Search Behind the Firewall, or, The Potential for the Information CMDB

…or, Lunch at The Blogging Enterprise 2005.

From talking with a table-mate from National Instruments, I came across the
idea that search is, and/or could become, something like a CMDB for
information in the enterprise:

  • Search can be the one-stop-shopping place for keeping up with
    info as it’s created, updated, and deleted. By caching and indexing
    all the information, you can accomplish the second thing…
  • If you’re looking around for something, you can search for
    it. The CMDB analogy being that, with a CMDB, you don’t have to go
    visit every single machine in your network to find all the XP boxes
    that need SP2 applied, you just ask the CMDB, ’cause it stored all
    that profile info.
  • If “actions”/macros are added to search results, and batches of
    search results, you can move towards a good
    approach to a compliance
    oriented architecture

Search Actions

That last point is where is gets exciting: what would make search
fully like a CMDB/Systems Management app would be if actions were
linked from your search results and you could take batch actions on
search results.

Tag & Bag Information, or, Regulation, Compliance, and CYA

For example, let’s say you need to retrieve all information related
to a patent lawsuit you’re involved in, for example, about JPEG. It
needs to be marked and bundled up to send to your lawyers. With a next
generation search app, you could write-up search queries like “JPEG or
JPG or ‘image file formats'”, etc. Then you could hook up an action
that would create a zip file with PDFs of each search result, to send
to lawyers.

Since it’d all be involved in a lawsuit, you’d want to assign ID’s
to each item so you could track them. So, your system could do
this. Even better, you could get a history of all the changes that
information had gone through, ’cause your search app had cached each
version of the doc, or, as CVS would do, the diffs between each
version. This would be analogous to versioning your configuration in a


By slapping RSS on top of search (creating RSS feeds from search
results), you can start to do mash-ups of behind-the-firewall
information. The top contenders are the “classic” examples of
distributing newsletter information to employees, thought leadership,
and statuses that you’d otherwise waste time in meetings

Ending the Intranet Ice-age

As I’ve noted
, all the services you take for granted on the internet —
Google, flickr,, bloglines, technorati — don’t exist. The
technology on typical intranets is effectively frozen in the late
90’s. What’s exciting about search behind the firewall is that it can
be the platform/beach head for providing all these features.

The Actions Are Endless

The patent CYA is a pretty simple example. But, you can imagine how
much you could do with your information once you normalize and cache
it into a central search repository: like I’m saying, it’s the
Information CMDB.

Lighting the Dark Information

Another interesting analog between a CMDB and search is that the application helps you get value out of what you already have. Also, it helps you stop loosing value from what you have. In the CMDB world, by imposing the regulations that come with that ITIL-mindset, you make IT more efficient and controlled, the goal being to let your IT group be less fire-fighter focused and more “how can we make money with all this IT” focused.

is, large companies have tons of information: silo’ed, “dark,” or
otherwise dead and lost. There’s money to be squeezed outta those stones, and search
is looking like a damn good juicer.

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  1. they call it master data management. MDM is to business process as CMDB is to IT process. IBM launched a ton of MDM stuff yesterday – its how they plan to compete with SAP. nice catch on the pattern- very analytical of you. :-)

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