Index Engines

Serial entrepreneurs hope to fill enterprise search void - the SAN way

November 23, 2004

3 Min Read
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A dynamic duo is at it again. After getting two file system software startups up and running, the founders of CrosStor Software and Tacit Networks Inc. have settled on enterprise search for their next project.

Tim Williams and Gordon Harris have been working for more than a year on their third new company, called Index Engines Inc. Williams and Harris sold CrosStor to EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) in 2000, then moved on to file-caching vendor Tacit Networks (see Tacit Makes Funding Explicit). Now, as Index Engines's CEO and CTO, respectively, Williams, and Harris expect to come out of stealth early next year with what they call a SAN-based enterprise search application.

That application was developed after the founders decided there is a screaming need -- fueled partly by compliance requirements -- for companies to rapidly sift through mounds of corporate data. One application we found was ripe for a startup was enterprise search,” Williams says. “No one’s addressing it effectively.”

The Holmdel, N.J.-based startup has 11 employees, mostly developers, and is privately funded by the founders. They plan to go to venture capitalists for an expansion round next year after releasing their product.

If Index Engines hopes to fill a market void, it might have to move fast. Competitors include EMC, whose Documentum includes enterprise search features (see Legato Embeds Verity's Search and EMC Delivers Content Integration).Google also recently announced plans to beef up the enterprise features in its search appliance. The enhancements will allow Google to dig deeper into enterprise data rather than just search Web-related information. Other enterprise search venders include Verity Inc. and Fast.Williams and Harris say Index Engines’ product, for which they're seeking a patent, searches data in a fundamentally different way from its competitors. They also emphasize that it runs on a SAN rather than a LAN.

“Search engines crawl the network looking for things,” Williams says. “We don’t do that kind of search. We teach the storage fabric to learn about itself and index itself. We took a different and difficult approach. We stayed in stealth and worked on the product for more than a year.”

Williams describes traditional search technology thus: “It's a crawling process with agents everywhere eating up your CPU resources. They’re complex to run and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We thought this was an application that belongs in the storage fabric.”

He says the product is in use at beta sites, but won't give details.

Williams and Harris founded CrosStor in 1990 and sold it a decade later in a stock deal valued at $300 million (see Storage Deals Hit by Deflation). EMC integrated the software into its early NAS products (see EMC Hits NetApp in the Middle). Williams and Harris stayed on at EMC for a while before taking on their next project, Tacit.The jury is still out on Tacit, which they started in 2001 and led through an angel funding round and early product releases. Williams stepped down as Tacit CEO in June 2003, while Harris remains on its advisory board (see Tacit Turns Up CEO).

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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