"We were way ahead of the rest of the market, in terms of looking at this broader area of unstructured data," boasts Nicole Eagan, CMO for Autonomy, Corp., speaking of the company’s place in the enterprise search marketplace. In 1996, the company got its start when founder and CEO Michael Lynch, Ph.D., Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, took what he learned about how humans process information while studying at Cambridge University and decided to apply it to computers. So was born what Autonomy calls "meaning-based computing."
To move beyond structured databases and "old-fashioned" computing, Autonomy "came at the market quite differently," Eagan says. "We saw there could be good information in any unstructured data." With this in mind, Eagan says, Autonomy wondered, "What if we just let people index, search, and process it all to get value out of it?"
By "applying very advanced algorithms" to information, Eagan says Autonomy makes "understanding the meaning of human-friendly information" a reality for computers. Autonomy’s approach centers on what it calls "meaning-based computing"—the ability to form an understanding of all information, whether it be structured, semistructured, or unstructured, and recognize the relationships that exist within it.
Focusing on unstructured data meant the U.K.-based Autonomy solution was well-suited to "working with governments and intelligence agencies and what turned into homeland defense," according to Eagan. However, Autonomy saw more applications for its approach. "We took that type of technology and applied it to the corporate world."
It is a commonly referenced statistic that about 80% of a company’s information is unstructured. Autonomy tackled this challenge from the start, with its early focus on turning information that computers could not understand into searchable and more readily usable data. For instance, when you call your bank and hear a warning that your call may be recorded for quality control purposes, it may in fact be scanned by Autonomy’s Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) Server. The IDOL Server allows users to index data; find what they are looking for; cluster like concepts together automatically; visualize data; group areas of interest together; and profile information—all on a single platform.
Using the call center example, IDOL can search the recorded calls and group them based on any number of concepts, including topic or sentiment. Other companies provide solutions that can search video, voice, or emails, yet Autonomy provides a unified approach that recognizes voice, data, email, instant messaging, text, and video.
In 2005 Autonomy acquired the U.S.-based Verity, a move that added new customers and an American outpost to the mix. Its customer base now includes more than 17,000 global companies, featuring a slew of household names such as BBC, Bloomberg, Boeing, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, DaimlerChrysler AG, Deutsche Bank, Ericsson, Ford, GlaxoSmithKline, NASA, Nestle, the New York Stock Exchange, Reuters, Shell, and some formidable agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. More than 350 companies OEM Autonomy technology, including Adobe, Citrix, EDS, HP, Novell, Oracle, Sybase, and TIBCO, and the company has more than 400 VARs and Systems Integrators.
According to Eagan, Autonomy has a market capital of $4 billion. It is the second largest pure software company in Europe and was named the Best Performing Software Company in Europe in 2007.
Focusing on Global 2000 companies with 70% of its business inside of the U.S., Autonomy recognized an opportunity in a court ruling that changed the game for American enterprise. After the changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) regarding electronic discovery went into effect in December 2006, having an effective, efficient means of searching digital content within a company was no longer just a good business idea, it was the law. This regulation bolstered Autonomy’s position because its ability to search across the spectrum of data types helps its customers to better meet discovery requirements that now include things such as images, calendar files, spreadsheets, audio files, websites, and computer programs.
With offices already scattered across the globe, Autonomy has plans for continued growth. As search continues to evolve, there should be no limitations as to where Autonomy and companies like it can go, breaking down barriers between types of data and the way that data is analyzed. Just like in the early days, Autonomy continues to believe its approach will deliver results. As Eagan says, "We think the whole future of computing is going to be based around understanding meaning."
Fun Fact: Autonomy holds "Xbox Tournaments" for employees across geographical boundaries and time zones, in which they play Halo, a game packed with combat.
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