information processing sector. Autonomy identified a company that offered complementary technology and possessed customers in markets that it wanted to enter. Its genius was its management's ability to identify those opportunities and then generate revenue via upselling or by repurposing the acquired technology. Did you know that the Zantaz and Interwoven acquisitions paved the way for Autonomy to become a key player in delivering cloud-based analytics to Madison Avenue types?

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