Thursday, 10 March 2016 11:52

The Elastic Stack makes searching easy, fast and open source

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It's an old joke that with IT if you want good, fast and cheap you have to choose two. Elastic wants you to have all three.
 
The Elastic stack is the search engine you've been using without knowing it. Powering some popular and big names - Facebook and Netflix, Atlassian, SEEK and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to name just five - Elastic provides an open source and freely available operating system-agnostic search engine. It retrieves data at high-speed, freeing a business from the arduous task of managing mass volumes of data to actually working with meaningful, insightful information. It opens the possibilities of exploring and finding trends, something which can only happen when your basic reporting requirements are so well met that they are no longer a pressing issue.
 
Elastic began with a simple concept by founder Shay Banon, who developed an open-source, distributed, RESTful search and analytics engine named Elasticsearch, out of a simple idea to search for recipes.
 
The stack grew from Elasticsearch to include Logstash - a data-collection and transportation pipeline, Kibana - a data visualisation platform allowing you to interact with your data through powerful drill-down dashboards and imagery, and Beats - a platform for building lightweight data shippers to help leverage any type of data required. Like Elasticsearch, the other components in the stack are open source and freely available for use.
 
Elastic gives away the core stack; the company is committed to the integrity of its open source vision and that they do not make a free and commercial version and thus dilute the capabilities. The revenue model is akin to that of other prominent open-source businesses where support services are charged, plus new commercial offerings which sit on top of Elastic are available.
 
These include security, partitioning of data so users may only view that which they are permitted to, alerting and other items. In addition, Elastic offers a hosted solution which will ingest a company's data and provide the entire Elastic stack and experience on top without the user needing to bother with infrastructure management.
 
I recently met with Robert Lau, Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific and Japan along with Solutions Architect Mark Walkom during Cisco Live, as well as a customer who happened to be passing by.
 
Lau has an impressive background, having spent the previous 17 years bringing three disruptive technology startups to Asia Pacific resulting in three IPOs, 4000 jobs, thousands of customers, $3b in total revenue and $20b in shareholder value.
 
Most recently came from Splunk as Vice President and General Manager for Asia Pacific. While at Splunk Lau developed an innovative go-to-market strategy and successfully built a world-class field organisation from scratch, developing a strong partner ecosystem and delivered consistently high revenue growth. Prior to Splunk Lau delivered the same performance for ArcSight and Portal Software.
 
Lau brings impressive strength and drive to Elastic. As impressive as his demonstrated experience is what struck me most about Elastic - above the core tech and the possibility of a viable Tableau or Power BI or Qlik competitor - was the passionate enthusiasm staff and users alike felt about Elastic.
 
Walkom himself was an Elastic customer who, stuck with a budget that wouldn't allow paid support, decided to delve into supporting Elastic himself, contributing to mailing lists and to the community. This was borne out of his own need for the product to work in his environment, and led to him being offered the role as first Elastic employee within Australia.
 
The Elastic story is a fascinating one, in terms of a company providing powerful data collection and analytics and giving away the core software meaning you can use it right now without any impediments, and in terms of an enthusiastic community consisting of staff and users working together to make tools that genuinely solve problems, and further, in terms of a product that quite literally can search anything. The product has gained a following in analysing log files, but just as Shay Banon wished to search recipes, so too you can leverage the Elastic stack for your business problems be they technical data, financial data, employee KPIs or whatever else you can conceive.
 
While at this time Elasticsearch is the search engine you maybe didn't even know you were using, it's accessible immediately for use on your data problems. Further, it's my view we will in time see Kibana being ranked against traditional Business Intelligence platforms gaining recognition from business leaders and analysts in that space.
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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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